Retirement goes on hiatus as people are working longer

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011

Mike Hudock is long past retirement age, but he has no plans to leave his job as a warehouse shipper at a Kennametal Inc. plant in Derry Township.

"I see too many guys retire and wish they wouldn't have," said Hudock, 78, who was honored on Tuesday with a luncheon at the Kingston plant for 60 years of service with the company.

"As long as I feel able, healthwise, I'll continue," said Hudock, of Unity Township, who is nicknamed "Iron Mike."

Kennametal may not have other workers who can match Hudock's six decades of service, but CEO Carlos Cardoso said the company has "a pretty high level of senior employees."

"We have quite a few employees who have been here a long time. ... We have a low turnover rate -- less than 3 percent," Cardoso said.

That shows Kennametal, which makes industrial tools, is a good place to work, he said.

Hudock has lots of company among seniors who are still working. Since Hudock hit retirement age 13 years ago, those ranks are growing.

There are 6.5 million workers age 65 and older in the workplace this year, compared with 4.1 million in 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey. Not only are more older workers keeping their jobs, but the number of full-time workers such as Hudock has grown to 3.6 million in 2010, from 2 million in 2000.

"I suspect we will continue to see this pattern of work force participation at the upper age for the next several years," said Sara Rix, senior strategic policy advisor specializing in employment issues for the American Association of Retired Persons, a lobby group based in Washington. Many of those in the workplace who have hit or passed 65 are "'young' old people," Rix said.

A big part of the reason so many Americans are remaining in the workplace for so long is the 30 percent reduction in Social Security benefits for those retiring at age 62. To get full benefits, people have to wait until age 67, said Matt Marlin, an economics professor at Duquesne University.

"They want to work as long as they can" to build up benefits, Marlin said.

Working one or two years is good, but "working to 70 is best in getting the maximum benefit" from Social Security, Rix said.

"They're reaching retirement age with less in the bank," he said.

Not only is the additional earning years good for Social Security, but workers looking at defined contribution pension plans such as their 401(k), want to work longer to regain what they lost in the stock market, Rix said.

In some cases, Marlin said, senior workers are merely reducing their work schedules to part time.

"The tradition of working full time and then stepping into retirement is going by the wayside," Marlin said.

In Hudock's case, he graduated from Ligonier High School in June 1951 and landed a job on Aug. 21, 1951, when Kennametal was hiring at its Latrobe plant. Hudock has been working at the Kingston plant, which makes tungsten carbide powder, for 50 years.

Over the years, Hudock said he had been tempted to switch jobs. Relatives and friends were driving trucks delivering Rolling Rock beer for Latrobe Brewing Co., but he did not want to be driving a truck during the winter.

"I figured I had a job that I like, so I just kept staying" at Kennametal, Hudock said. "I never have let them down."

Hudock's boss, Gene Emerick of Greensburg, said he is dedicated and a hard worker.

Kingston plant manager Brenda Downey said Hudock has not missed 15 days of work in the past 15 years.

"My father's got a great work ethic," said his son, Michael J. Hudock III, an attorney in Oakmont.

Hudock III said his father and mother, Sally, had discussed plans to open a small restaurant, but that changed with her death in 1994.

"Their plans all went down the chute," Hudock said.

For people considering retirement, there also is a psychological reason for continuing to work, Rix said.

"(Baby) boomers think of themselves as younger. Having as job defines you are being younger," Rix said.

Hudock agrees.

"It keeps you active. I've made all kinds of friends," he added.

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