‘No Money Left’ Pressure Pushes Retirees Back to Work

Gregory Boulware returned to work in 2020, almost a decade after retiring.

For about 30 years, Bulware, 69, drove a truck for a living and saved money for his future, traveling long hours away from his family and home in Pennsylvania. As his body began to suffer the consequences of his long travels, he became more and more concerned about the continuing pain and aches.

As a remedial step, he returned to school in 2007 and earned an associate’s degree in management and information technology, but never found permanent employment. His retirement came in 2008.

After retiring, he started writing books, “which make no money,” he said and laughed, but he had a retirement fund, collected Social Security from 59, and had some plans in place. He then bought a house with his wife.

“When we lived in an apartment, we were doing fine because we could easily afford it, but every year the rent would go up,” Boulware said.

“I woke up one day and said, ‘You know, these people can tell us to leave, and the next hour, we would have nowhere to go.'”

Every mortgage payment became a challenge as they purchased the house with their life savings, often dipping into their gas and food budgets to make ends meet. The couple decided Boulware would have to find employment again.

A program was authorized by the Older Americans Act which is a community service and employment training program for older workers. He was hired as a clerical worker last month after enrolling in the program.

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

Many Americans face financial challenges following retirement due to higher rent, higher food prices, and longer lifespans. During the last few months, a steady increase in the number of people returning to work after retirement has been observed.

According to Emma Aguila, an economist at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy, retirement is becoming more and more perceived as a temporary phase, lasting until financial difficulties arise.

According to Nick Bunker, economic research director for North America at the job site Indeed, the unretirement rate in October rose to 2.6%, compared to 2.5% in September and 2.4% in August, indicating a steady rise.

In his analysis, Bunker does not examine the reasons for the increase, but survey data indicates a more viable job market and pandemic job loss may be factors. In addition to early pandemic job loss, some experts believe the uptick is due to financial needs among the elderly.

A Justice in Aging economic security attorney, Tracey Gronniger, said that many seniors who don’t appear to be poor may be struggling, particularly if they need health care or other assistance.

“I think that older people are kind of forgotten sometimes,” she said.

“And some have to figure out how to use services that they didn’t have to use before. And so that could be a drain on their income.”

While many people have pensions and other resources at their disposal, their savings are often not enough to cover the costs of living 20 or 30 years from now as the cost of living continues to increase. In comparison to the 3.3 percent increase in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the national median rent in 2021 increases by 11.4 percent.

Food prices rose 30 percent this fall, according to the United Nations Food Price Index, which tracks commodities needed for food production. In 2021, the Medicare Plan B premium was $148.50; in 2022, it will be $170.10. This means that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will also increase by 5.9 percent in 2022.

Most low-income people can’t live on Supplemental Security Income and Social Security when they don’t have enough savings, Aguila said.

As a station agent for the Bay Area Rapid Transit, Bob Krasner retired in March. In less than a year, he reestablished himself to become a driver for Independent Transportation Network, a service that specializes in driving for seniors, less than a year after retiring to protect his savings from future health complications.

67-year-old Krasner delivers food to people with mobility issues. He said he had been bored to tears and missed having regular interactions with people, but he also said that he would be able to maintain his savings by earning extra “grocery money.”.

“We can make it on my pension and Social Security, and my wife’s Social Security and salary, but going back to work gives us that freedom of not having to look at the price tag of everything we buy,” he told.

“We can go to the store, and we can get what we want and not worry that it’s going to bust the budget.”

Retirement income and savings gaps are often bridged by early retirement, according to Susan Weinstock, vice president of AARP’s financial resilience program.

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“There are people that might retire, try that for a little while, but now the money is running out, and they’re looking at their retirement savings and there’s not enough there,” she explained.

“So folks need to go back to work just to make ends meet.”

Most people of color, especially Blacks and Latinos, experience financial need as they age, and rely on Social Security and savings alone to make ends meet after retirement. In addition, Aguila noted that major life events, such as the purchase of a home or unforeseen medical expenses, can force someone to return to work.

“Low-income and minority populations don’t reach retirement within the same conditions as those that are higher income,” she continued.

“[Higher income people] have access to not only Social Security but also to private pensions and other resources.”

When adversity can strike at any time, Krasner said planning for the future is an incredibly wise move. The house he and his wife own is where his children and grandchildren gather over the holidays, and he cannot afford to lose this important asset.

“Do I see a time when I’ll no longer be able to maintain my own house? It could happen,” he told.

“That part of the future is kind of nebulous, you know. Age catches up with everyone even though we don’t want to admit it or even think about it.”

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