Financial stress pushes 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 road, away from his Pennsylvania home, wife and children, to earn a living and put aside some savings. His body began to suffer the consequences of years spent on the road, and he began to fear that the continued back pain and body aches would get worse. So he went back to school and obtained his associate’s degree in management and IT in 2007 but could only find temporary work. He retired in 2008.

In retirement, he started writing books, “that don’t make 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 we were fine 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 purchased with their life savings raised fears of losing the house, with every mortgage payment a challenge, sometimes pulling out other expenses such as food and gasoline to make ends meet. Boulware decided he needed to go back to work. He enrolled in a vocational training program for low-income adults under the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a community service and work-based training program for older workers licensed by the Older. Americans Act, and was hired last month in an office job. .

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

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

This continues the tendency of older people to view retirement as a temporary step, which lasts until a financial need arises, according to Emma Aguila, an economist and associate professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy. University of Southern California.

In October, the non-retirement rate was 2.6%, higher than the 2.5% rate in September and 2.4% in August, a steady upward trajectory, according to an analysis of data from the Current Population Survey. (a US Census Bureau and US Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey) by Nick Bunker, director of economic research for North America at Indeed.

Bunker said his analysis did not examine the reasons for the increase and that survey data showed job loss due to a pandemic and a more viable job market could be a factor. But other experts have said the rise, driven in part by job losses at the start of the pandemic, could also be caused by the financial needs of older Americans.

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

“I think the elderly are a bit forgotten sometimes,” she said. “And some have to figure out how to use services they didn’t have to use before. And so that could take a toll on their income.”

Even though people have access to pensions and other resources, their savings are not always sufficient to survive 20, 30 or 40 years as the cost of living continues to rise. The national median rent rose 11.4% in 2021, compared to the 3.3% increase in early 2017, 2018 and 2019. The United Nations Food Price Index, which tracks the prices of commodities in food manufacturing, rose 30% this fall. . While Social Security and Supplementary Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 5.9% in 2022, Medicare Plan B premiums will also increase, from $ 148.50 in 2021 to $ 170.10 in 2022. .

And when savings aren’t enough, extra 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 post as Bay Area Rapid Transit station agent. But less than a year after retiring, he returned to work driving for Independent Transportation Network, a driving service for the elderly, to protect his future savings in case his health deteriorated.

Krasner, 67, delivers meals to people who have difficulty getting around. While a major factor in his decision to return to work, he said, was “boredom to tears” and the lack of regular interactions with people, he also said that earning “the money extra “grocery shopping” would help keep her savings.

“We can do this with my pension and my social security, as well as social security and my wife’s salary, but going back to work gives us this freedom of not having to watch the price of everything we buy,” he said. he declared. “We can go to the store, and we can get what we want without worrying that it will blow up the budget.”

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

“There are people who could retire, try that for a little while, but now the money is running out, and they’re looking at their retirement savings and there aren’t enough of them,” he said. she declared. “So people have to go back to work just to make ends meet. “

Financial need is especially high among working poor and people of color, particularly blacks and Latinos, who after retirement may not be able to make ends meet with just Social Security and l ‘saving. On top of that, major life events, such as buying a home or having unforeseen medical expenses, can cause a person to return to work, according to Aguila.

“Low-income and minority populations do not reach retirement under the same conditions as those with higher incomes,” she said. “[Higher income people] 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 unexpected misfortune can arise at any time. His children and grandchildren meet regularly over the holidays at the house he and his wife own, and he doesn’t want to lose what he has now.

“Do I see a time when I will no longer be able to maintain my own house? It could happen,” he said. “This part of the future is a bit nebulous, you know. Age is catching up with everyone even though we don’t want to admit it or even think about it.”

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