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Monetary Strain Spurs Elderly Americans to ‘Unretire’; Some Key Financial Strategies for Retirees

Escalating prices prompt retirees to rejoin the workforce; explore adaptive strategies for secure retirement amid economic shifts.
Cover Image Source: Elderly women play a cards game of rummy at the Mireille Mathieu Senior Citizens' center | Getty Images | Photo by Sean Gallup
Cover Image Source: Elderly women play a cards game of rummy at the Mireille Mathieu Senior Citizens' center | Getty Images | Photo by Sean Gallup

In the face of escalating consumer prices and depleting savings, a growing number of older Americans are making the unexpected decision to "unretire" and re-enter the workforce to make ends meet. The challenges posed by the rising cost of living, coupled with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have prompted retirees to reassess their financial stability, with some finding their fixed incomes insufficient to cover their daily expenses, per Moneywise.

Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Post his retirement | Getty Images | Photo by  Chip Somodevill
Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. post his retirement | Getty Images | Photo by Chip Somodevill

Joyce Fleming, a 70-year-old retired nurse from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, exemplifies this trend. In an interview on "Fox & Friends," Fleming shared her experience of facing unexpectedly high costs, citing a fence estimate that exceeded the initial quote by $2,000 from 2019. Faced with the stark reality of skyrocketing prices post-COVID-19, she has chosen to seek employment again, specifically looking for nursing positions closer to home to mitigate rising fuel costs.

This phenomenon is part of a larger trend in the workforce, where the older demographic, those aged 62 to 85, has quadrupled to approximately 11 million since the mid-1980s, according to the Pew Research Center. Factors contributing to this shift include higher education levels, improved health conditions, and changes in retirement plans, such as the prevalence of 401(k) offerings over traditional pensions. Even adjustments to Social Security, like the increase in the retirement age to 67, could be influencing older Americans to extend their working years.

A survey conducted by ResumeBuilder reveals that financial concerns are the driving force behind the decision of 1 in 8 retired Americans to rejoin the workforce in 2024. A staggering 61% of respondents cited inflation and the overall cost of living as primary stressors while others indicated inadequate retirement savings or the need to settle outstanding debts with their potential income. However, for over a third of respondents, the motivation goes beyond financial necessity with the desire to combat boredom and engage in meaningful work.

Pexels | Photo by Centre for Ageing Better
Older Americans are extending their working years (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Centre for Ageing Better

The landscape of work has also transformed with the advent of remote opportunities, making it more feasible for older Americans to re-enter the workforce. Many retirees are finding solace in "bridge jobs" – temporary positions offering flexibility and supplemental income. Part-time work and transforming hobbies into side hustles are becoming popular choices for those looking to balance financial stability and personal interests.

Retirement planning is a nuanced process that evolves and crafting a secure and enjoyable retirement requires a strategic financial approach. Here are key financial strategies that retirees should consider to navigate this complex terrain, per Investopedia.

1. Understand your time horizon

Retirement planning begins by assessing your current age and expected retirement age. The longer the time from today to retirement, the higher the level of risk your portfolio can withstand. Younger investors can afford riskier investments like stocks as they have more time to recover from market volatility. As you age, focus on income and capital preservation becomes crucial, leading to a shift towards less risky securities such as bonds. Your retirement plan should consider various time horizons, including contributions leading up to retirement, major expenses like a child's education, and post-retirement living.

An elderly couple walk hand-in-hand in San Antonio, Texas | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexande
An elderly couple walks hand-in-hand in San Antonio, Texas | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander

2. Determine retirement spending needs

Realistic expectations about post-retirement spending habits are vital in defining the size of your retirement portfolio. While some may assume their annual spending will decrease, factors like outstanding mortgages, unforeseen medical expenses, and initial splurges on travel can impact your budget. Accurate spending estimations are crucial for planning withdrawals and investment strategies. Periodic updates to your retirement plan ensure alignment with your evolving savings goals.

3. Calculate the after-tax rate of investment returns

Calculate the after-tax real rate of return to assess the feasibility of your portfolio producing the needed income. Expecting excessive returns, especially in low-risk retirement portfolios, is unrealistic. Understand the tax implications of your investment returns as taxes can significantly impact your actual rate of return. Consider the type of retirement account you hold and plan for tax-efficient withdrawal strategies.

4. Stay on top of estate planning

Estate planning is a vital element of retirement planning and involves collaboration with legal and financial professionals. Develop a comprehensive estate plan to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes and to avoid lengthy probate processes. Include life insurance coverage as part of your estate plan for financial security for your loved ones. Tax planning is integral; compare the tax implications of gifting assets versus passing them through the estate process. Estate planning evolves over a lifetime, encompassing powers of attorney, wills, trusts, and careful consideration of how your assets will be distributed to minimize costs and taxes.