Background: Whether middle-aged individuals are capable of employment continuation may be limited by poor memory. Subjective memory complaints may be used to identify those at risk of poor memory. Research questions, therefore, were (i) are prevalent memory complaints associated with relevantly poor memory performance and decline in 55 to 64-year-olds; (ii) are incident memory complaints associated with relevant memory decline; and (iii) do these associations differ between employed and not employed individuals? Methods: Participants of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) were examined. Data were weighted by sex, age and region. To examine the association of prevalent memory complaints with relevantly poor learning ability (n = 903) and delayed recall (n = 897; both assessed with the Auditory Verbal Learning Test), subnormal (mean-1 SD) and impaired (mean-1.5 SD) memory performance were defined. To examine the association of prevalent and incident memory complaints with relevant decline after 3 years in learning ability (n = 774 and 611, respectively) and delayed recall (n = 768 and 603, respectively), above normal (mean-1 SD) and clinically relevant (mean-1.5 SD) memory decline were investigated. Logistic regression analyses were applied. Results: Adjusted for gender, education and age, individuals with memory complaints more often had impaired delayed recall and clinically relevant decline in learning ability. Incident memory complaints were borderline significantly associated with clinically relevant decline in learning in continuously employed individuals (paid job 1 h weekly), but not in continuously not employed individuals. Conclusion: Memory complaints may identify 55 to 64-year-olds at risk of memory impairment and decline. Our results provide hypotheses about the association between memory complaints and decline in employed 55 to 64-year-olds. © 2012 The Author.