How Many Years Can You Do Your Job?

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Physical power, fast reactions, steady hands, a crisp memory, and mental dexterity – these physical and mental abilities, taken for granted in youth, break down slowly but persistently over the years.

A unique combination of physical and mental skills help to determine whether each worker’s continued employment is more or less susceptible to aging. To better understand who can work longer and who can’t, researchers at the Center for Retirement Research developed a Susceptibility Index to rank 954 U.S. occupations.

Using the skills required for each occupation in the federal O*Net database, they ranked the occupations from 0 to 100 based on the risk that age-related decline will affect a worker’s ability to perform that particular job. The risk reflects the number and importance of the age-vulnerable abilities.

Click here to see where your job ranks.

Of course, individual workers experience aging in different ways, and some learn to compensate for declining skills.  But there are dramatic differences between occupations with very high and very low Susceptibility Indexes.

As one might expect, physically demanding blue-collar work suffers the adverse effects of aging: rock splitter in a quarry (90.3 Susceptibility Index), floor sander (91.0), steelworker (94.4), commercial diver (94.0), truck driver (96.4), and oil rigger (98.5).

Occupations with very low indexes are primarily white-collar: interior designer (5.8), lawyer (6.3), aerospace engineer (8.9), loan counselor (12.4), and radio announcer (14.8).

Where things get interesting is in the middle rankings. Mixed in with somewhat physically demanding jobs – personal care aide (52.7), warehouse order filler (53.7), baker (54.7), postal service clerk (56.3), and food server (58.2) – are white-collar desk or hospital jobs. These include private detective (44.8), surgeon (51.2), architectural drafter (52.8), anesthesiologist’s assistant (53.1), computer network architect (54.8), and critical care nurse (55.7).

After ranking the 900-plus occupations, the researchers concluded that “the notion that all white-collar workers can work longer or that all blue-collar workers cannot is too simplistic.”

The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA or any agency of the federal government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.

Jim Wang

I have a friend who is a professional fireman, he’s about 28 and in fantastic shape. He could be a professional fireman for decades, transitioning from in the field to the office – so he could have a long career.

But even he told me, he needs to look into the future because even if your career MIGHT last, you have to have a contingency plan. Regardless of the your susceptibility index, a backup plan is a must!

Wendy Weiss

This is an important index for people in their 40s, 50s and 60s to consult. It can prompt individuals to realize their are time limits on their employment and so their paychecks. As a result, they may start to develop a financial plan for the next 40 years of their lives.

Too often, I have asked people about their retirement accounts and they have said, “Oh, I dont have one. I just have to work until I drop.” This index points out that that option may not be one that is open to them.


Excellent post! This is something everyone should review and factor into consideration when planning and saving for retirement.

Not only that, this age vulnerability index data also indirectly emphasizes the importance of having life insurance and disability insurance.

One of the main reasons for bankruptcies and foreclosures is due to people getting disabled and becoming unable to meet their financial obligations.


    Gee, I wonder what your profession is. Could it be…selling insurance?

Larry Littlefield

It isn’t how long you can do your current job, it is how long you can do any job.

The job you take when older will probably be lower paid if it is less demanding, but that is not a problem for those who were smart enough to pay off their mortgage and do the bulk of their retirement savings before taking it.

All they would need is enough money to avoid drawing down those retirement savings for more years.

Might employers be unwilling to make those kinds of jobs available to older Americans? In many metro areas, they may not have a choice.


My advice from a Water Treatment Plant/Systems Operator (74.8) is plan for retirement and get out early before your skills go. Get out young enough to enjoy life, travel, friends.

Out at 60 and never looking back.

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