Some Boomers like to think they're invincible: They fully expect to be able to work into their 70s or beyond. The good news is that the percentage of workers over the age of 62 in the workforce has steadily increased. But consider this: While the national unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older is generally lower than the overall unemployment rate, the long-term unemployment rate (out of work 27 weeks or more) for older workers is generally higher than the overall long-term unemployment rate. That suggests once a Boomer is out of work, it is harder to get back into the workforce.
Cleo Parker's story is all too typical. As reported in The New York Times, Parker was about to turn 50 when her long-time marketing job was eliminated in 2006, a few years before the big recession. For the next ten years, she had to work a variety of contract and lower-paying jobs. She finally found a full-time job but that ended in 2018. Now 62, Parker finds she is overqualified for most of the jobs she interviews for, and the salary for those jobs is far less than what she earned before.
The financial pressure of this type of situation is obvious. Boomers who have had good, well-paying jobs for decades and then find themselves out of work are often faced with a precipitous drop in income in their later working years. Having all of the things associated with a middle class life -- house, car, sending your kids to college, etc. -- may have taken precedent over adequately saving for retirement. So now, the Boomer who is out of work or working at a low-paying job may be stuck with too much debt and expenses that exceed income. If expenses aren't reduced and savings are meager, the Boomer may have to draw Social Security benefits earlier than planned, which means lower monthly SS payments for the rest of that person's life. In addition, any retirement savings, such as 401(k) investments, typically cannot be drawn upon without penalty until age 70-1/2.
Involuntary job loss can be devastating -- but so can employment that is interrupted or abruptly ends because of health issues. Older workers are susceptible to more health problems than younger workers, if for no other reason than they are older. While there is some small comfort in having employer-paid health insurance or Medicare as of age 65, health problems can still be costly, both in terms of out-of-pocket medical expenses and loss of time on the job. Even worse, a serious health problem can lead to an unanticipated earlier retirement from the workforce.
So what can Boomers do about the double whammy of money and health? For one thing, we need to make a concerted effort to save as much as we can for retirement while we are still working. We should also try to delay taking Social Security payments at least until our "full retirement age," as defined by Social Security, or until age 70, when you can draw the maximum benefit. In terms of our health, as we age, it is very important for us to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and generally take good care of ourselves. Other than that... it's a crap shoot!