The former professor had just begun a career as a Presbyterianminister in Virginia when the economic downturn forced her churchto let her go in 2007. After that, she found only temporary work. She relied on savings while job hunting, but at 64, had to dip intoher Social Security benefits. She officially retired in 2010.
Forspending money, she plans to start teaching a water aerobics classto earn $40 a week. “I’m not going to get wealthy on that,” she said. “It’s not reallythe ministry I expected to have.” Coyle is among the many unemployed, older Americans who, whilestruggling to reenter the workforce, have growing worries thattheir retirement security is at risk. The number of long-term unemployed workers aged 55 and older hasmore than doubled since the recession began in late 2007, andgetting back to work is increasingly difficult, according to agovernment report being released on Tuesday. For unemployed seniors, the chances of reentering the workforce aregrim.
Experts worry that unemployed seniors face a long-term threat asthe impact of lost wages compounds. In what should there be prime earning years, these older workersrely on savings, miss out on potential wages and prematurely tapinto Social Security – all at a time when Americans live longer andhealth care and other living costs are rising. About 55 percent of jobless seniors, or 1.1 million, have beenunemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent, or lessthan 200,000, four years earlier, according to a copy of theGovernment Accountability Office report obtained by Reuters. The GAO, a non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, also foundthat years of lost work significantly reduced retirement income,particularly for those with defined contribution retirement plans. Overall, older workers fare better than their younger counterparts,with a lower unemployment rate and less risk of losing jobs, theGAO found, even as it highlighted the struggles of jobless seniors. Color Glitter Powder
“Long-term unemployment has particularly serious implications forolder Americans,” the GAO said in its report to the Senate SpecialCommittee on Aging. Those seniors who continue looking for work amid a tepid economicrecovery confront competition from younger, cheaper workers. Theyalso must keep pace with ever-changing technology. Sen. Nail Glitter Powder Manufacturer
Herb Kohl, chairman of the Special Committee on Aging who isto lead a hearing on the issue on Tuesday, is investigating ways tocounter age discrimination and boost seniors’ job prospects. “These are the people we should be most worried about,” he said.”With the aging of the baby-boom generation, the fact is that olderworkers will continue to make up a much larger share of ourcountry’s labor force.” LOST WAGES, LESS SAVINGS A flurry of recent reports have raised fresh concerns about theability of some older Americans to support themselves inretirement. More seniors with jobs expect to work longer, according to theEmployee Benefit Research Institute, and just 14 percent say theybelieve they can retire comfortably. The GAO assessed the impact of job loss and forced early retirementon older workers’ income. Gold Glitter Powder Manufacturer
It showed a significant impact on incomein later years. It found those who had been part of a 401(k) or other similaremployer-sponsored defined contribution pension plan stood to losemore of their expected retirement income than those who had definedbenefit pension plans or relied solely on Social Security, thenation’s benefit program for retirees. For example: an individual with a defined contribution plan whostops working at age 55 instead of age 62 would see a 39 percentdrop in median-level retirement income, from $817 per month to $500per month, according to the GAO, which did not take otherretirement income sources into account. At the same time, a similar worker would see a 13 percent drop inmedian Social Security retirement benefits from $1,467 to $1,273 amonth. The impact on workers with employer plans is greater because theycan generally save more for retirement and typically have higherwages that also result in higher Social Security benefits, GAOsaid.
“These workers also have the most retirement income to lose bybecoming unemployed,” it said. A worker relying only on Social Security may see $30 to $60 lesseach month but face harsh consequences, GAO researchers said,because they have less savings to provide a cushion and may be laidoff before they can claim the government benefit at age 62. ONLINE STRUGGLES Laid-off workers and other experts gave many reasons that employersappeared reluctant to hire seniors. Refusing to hire someone because of age is illegal, but GAO expertsfound potential discrimination still lingers.
Often employers assume that older workers used to earning moremoney or having a higher-level job would not stay long in aninferior position, according to the GAO’s interviews. Higher healthcare costs are also an issue. The GAO, which talked to seniors in Maryland, Virginia, Californiaand Missouri, also chronicled the toll of long-term unemployment.Self-esteem took a beating, and it became increasingly hard tosustain job searches, they said. Some fretted not just about theirown bills but about the obligations of college-age or unemployedchildren.
At the AARP, the lobbying group for 36 million older Americans,legislative policy director David Certner said certain older workergroups – such as women and minorities – are particularly at risk ofpoverty given “this really incredible perfect storm” with lowsavings rates, shrinking pensions, lower home values and longerlives. It is unclear what action Congress will take, particularly in anelection year ripe with political gridlock. Some lawmakers want to strengthen discrimination laws while otherswant legislation to prevent employers from screening out unemployedworkers. Coyle, who starts her part-time job next month, understands how ayounger minister might have a better chance landing a full-timejob. But she remains hopeful that she will find a place to preachagain.
“I used to tell my gerontology students if you know your date ofdeath you could plan very well,” she said, “but I really want to beuseful. It’s not just a money issue.” (Editing by Leslie Adler).