4/11/2012 4:01 PM ET|
Will you need a job when you're 75?
Disappearing pensions, an uncertain economy and shrinking home values are keeping many seniors in the workforce -- or bringing them back.
After Ailika Thomas woke up from a snooze, her husband brought her coffee in bed. It was 7 p.m., and the 73-year-old was facing a long, moonlit drive from her rural Indiana home to Chicago; Dean wanted to make the journey as easy as possible for his wife. As she dressed, he warmed the car (a red Buick named Carmen) and stocked it with snacks -- containers of sugar peas, blueberries and her favorite, raw turnips. When Ailika emerged from the back door in a pink-and-white pants combo accompanied by her two Yorkshire terriers, Dean gave her a warm goodbye kiss and made her promise to call at journey's end.
It was a touching scene, but a familiar routine: Thomas' destination was her job. Five nights a week, she drives 90 minutes each way to work the midnight shift as a research supervisor for a big company downtown.
Thomas can't afford to retire. She's not complaining. The job keeps her connected, the benefits are generous, and there's still time to volunteer at downtown theaters and enjoy camping trips with Dean. But the commute! Sometimes, even the latest Dean Koontz thriller on tape can't keep her awake. She mists her face with a water fan, gulps 5-Hour Energy shots (bought by the case at Costco) and yells in the car. When the urge to nod off proves irresistible, she pulls off the interstate and naps in a supermarket parking lot.
Some might suggest that after 56 years in the labor force (she got her first full-time job in 1956, working for Encyclopaedia Britannica) and nearly two decades at the firm, it's time for Thomas to take it easy. But employers in nearby Michigan City don't pay nearly as well, and good luck finding a new gig when you're 73. Ask how long she'll continue, and Thomas says it's not her call: "I don't know how long God's going to let me live."
Commutes like Thomas' might be rare, but working well into one's eighth decade is a scenario that has become -- seemingly overnight -- relatively commonplace. For millions of workers, retirement has been delayed for years; others say they may never retire. Thanks to the nation's massive asset meltdown -- sagging retirement accounts, plunging property values -- an enormous swath of the population has had to redefine life paths. Older folks who assumed they'd be retired by now are struggling with the need to work long after the passion (not to mention the brain and the body) has started to fade.
The result of all this turmoil is a little-noticed but profound shift in the workforce. Some academics say we may well be reverting to historical norms, returning to pre-New Deal conditions in which most Americans had to work until they, well, dropped. The number of working people over age 65 reached an all-time low in 2001, when just 13% held jobs. Now that rate is rebounding, and fast; last summer, it hit 18%, a level not seen since President John F. Kennedy faced the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Of course, plenty of folks still have enough money to retire comfortably. But many boomers, facing a bipolar stock market and a pathetic return on their savings, feel deeply insecure; in one recent Associated Press survey, one in four predicted they'd never be able to retire. And between those two extremes, millions of workers in their 50s and 60s have quietly given up on the dream of an early retirement or the launch of an "encore" career. Instead, they're resigned to meeting the new demands of a work world they thought they'd bid farewell to. Facebook and LinkedIn? They were supposed to be playthings for the junior executive. Brain exercises? They were pitched as preventive medicine for senility, not a job requirement. Cosmetic surgery? Laughable -- until your career depends on it.
Labor experts say this first wave of delayed retirees will face the biggest challenges. They weren't prepared for the sharp reversal in expectations, or the difficulties of working while elderly -- nor were their employers. But for better or worse, this group is blazing a trail that subsequent generations of workers may wind up walking.
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After that there's still the retirement funding issue I need to address. I've crunched the numbers and it
appears as if I'm going to come up short. Mind you, the calculations results are based on uncertainties like future earnings, expected increase % of stocks,etc. which are unknowns. It's scary to base ones financial wellness on the "hope" that things "will work" for me down the road.
I also recognize the plight of our youth in these troubling times. I really feel for these kids because the have it pretty rough compared to me when I was their age. Sure I never went to college but at least I could always find a job. I've been reading up on the cost of college these days and the numbers are eye-popping! What's worse is that nowadays one needs college to get any job above flipping hamburgers at McDonald's. I'm all for higher education because knowledge is power but the costs are staggering. My advise to the young are to keep your heads up high. Network with anyone and everyone to find that job. Work hard and pay off those debts. Save what you can for the future. You'll be OK... I"m pulling for all of you to reach your dreams!
Yeah, now that the pensions are gone, the housing market is in the toilet and the 401K's are confetti, the newest pitch that they are trying to sell us is that 75 is the new 30. Very slick.
If you like working until you are 75 then fine cause it doesn't matter if you don't You are gonna do it anyway and it might not be in an air-conditioned office, moving data fields back and forth. Wait unitl the only job you can find is outside in the Texas heat. Let me put you out there for a few hours and then will see how "youthful" you'll feel.
I can just see it. 75 year old firemen and 75 year old waitresses serving chicken wings at Hooters. Please.
I am not drinking the Kool-Aid. In two years, I am done. I am headed South. Waaaaaaay South.
I never really expected to be able to retire and I really don't want to. I would like to get to a point where I can work less.
Education costs outpace inflation. Student debt is at a ridiculous level. We invest squat in our youth compared to what we invest in trying to keep the elderly alive. Wages are stagnant. Jobs are not plentiful (and being held onto by people who society expected to have the s**t together by this point in life), a fed reserve who is printing so much money that inflation is eating away at whatever piddly amount we manage to save, no interest rates on money we hand over to the banks to hold and lend amongst themselves, a president who does nothing but talk about needing more taxes and people having to pay their "fair share" without mentioning one word about how much money our over-bloated government wastes every single day, a government who taxes us on the money we earn and the money we spend, free trade with no tarriffs to counties that don't follow our labor laws or wage laws destroying our jobs, a failed housing ponzi scheme that's left swaths of homes nobody can afford, oil and gasoline that now tops $4 a gallon, when it was what? 10 years ago that it costs $1? Can you imagine if that trend continues? Look at our infrastructure, it's rated D and falling apart.
The best laid plans right! Then my mate got sick. Even with medicare big medical bills.
Five years and then he was gone. State made me put in a new hood in my restaurant.
there goes insurance. Begin to catch up and a bridge close by goes down for nine
months. There goes our business. I am holding on in a Chapter 13 but everything
I own is underwater. Will keep going because I have a most loyal and super
crew of twenty year veterans who want to keep our historic, Krain Corner Inn in
Enumclaw, WA going. So I'm old and down economically but so rich in the
people I know who want to keep this place going. Come & visit. Contribute your
expertise or collectibles. We have a great antique and collectible store.
Rising Waters: Not everyone is continuing to work because they "maxed out credit cards" or 'didn't save enough." There are some of us that just plain enjoy working, love our jobs, and plan on working till we can't any longer.....nothing wrong with that. I'm glad that you were able to retire and do your thing....don't begrudge the rest of us who are doing "our thing." It isn't always because of money, you know?
You must be VERY young, because you don't have a clue. You think the boomers expect a handout? Let me tell you something, I'm 51 now. I paid for my own college education by working full-time while going to college at night. I've worked steadily since I was 19 years old--no children, so not even a break for pregnancy. I made $20k when I bought my first very modest home in a mostly rental neightborhood. Sold it 10 years later & bought another VERY modest home. I didn't expect then, or now to start out with a fancy $200k plus home--I don't expect to ever be able to completely stop working. How did I manage to buy a home making $20k a year? I MADE sure I had & still have a GREAT credit score by paying my bills & living within a modest budget/income. I have some money saved, but when you grow up in an area with few jobs & mostly very low paying jobs you must buy food before you save for retirement. I've never collected government handouts for a thing! Everything I have I worked for, and the things I've inherited from my deceased parents, they WORKED for!!! If you can't get the job you want, go to college or trade school. Maybe the problem is YOU! Cause apparently you have a sucky attitude, which in case you don't know, shines through during an interview & during the work day. Sounds to me like you're mad cause YOU have to work & no one is giving you a government handout! JERK!
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