Retirement used to mean trading in the day-to-day work grind for a new chapter of life spent with family and friends. But for many seniors today, the recent downturn in the market paired with the rocky economy is changing the picture of retirement. Some are still working into their 60's, 70's and 80's, many on their third career.
7&4â??s Kate Fox sat down with two northern Michigan women who get up day after day, to go to work to pay the bills.
61 year-old Kat Brown works at Edward Jones Investments in Houghton Lake, she says, "Iâ??m 61 and if things had gone the way I had plan years ago, I'd be a on beach in Mexico, probably drinking a cold corona, that was the original plan.â??
Retirement plans like these seem like a fairy tale for nearly 7 million seniors over the age of 65 who are still working.
72 year-old Kathleen Gest is volunteering at the Traverse City Senior Center and also working toward her third career, she says, "Just to live, to buy groceries and pay the bills, I need to workâ?¦"
After a century long trend of Americans retiring at a younger age, many seniors are now working well-into their golden years.
61 year-old Kat Brown, who lives in Houghton Lake, is now on her third career. After working more then 20 years in the hotel industry, traveling all across the country Brown found herself back in northern Michigan in her 40's, working her way up the ranks at a booming auto industry supplier.
But in 2004 the economy started to crash and its impact was devastating. Brown says, "The day finally came that they laid me off. They said theyâ??re sorry but they canâ??t afford a Senior Buyer anymore, so I got my cardboard box, walked outâ?¦I was 55."
At 55 years-old, Brown quickly realized it wasn't easy to get a job, employers wanted younger applicants and her resume was being pushed to the side. Brown explains, "I was out of work for two and half years. It took all my savings, my retirement plan, I sold family antiques. It was absolutely devastating!"
Brown is part of 50% of seniors who need to keep working so they don't lose their home. But there's other reasons seniors keep working, 22% have to stay in the workforce because of their spouse's medical expenses. (Source: Experience Works Survey)
This was the case of 72 year-old Kathleen Gest, she says, "I didn't think Iâ??d still be working but with my husband's death from pancreatic cancer, he died and there were medical bills and we didn't plan very well, so it was necessary for me to find a job. "
Kathleen Gest has done it all, a full-time mother, a substitute teacher in her 30's, and even a free-lance journalist in her 40's and 50's
After the death of her husband, at the age 62, Gest went to work at the family business, a development company based in Alberta. Gest says, â??I worked in the family business for a few years, then when the recession hitâ?¦ the project was put on holdâ?¦ so there wasn't room for me in the company any longer."
In search of help, these two ladies discovered Michigan Experience Works operates a Senior Community Service Employment Program helping people 55 years and older get back into the workforce.
Andrea Bridgewater from Experience Works says, "So the way we do that is we would place them with a non profit, 22 hours a week, pay them minimum wage. While theyâ??re at that non-profit, they're learning a new skill, they're networking, they're meeting people they haven't met before, they're getting their self esteem back."
After teaming up with Experience Works, Kathleen Gest is now working at the Traverse City Senior Center, while she sends out resumes.
Kat Brown landed a job at Edward Jones Investments as a Branch Office Administrator.
Experience Works took a cut of about 48% last year. And because of this, it only has the funding to serve less than one percent of the seniors in northern Michigan, who qualify for the service.
However they continue to apply for grants, so they can keep the program alive.