May 29, 2009
Retirement detour: Older employees working longer; more retirees seeking jobs
In these scary economic times, older workers are putting off their retirement and hanging on to a paycheck. Some retirees struggling to make ends meet are scanning help-wanted ads for the first time in years.
Jeff Rollison, a 60-year-old employee at the General Motors Corp.’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio, recently told the automaker he was retiring. A week later, he changed his mind.
Rollison is worried that something could happen to his retiree health benefits before he would become eligible for Medicare at age 65. Medicare is the government’s health insurance program for the elderly.
Rollison is the sole breadwinner for his wife and himself. But he also is concerned about his grown children, including a son with three kids who is being laid off at a neighboring GM plant.
“If something would happen with General Motors and our health care would go away, which has happened to a lot of companies here, I would have to wait five more years to be Medicare age,” says Rollison, a member of United Auto Workers Local 1112. “There’s a lot of uncharted waters out there, and we have questions that can’t be answered by anybody right now on how well the company will do in the short term.”
Older help wanted
Here are some online resources for retirees looking for part-time or full-time work, many of which target anyone 50 or over:
Encore.org provides news, resources and connections for individuals and organizations establishing “encore careers” designed to combine social contribution, personal meaning and financial security. Many of the jobs posted are in education, health care and human services.
Retired Brains is a resource for older boomers, seniors, retirees and those about to retire who are looking to find jobs, volunteer opportunities, educational resources and retirement information.
RetireeWorkforce.com also focuses on the 50-plus job candidate.
RetirementJobs.com has tens of thousands of listings nationwide from companies specifically seeking candidates older than 50. A combination job board, adviser and coach for boomers and seniors looking for work. RetirementJobs also partners with AARP.
Retirement Jobs Online offers advice about online retirement jobs, helping retirees evaluate the various ways to use the Internet to find work.
Senior Helpers, with offices in Bellevue, Kent, Gig Harbor and more than 200 other U.S. cities, hires many older workers to provide in-home personal and companion care for seniors. Caregivers’ services include help with housework, meal preparation, errands, transportation, medication reminders and Alzheimer’s care. The pay is $8-$12 per hour; most work an average of about 20 hours per week.
Senior Job Bank is a site where job seekers age 50 and older can search for jobs by category, industry or location, post resumes and register for a job-search agent.
A survey by seniors’ advocacy group AARP of 1,100 people conducted in December showed that 16 percent of people 45 and older had postponed retirement because of the economic downturn. But the percentage of people planning to delay retirement shot up to 57 percent among respondents who were working or looking for a job and had lost money in the stock market during the past year.
The average retirement age, which was between 62 and 63 for men and women last year, is on the rise, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. For instance, the percentage of 63-year-old men who were in the work force rose from 44 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2007, according to the institute.
Currently, about 17 percent of the work force is 65 or older — a share on the rise since the late 1990s.
Robert Dobkin’s last day on the job as spokesman for Pepco, a utility company in the District of Columbia and Maryland, was supposed to have been April 1. Now, it’s delayed indefinitely.
“I felt that I was in a good position to retire until the market kept going down and down and the economy ground to a halt,” says Dobkin, 67. “I just figured there’s no point in retiring in this time of uncertainty until I have a better feel for where the economy is going.”
At 74, Beverly London of Big Run, Penn., thought her days of working were over. She and her husband sold to their son the family retail carpet store they operate in their rural community and settled into retirement. They felt secure with thousands of dollars of stock in a bank. But the bank failed and the value of their stock shrank from six figures to four.
“We were thinking about winter, and I was worried about how I was going to keep my house warm. I had to start putting resumes in,” London says, recounting how a younger worker got one retail job she applied for.
London eventually found a job through Experience Works, a national nonprofit organization that receives money from the Senior Community Service Employment Program, a federal Labor Department program. The $787 billion economic stimulus package that President Obama signed includes $120 million in additional money for the program, which provides subsidized, part-time community-service jobs to low-income workers 55 and older.
London works part time at Pennsylvania CareerLink, a state unemployment office in nearby Punxsutawney. She is happy and healthy, but she knows her work days are numbered.
“I’m trying not to dwell on the future, because right now I’m just glad I can write a check for the $400 gas bill,” she says. “We’ll never be able to build up a nest egg again. We didn’t have a fancy life, but we took a golf vacation one week out of the year. There’s no golf vacations anymore.”
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