USA: Millions of Americans can’t afford to retire – ‘At 75, I still have to work’ – Commentary

Number of US workers aged 75 and up expected to increase 96.5% over next decade as some say ‘we must work until we die’
A ‘now hiring’ sign is seen outside a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia.

A ‘now hiring’ sign is seen outside a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia.

Mon 13 Dec 2021  – The GUARDIAN

When Covid-19 hit the US, Rios was one of thousands of workers in the food service industry who were furloughed, and was only recalled back to work a few months ago. While receiving unemployment assistance, Rios and her husband had to rely on food banks to have enough food to eat, and because she lost her health insurance along with her job, she had to skip cancer treatments until she was able to get Medicare, but still paid hundreds of dollars out of pocket for treatments.       

An average of 65 million Americans receive a monthly social security benefit, with majority of payments going to retired workers and their dependents.

‘I can’t live on $709 a month’: Americans on social security push for its expansion

Her situation means that at a time when many might assume she should be enjoying a well-earned rest, she is still forced to work.

“At 75 years old, I’m forced to still have to work to try to make ends meet. The healthcare the company provides is way too expensive and they’ve yet to provide a more affordable health insurance plan,” said Rios, who pays about $200 a month for her health insurance. “ It’s also very important for people to be able to have a pension too, to be able to retire with dignity so people aren’t forced to be in a position where I am right now, 75 years old and still having to work”.

She even recently went on strike with her co-workers for 10 days, fighting for higher wages, more affordable healthcare and a pension.

Media reports of older workers have often been framed as feel-good stories, such as a viral news report of an 89-year-old pizza delivery man who received a $12,000 tip raised by a customer out of remorse, as he works 30 hours a week because he can’t afford to retire on social security benefits alone. Or an 84-year-old woman who started a new job as a motel housekeeper in Maine in July 2020. Or an 81-year-old woman in Ohio who volunteered to start working at her favorite restaurant in November 2021 because it shut down temporarily due to an inability to hire and retain enough staff.

But the grim reality is millions of Americans are working into their senior years because they can’t afford not to have a job.

Over the next decade, the number of workers ages 75 and older is expected to increase in the US by 96.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with their labor force participation rate projected to rise from 8.9% in 2020 to 11.7% by 2030, a rate that has steadily increased from 4.7% in 1996.

By 2040, the US population of adults ages 65 and older is expected to increase to 80.8 million from 54.1 million in 2019.

The number of workers who retired during the pandemic was about 2 million more than expected. 50.3% of US adults ages 55 and older said they were out of the labor force due to retirement in the third quarter of 2021, compared to 48.1% in the third quarter of 2019, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. Though in recent months, the unretirement rate of US workers has gradually increased toward pre-pandemic levels.

As the ageing US population grows, participation in retirement plans has declined since 2000. Nearly half of all families in the US have no retirement savings at all and inequality among Americans based on retirement savings is greater than income inequality. Over 15 million adults ages 65 and older are economically insecure, with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line, with Black, Hispanic and women ages 65 and older more likely to live in poverty.

“I have no savings, no assets, I don’t even own the home I’ve been renting for 15 years,” said Dr Lisa Natale, 65, a chiropractor in Hawaii who put herself through school as a single mother. “There’s no way I could afford to retire.”

With the average estimated social security retirement benefit in 2021 at $1,543 a month, even with a 5.9% cost of living adjusted increase for 2022, millions of Americans who rely on social security benefits are forced to continue working past retirement age in order to make ends meet.

Kathy Luebbe, a 69-year-old teacher in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, has continued working through retirement age because social security benefits and her partial pension only provide $2,600 a month, which is not enough to cover her bills and student loan payments.

“I have to work just to keep paying my regular bills,” said Luebbe.

Ted Newman of Columbus, Ohio, is a retired state government employee, but continued working full-time through his retirement, along with his wife, for the past eight years.

“I have been working full-time for the last 8 years since retiring, and my wife also. Her yearly salary went almost completely to pay student debt and I worked to have extras for the home,” said Newman.

When Covid-19 hit, his wife stopped working and he shifted to part-time due to health conditions. They paid about $1,000 toward parent plus loans for their daughter’s tuition for years, but still owe the principal of the loan.

“Now our income is cut in half and our loans will be coming due again in 2022,” added Newman. “I can’t live long enough to pay the debt and plan to let it go to default because I can’t afford to pay it any more.”

As the US population ages, with millions of Americans having no retirement savings, the number of older Americans with student debt, either for themselves or for children, is on the rise.

Nearly 9 million Americans ages 50 and older still have student debt, and the amount owed by this demographic is growing faster than any other age group. In 2015, 40,000 Americans had their social security retirement benefits garnished for student loans.

Jane Switchenko, 63, of Massachusetts, and her 68-year-old husband cannot afford to retire, in part because of parent plus student loans they took out for their children to attend college.

“My husband and I must work until we die. Parent plus loans take over $1,000 a month, every month, for a decade now and we continue to see a rising balance,” said Switchenko. “Not only can we not retire, we cannot afford to fix our old house – we are desperate for new windows, have a leaking chimney and need new electrical work done.”

She added: “We work hard. We are frugal, but we’re getting up there and have nothing to look forward to because of these loans. We have five grandchildren and don’t know what we’ll be able to buy for Christmas.”

  • This article was written with the support of a journalism fellowship from the Gerontological Society of America, the Journalists Network on Generations and the RRF Foundation for Aging
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  • kamtanblog  On 12/14/2021 at 2:40 pm

    Wow ….richest country on planet cannot pay their pensioners a liveable income for life !

    Have lived/worked 50 years in UK.
    Retired at 60 on my company pension.
    At 65 started receiving my state pension.
    Both my pensions are added togeather and I
    pay tax on any amount over my personal tax allowance. £12.500pa taxed at 22%.
    Two things in life are certain

    Not complaining as long as the jackasses we elect don’t squander my taxes on white elephant projects.
    Glad I chose UK not USA my working life.
    K UK

  • wally n  On 12/14/2021 at 4:33 pm

    So reading between the lines….we get a “how to” copy of your book??? FREE??

    • kamtanblog  On 12/14/2021 at 7:09 pm

      Most artists/writers become famous after their exit ! Am no exception. Will save you a copy !

      K UK

  • wally n  On 12/14/2021 at 9:12 pm

    after their exit????OK

    • kamtanblog  On 12/14/2021 at 9:33 pm

      Into the “afterlife”….heaven hell ???
      Exit aka (death) !
      Mankind will soon be colonising space/planets
      Only the very rich/powerful can afford the ticket
      at present but it will be “commercialised” aka capitalised eventually !
      Virgin is already selling tickets for travel to outer
      space … your ticket on line.???

      At 78 wish to remain on planet earth until my exit ….no after life plans as yet !
      Stay safe
      Stay cool


  • wally n  On 12/14/2021 at 9:58 pm

    no after life ?Come on Mr K nothing can be created or destroyed? where does all the art, music, brilliance go,where did Srinvasa Ramanujan come from? I think different dimension, yours …… may be transferred too…. OK messing with you.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/15/2021 at 12:16 am


  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/15/2021 at 12:18 am


    Pestano: That is how they take them out of the unemployment line – Permanently!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/15/2021 at 12:21 am

    Eddie wrote: Deh will kill dem out. De young people and de ones coming out of university kcant find wuk ….

  • Dennis Albert  On 12/15/2021 at 9:48 am

    Millions of Americans, who don’t own homes. They are suffering. Jerome Powell and his cronies have became insanely rich during the money printer go brrr.

  • wally n  On 12/17/2021 at 10:40 am

    Democrats will solve everything…today’s news..

    In the robbery-infested areas of San Francisco and Oakland, California, some residents are so fearful of having their cars broken into that they are deliberately leaving their car trunks open so robbers won’t shatter the windows.

    “We see the aftermath of car break-ins all too often. Windows smashed, glass shattered, but now some people are getting so fed-up they’re leaving their trunks open, hoping that will at least spare them the hefty bill to get it fixed,” ABC 7 reported.

    People have even posted signs on their cars begging, “Please use the door,” or “Please Do Not Break Glass!! Nothing Inside!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/18/2021 at 7:50 am

    Are the 10 Poorest U.S. States Really Republican?

    Mark Hendrickson | FORBES

    My previous column made the case that Democratic Party policies have induced the impoverishment of America’s poorest cities. Turnabout is fair play.

    If Republican policies have led to the economic stagnation of entire states, whereas Democrats are only responsible for ruining cities, then the Dems might have the stronger campaign talking point.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 12/18/2021 at 7:52 am

    Dat is what I believe:

    Democrats Ruin Cities – Republicans Ruin States!!

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