Financial stress drives retirees back to work

After more than a decade in retirement, Gregory Boulware returned to work in 2020.

Boulware, 69, was a truck driver for about 30 years, spending long hours on the highway, away from his Pennsylvania home and his wife and children, to earn a living and save some savings. His body began to suffer the consequences of years on the road and he began to worry that the ongoing back pain and aches would get worse. So he went back to school and earned his associate’s degree in management and information technology in 2007, but was only able to find a temporary job. He retired in 2008.

When he retired, he started writing books, “that don’t give money,” he laughed, but he had retirement savings, started collecting Social Security at 59, and had a plan. But then he and his wife bought a house.

Greg Boulware.Courtesy of Greg Boulware

“When we lived in an apartment, it suited us well because we could easily afford it, but every year the rent went up,” Boulware said. “I woke up one day and said, ‘You know, these people can tell us to go and the next hour, we would have nowhere to go.

The house bought with their life savings led to the fear of losing the house, each mortgage payment was a challenge, sometimes withdrawing other expenses such as food and gas to make ends meet. Boulware decided that he needed to get back to work. Enrolled in a job training program for low-income adults through the Community Service Employment Program for the Elderly (SCSEP), a job training and community service program for older workers authorized by the Aging Americans Act , and was hired last month for an office job. .

“Retirement doesn’t mean what it used to be,” said Nora Dowd Eisenhower, executive director of the Mayor’s Commission on Aging of Philadelphia.

Higher rents, higher food prices, and a longer lifespan often create financial challenges for many Americans, leading to job searches after retirement. More people have returned to work after retirement, with a steady increase in recent months.

This continues the trend for seniors to view retirement as a temporary stage, lasting until financial need arises, according to Emma Aguila, an economist and associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

In October, the cancellation rate was 2.6 percent, above the rate of 2.5 percent for September and 2.4 percent in August, a steady upward trajectory, according to an analysis of data from the Current Population Survey (A Household Survey from the US Census Bureau and US Bureau of Labor Statistics) By Nick Bunker, Director of Economic Research for North America at Indeed Workplace.

Bunker said his analysis does not look at the reasons for the increase and that survey data showed job losses from the pandemic and a more viable job market could be a factor. But other experts said the rebound, driven in part by job losses from an early pandemic, could also be due to the economic need of older Americans.

Tracey Gronniger, lead attorney for the economic security team at the nonprofit Justice in Aging, said many older people who are not in poverty “on paper” could be struggling, especially if they need health care or support services. .

“I think older people sometimes get forgotten,” he said. “And some have to figure out how to use services that they didn’t have to use before. And that could mean a loss of revenue.”

Even if people have access to pensions and other resources, their savings are not always enough to go 20, 30 or 40 years into the future as the cost of living continues to rise. The national median income increased 11.4 percent in 2021, compared with a 3.3 percent increase in early 2017, 2018 and 2019.The United Nations Food Price Index, which tracks prices of staples in food processing, rose 30 percent this fall. . While Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 5.9 percent in 2022, so will Medicare Plan B premiums, from $ 148.50 in 2021 to $ 170.10 in 2022.

And when savings aren’t enough, Supplemental Security Income and Social Security aren’t enough for most low-income people, Aguila said.

Bob Krasner.Courtesy of Bob Krasner

Bob Krasner retired in March from his job as a Bay Area Rapid Transit station agent. But with less than a year into retirement, he went back to work driving for the Independent Transportation Network, a driving service for seniors, to safeguard his future savings in case his health deteriorated.

Krasner, 67, delivers meals to people who have trouble moving. While an important factor in his decision to return to work, he said, was being “bored to tears” and losing regular interaction with people, he also said that earning the “extra grocery money” would help him maintain his savings.

“We can do it with my pension and Social Security, and with Social Security and my wife’s salary, but going back to work gives us the freedom to not have to look at the price of everything we buy,” he said. “We can go to the store and get what we want without worrying about breaking the budget.”

It’s not uncommon not to retire to close the gaps left by income and retirement savings, said Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resilience programming for AARP.

“There are people who could retire, try for a while, but now the money is running out and they are looking at their retirement savings and there is not enough,” he said. “So people need to go back to work just to make ends meet.”

Financial need is especially high among low-income workers and people of color, especially blacks and Latinos, who after retirement may not be able to make ends meet on Social Security and savings alone. On top of that, big life events like a home purchase or unforeseen medical expenses can bring a person back to work, according to Aguila.

“Low-income and minority populations do not reach retirement in the same conditions as higher-income populations,” he said. “[Higher income people] they have access not only to Social Security, but also to private pensions and other resources. “

And planning for the future, Krasner said, is a wise move for anyone when an unexpected misfortune can strike at any moment. His children and grandchildren meet regularly during the holidays in the house that he and his wife own, and he does not want to lose what he has now.

“Do I see a time when I will no longer be able to maintain my own home? It could happen,” he said. “That part of the future is a bit hazy, you know. Age catches up with all of us, although we don’t want to admit it or think about it.”

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