Older job-seekers

The number of Americans 65 and older who still work is up 60 percent from a decade ago. That’s according to a recent article in Harper’s Magazine, which profiles several seniors who can’t afford to stop working. We’ll hear their stories and examine the challenges and options for an increasing number of Americans who don’t have enough money to retire.

Increasingly, Americans Can’t Afford to Retire 1 August,2014forum

Jessica Bruder, journalist and author of the article "The End of Retirement," which appears in the August 2014 issue of Harper's Magazine
Roxanne Murray, program director of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and Economic Security Initiative Center (ESIC), Felton Institute/Family Service Agency of San Francisco
Richard Johnson, senior fellow and director of the Program on Retirement Policy at the Urban Institute

  • darqmyth

    I wonder, haven’t I heard a variation of this story off and on for the past 30 years?

    • Lanae Isaacson

      Yes! You have, I am sure, we all have. But for those of us living “this story,” it’s not really a story at all. It’s a kind of on-going tug-of-war between the people we really are (or want to be!) and what we need to do to survive. The joy and pride comes when we manage to juggle it so that we keep our individual reality alive and even thriving despite all odds.

  • Tina

    The point one speaker made about employees being sold a bill of goods with 401Ks. Why isn’t there more out-cry surrounding this topic? I worked in banking in the 70s/80s when you could earn a solid 6% on regular savings. More if you invested in longer fixed-term deposit accounts. If we are going to continue to give business tax breaks, lets point those credits towards actions that benefit more than the pockets of shareholders and top level executives. We need to shift retirement funding back to plans with defined benefits for rank and file employees.

    • LF

      You’re absolutely right. I remember a retirement seminar over 30 years ago when we heard the lecture about the 3 legged stool, of savings/interest, social security, and pension. Originally 401ks were introduced as supplements to the defined benefit plans, not as replacements. What happened?


    Even with a ‘stellar’ resume in hitech, no one calls you back. Very, very hard job market being unemployed is very isolating.

  • Lanae Isaacson

    I am a 65+ full-time employee for a major retail chain store. This is of necessity as Social Security will not fund my living expenses or help me pay down the debts for the passing of my parents. (Yes, I am paying for a funeral for my Mother deceased since 2003! Actually, given the rapacious nature of the Bank of America, I am paying for three such funerals for the very same person who I do NOT begrudge for a single second.) The chain I work for is similarly rapacious and does not value me and my contribution or my customer service skills and product knowledge; the store values profits–and only profits. Working for a retail establishment was never my choice–I was an academic who did not join the tenure-track. But, in the process of creating a new life, I discovered what I really want to do…which is: study the clarinet with a very fine teacher and write a book on how composers and performers create (clarinet) music together. To that end, I have applied for an NEH grant to write a book (I have already published one such book.) If the grant comes through, I will “retire” from a job I never really wanted and turn to the life and intense activity in music that are my pride and joy. The odds in my favor are very long; still and all, I figure it’s better to try and fail than to accept one’s undesired fate. My passion is music–specifically clarinet music–and I want to make it so. This is my life as an older worker who never thinks of retiring.

  • Non-monetary systems of exchange are going to be essential for supporting older adults in retirement. We are working on community-based programs to do just that, including linkAges TimeBank, a service exchange program based on time, not money. https://timebank.linkages.org.

  • pat

    One of the callers said she had no work experience, but wanted to get a job in a tech company. I don’t know if it was Jessica or Roxanne who advised her to work with a coach to create a resume, translating her home experience into a work skill, e.g., budgeting.

    This is not helpful because it will absolutely never work, especially in today’s competitive market and especially in high tech. I worked for many years in hardware and software companies. We wouldn’t give a second glance to anyone who didn’t have at least a BS or an MBA. Even admins had to have relevant experience in a technology company.

    Then there’s the age factor. It’s not fair, because there are many talented people over 40 or 50 or 60 with relevant experience who could make a big contribution. But tech companies are young. There’s a different vibe. I know a guy who’s 30+ with a bit of gray hair. He went to interview at one of the big tech firms and the receptionist called him Grandpa.

    It’s not right to give false hope to callers. Better to be realistic and point them in a direction where they can be successful. Otherwise, they will just suffer more heartbreak.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor