Rose Marie Meece planned to retire from her job as a tour leader in Honolulu three years ago. The 78-year-old woman decided to stay after losing about half of the $300,000 in her retirement account during the downturn.
"I did some high-risk things," she said of her investments. She has since moved her remaining savings into bonds and other safe but low-yield investments. Social Security and her late husband's Navy pension barely cover her monthly rent of about $1,300, so she keeps working.
Ms. Meece is one of a growing number of elderly people working or seeking work, increasingly with the expectation they will stay on the job for as long as they can. Some failed to plan well or spent their working lives earning paychecks too small to amass much savings. Others suffered financial losses. Many lived longer than they imagined with their savings depleted by everyday bills or chronic illness.
The unemployment rate among Americans ages 75 and older—measuring the number of people seeking work—is relatively low but twice what it was five years ago.
Joblessness among the oldest Americans could be even more widespread: Economist Steven Haider of Michigan State University said older people may be embarrassed to say they are looking for work. As of December, 1.31 million people ages 75 and older were working, a 25% jump from 1.05 million in 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The numbers offer a glimpse into the future for the 77 million baby boomers, Americans born between 1946 and 1964. This generation began turning 65 last year. By 2018, the government estimates, about 10% of people 75 or older—about two million Americans—will be working or seeking work.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2012