Retirement once was the goal of many Americans. Now so much now.
As people live longer and the cost to stay alive goes up, nearly one in five Americans now work well beyond their retirement years.
“I’m, going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money, Richard Dever, 74, told Washington Post reporters May Jordan and Kevin Sullivan in a story, THE FORGOTTEN: The issues at the heart of Trump’s America, posted Saturday (today).
In 2000, about 4 million senior citizens work at a full-time pace. Today, that total tops 9 million.
Reports the Post:
While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.
Older Americans used to worry about dying. Now they worry that they might run out of money before that happens.
“There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist who specializes in retirement security. “People are coming into retirement with a lot more anxiety and a lot less buying power.”
Amy and I came to Floyd in 2004 after 23 years in Northern Virginia, where I worked for half of those years for Congress, the President and within the political system as an operative and the other half in various journalistic endeavors. We lived well and came back to my childhood home with money in the band, a health 401K and plans to slow down and take life a bit easier.
When my mother’s health began to deteriorate, she also appeared to have healthy resources but the cost of long-term care wiped her out and then took a serious toll on ours. I continued to work as a contract reporter and photographer for The Floyd Press and other parts of what is now BHMedia, owner of the paper and many others dailies and weeklies in Virginia and elsewhere.
I continued to run a web hosting and design business I had in Washington and opened a photo studio at The Jacksonville Center (now the Floyd Center for the Arts) and then at Village Green.
The studios failed, partly because I’m not a good businessman and because I dallied in things that cost more money than they earned.
After my mother died in August of 2012, I set about seeking other news-oriented work to help rebuild our resources but a serious motorcycle crash on Nov. 9 of that year brought those plans to a halt and two months in the hospital and several more months of rehab left us even deeper in debt.
The bulk of my web hosting operation closes on Dec. 31 of this year after too many losses. Operating such a business in a rural area is difficult to do in a cost-effective way.
Fortunately, a settlement with the insurance company took care of most of the debt and gave us another chance to get back on our feet. I continue to work in the profession that I love. We won’t be jetting off to exotic locales, something we used to do without a second thought, but we can hope to live comfortably for the rest of our lives.
Or maybe not, given my penchant for ignoring the warning signs of mortality and age.
I write this on the third “morning after” day of my latest encounter with an animal or vehicle on a public road with my Harley Davidson.
In 2012, it was a black steer on a stretch of U.S. 221 between Cave Spring that brought the bike and I down on a dark Friday night and sent me to Carilion Roanoke Memorial with dwindling prospects of living or having a normal recovery.
A year after that, an SUV pulling out of a side road on Virginia Rte. 8 put the bike and I down on the side of the road. I limped afterwards with what I thought was a serious sprained ankle. The ER at Roanoke Memorial x-rayed my left ankle and found a lot of swelling and bruising.
A routine x-ray of my knees four weeks later found I had broken my left fibula but it was a cracked, not dislocated, fracture and I managed to walk around on it for a month.
Last Thursday, a neighbor’s dog ran in front of my bike and we all went down, leaving the bike damaged and me with sore ribs, scrapes and cuts on my shoulder, knee and face. A full body scan at New River Valley ER showed no broken bones or any problems.
I’ve laid my bike down a few other times — once in Food Lion, another at the Exxon station in Floyd, once driving up the steep hill to photograph a softball game and again after hitting a slick spot on our driveway.
Unlike the 2012 accident that left me unconscious and in and out of a coma for nearly a month, I am conscious and awake on this third day after the most current road encounter.
This time, I feel the ache in my rib cage and the pain of scrapes and cuts. It hurts like hell.
My injuries left us unable to attend a cookout Saturday with folks we wanted to see. That may seem like a minor inconvenience but it also shows me that I need to be more careful in a time when I, as a senior citizen who turned 70 later this year, must consider that I still must earn a living to survive.
The Washington Post story this weekend talks of the need for many of us who are at or past “retirement age” must keep working to live and we also must live to keep working.
The point now weighs on my mind.
I’m extremely fortunate that what I do for a living is something that I love. Too many people must work at jobs they might not like or even hate and that adds to the pain for them.
But if I co something stupid again in the future, that ability could disappear.
My Harley-Davidson Switchback goes to the dealership this week for repairs to put it back on the road. They will make it ready to ride.
The question that remains is whether I will be ready to climb back on her.