|By Nedra Rhone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
For 20 years the
Hinson is one of an estimated 2.5 million baby boomers in
The majority of baby boomers (81 percent according to one
"This whole notion of retirement … is going to look and feel so different from person to person," said
When the Great Recession hit in late 2007, Setzfand began hearing stories about boomers working longer as a remedy for shrinking nest eggs, but then some of them got sucker punched. "People were losing their jobs, left, right and center," she said.
Among boomers who said their retirement outlook had changed for the worse, more than half cited the poor economy and 20 percent blamed unemployment, according to a July survey of boomers from
Hinson lives on unemployment and her rapidly diminishing savings. She realizes that without a job, she may not be able to stage a strong recovery. Her story is typical of many boomers 55 and older who have lost jobs and are dipping into savings to live. And since it takes twice as long for employees over 55 to find a job than workers of any other age, Setzfand said, the financial impact of a job loss can be devastating.
Hinson believes her age has been a factor in being unable to find employment. "I kind of feel like it is age discrimination, but they aren't going to tell you that," said Hinson, who has on average, three to four interviews per week for receptionist and customer service positions.
It's not quite the picture that many boomers had of the years leading up to retirement. But then, retirement as we have known it is a relatively new development created by the introduction of
"The retirement benefits system has shifted from that of the pension system to more of an individually guided system," said Setzfand. About 30 years ago, 401k's and IRA's became the primary vehicles for retirement, and 10 years of marginal returns coupled with the Great Recession has not provided the nest egg boomers had expected as they approach their 60s.
With Meg, 54, a museum curator turned stay at home mom, West consulted a few financial planners. He wanted to retire at age 60. They considered having two homes — one in a fun area that would attract their children and grandchildren and the other in a more practical location. They hoped to travel between the consulting jobs that West planned to take to keep himself busy.
Then the recession hit and the Wests went from being empty-nesters looking at a comfortable retirement to concerned investors worried about their life savings. They watched as more than 10 percent of their portfolio evaporated. They needed a new plan.
After discussing their retirement with
"I am now retiring later … hopefully at 62," said West. "We could do it [at 60] but it wouldn't be the lifestyle we would like." Though his wife would prefer he wait until age 64, having a goal in sight has made them both feel more secure.
A comfortable middle class retirement in the
The impact of boomers working longer is already reflected in workforce trends. Between 2006 and 2016, the 55-and-older workforce will grow five times faster than the overall workforce, according to a 2007 survey from
Certain industries, such as health and education, have consistently ranked among those that welcome older employees. Large corporations interested in retaining older employees have begun to offer options for gradual retirement plans and opportunities for older employees to both teach and learn from younger staffers, said
Local companies such as
"The way it is happening today, I don't think we can factually call it a retirement," Kelly said. "It is another stage."
But for boomers like Hinson, just how that stage of life will play out is uncertain. She regularly visits the North Fulton Career Center and the public library, where she searches the computers for employment leads. She has also reached out to church groups and family members for support and encouragement.
Her plans for life post-retirement are on hold for now. Instead of dreaming about days filled with swimming and sailing, Hinson dreams about finding the kind of job she needs — one that pays her enough money to live in the present and save for an unsecured future.
Preparing for retirement:
–Establish retirement goals and make them a priority
–Increase annual savings to 20 percent of income
–Prepare a "retirement budget" to determine how much is needed to maintain a desired standard of living
–Meet with a qualified financial professional to identify gaps in your retirement plan and find strategies to close them
(c)2012 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
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