October 15, 2017 — The idea of retirement is supposed to be – that you get to relax and not work anymore. Unfortunately that concept is running up against a harsh reality; not having enough money to retire. In this article we will talk about some creative ways folks in that predicament are managing to survive.
A harsh reality
A record one in five Americans over 65 is working today, a reflection of our longer lifespans and a changing world. An increasing proportion of retirees in the workforce coincides with the avalanche of baby boomers hitting retirement age; the oldest boomers are 71 this year. Although many are employed because they like working, millions of others are forced into it because of their fragile finances. Three quarters of Americans between 55 and 64 have less than $30,000 saved, according to the AARP. According the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security constitutes at least 90 percent of income for more than one-third of retirees. And, since the average Social Security recipient received $1360 per month in retirement benefits at the end of 2016, that is a significant cut from pre-retirement income. Welcome to retirement in the new millennium!
A paucity of choices
For those who want or need to work there aren’t always that many good choices. The fortunate ones have a competitive skill to offer employers, or one that can parlayed into a business. Unfortunately, our skills are often out of date. Physical labor, even jobs that require standing, can be exhausting for people with aches and pains. Many people might find competing for jobs with teenagers as demeaning. So what can you do if you need to work to maintain your lifestyle?
The vagabond experience
Jessica Bruder is the author of “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century“. She also wrote a fascinating article for Wired, “Meet the Camperforce“, based on her book.
“Nomadland” details the experiences of boomers like the Stouts, who travel the country as vagabond workers. Chuck and Barbara both lost their investments in the 2008 crash and were facing bankruptcy. They sold their company and just about everything else they owned. Whatever survived the purge had to fit in their new dwelling: a 29-foot 1996 National RV Sea Breeze motorhome. The Stouts roamed the country in their RV for a few years and saw quite a bit of it. They were campground hosts and found some other temporary jobs. Then they heard about a website called Workers on Wheels, which helps people on the road find jobs, including volunteer positions. Now the Stouts do seasonal work for the Amazon’s “CamperForce” program, which provides seasonal labor for the retailer’s giant warehouses across the country.
Other seasonal hirers include Fedex, LL Bean, UPS, or Walmart – which hires greeters or cashiers. Walmart also welcomes RVs overnight in their parking lots. Many nomads work in state parks and campgrounds, sometimes trading work for a free spot to park their camper. Many boomers seek out employers who need temporary, seasonal workers – but don’t want full time employers. The pay isn’t always great, perhaps $10/hour, but the opportunity to pick up some additional cash can make the difference for a comfortable retirement.
The sharing economy
We have written several times about the opportunities that the “sharing” economy offers. You can be an Uber or Lyft driver, do errands for Taskrabbit, or hire yourself out for jobs that you have the skills to do – whether it is cooking, escorting seniors to appointments, writing, or whatever. See “Further Reading” below for more on those opportunities, as well as ways to cut your expenses so your retirement income goes further.
What kind of interesting jobs have you found in retirement?
Necessity is the mother of invention, says the old saw. And we bet that a lot of our Members have found some creative and interesting ways to maintain their lifestyle. Please share your experiences and ideas in the Comments section below.
For further reading
The Sharing Economy Could “Lyft” Your Retirement
Seven Out of the Box Ideas for Surviving Retirement
The Kids Are Gone, You Are Retiring Next Month…And You’re Dead Broke
Golden Girls: Is A Roommate the Key to Your Retirement Shortfall
Turning Your Passion Into Retirement Income