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WORK: Over-55 feel forced to work longer

Letter by Shelley L. Hull, Lakewood on Jan. 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm with 31 Comments »
January 17, 2012 10:39 am

Re: “More older workers have reasons to hold onto jobs” (TNT, 1-15).

While the article did say that there are a great many reasons why we stay, did anyone even ask, “Are you happy to be staying?” I see more than a 12 percent increase of the over-55 working today than I did 10 years ago.

The article did not draw a line between the increase in the over-55 working and the decrease in 25-to-54 working. That’s because we are stuck in their jobs. Because health care costs have increased dramatically while retirement benefits have decreased even more, we have few to no options.

No we did not choose to work until we’re almost 70; we are being forced to work. We were handed our retirement futures without any training and with little help. Then we were pushed out the door into 401(k) plans that are now worth less than what we put into them over the years.

Our forced delay into an encore life has also caused the delayed adolescence of the Gen Y, and the frustration of the Gen Xers, who really want us out of their jobs.

So did anyone ask, “Are you happy to still be working?” It’s not the incentive we lack; it is the means.

Leave a comment Comments → 31
  1. I don’t know about the Gen-X’s and Gen-Y’s, but for us old guys……


  2. aislander says:

    Americans–and the populations of ALL developed nations–have been using their governments to try to defeat reality, and they were successful…for a while.

    Resources are limited, and we have been using up ours faster than we can create them. When we enjoyed so much abundance that we could use our “excess” wealth to mask the basic principle that we, as a nation, were “invading capital,” as old money puts it.

    Our chickens (thank you, Rev. Wright) have come home to roost, and this situation brings to mind a few other didactic fables, as well: the grasshopper and the ant (we have to hustle if we want to survive); the golden goose (once we eat the rich, they’re gone), etc…

    People have made choices regarding how much leisure and family time they wanted versus how much time they wished to spend hustling, and now they have to live with the consequences of those choices.

    Reality bites…

  3. It also brings to mind that old “didactic” fable of the frog and the scorpion.

    The frog being the hard working American laborer and office worker, who invested his 401K with the scorpion, who in this case could be any number of Wall Streeters, but we’ll say is a hedge-fund manager who supposedly had a fiduciary responsibility to soundly manage the frog’s retirement funds.

    In the middle of crossing the river the scorpion stings the frog, and the frog asks, “Why did you do that? Now we’re both going to die.” And the scorpion says, “I had to. I’m a scorpion.”

    One of the BIG REASONS we have to work longer these days is because we simply cannot AFFORD to retire. Thanks to THE SCORPIONS!

  4. Our chickens (thank you, Rev. Wright) have come home to roost,

    huh? How is something that Malcolm X said about the JFK assassination being attributed to Wright?

  5. ManuelMartini says:

    Thank you, beerBoy. And more to the point:

    He was quoting Peck as saying that America’s foreign policy has put the nation in peril:

    “I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

    “We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

    “We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.”

    As usual, Reverend Wright was quoted out of context.

  6. Manuel, they call that (taking things out of context) … “cherry picken'” and they really like to do that a lot. Old aislander has picked himself a whole bunch of cherries in that one little post, with his Rev. Wright quote and the little clips for the “didactic” fables.

    BTW, don’t I get any credit for my Frog & Scorpion “didactic” fable? Ain’t no cherry-picken there!

  7. ManuelMartini says:

    Loved the frog and scorpion fable.

  8. Thanks!

  9. alindasue says:

    Like the letter writer, my husband and I feel “stuck working until we die,” as my husband puts it.

    Long gone are the days when a person could work a job for 30 years and then collect a pension. Even those jobs that offer pensions these days rarely allow people to stay on the job long enough to collect them.

    We’ve got 17 years before he can collect Social Security at age 67 (19 more years for me), IF it’s still available then. We have 401K’s, but since their value fluctuates with the economy, it’s hard to know how much they’ll be worth in a dozen years or so. I know they won’t be worth enough to retire by age 55.

    Until then we save what we can and work to reduce our expenses so that some day we can possibly “retire” to working part time rather than working two full time jobs.

    By the way, ManuelMartini,
    Although – in context – it’s a bit off topic, thank you for the full context of that Reverend White quote. I think it summed up the situation quite nicely.

  10. aislander says:

    Here is Rev. Wright, beerBoy, in his own words, via ABC News…


    He may have been quoting X, Y, or Z, but he didn’t attribute. Does that make the esteemed clergyman a “plagiarist?”

    Seriously, though, the expression, “one’s chickens coming home to roost,” is much older than Wright or X or any other antic figure of the self-indulgent and remunerative “revolutionary” religious left…

  11. aislander says:

    Here is Chaucer using a version of the saying in “The Parson’s Tale,” from the Canterbury Tales (1390):

    And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

  12. Cherry-picken’ from Chaucer now. Off Topic? Yeppers. But, as long as it has been brought up, again, lets give the full etymology of this idiom, so we can move beyond it, and get back to the subject at hand.

    “The chickens come home to roost”


    Bad deeds or words return to discomfort their perpetrator.


    The notion of bad deeds, specifically curses, coming back to haunt their originator is long established in the English language and was expressed in print as early as 1390, when Geoffrey Chaucer used it in The Parson’s Tale:

    And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

    The allusion that was usually made was to a bird returning to its nest at nightfall, which would have been a familiar one to a medieval audience.

    Other allusions to unwelcome returns were also made, as in the Elizabethan play The lamentable and true tragedie of Arden of Feversham, 1592:

    For curses are like arrowes shot upright, Which falling down light on the suters [shooter's] head.

    Chickens didn’t enter the scene until the 19th century when a fuller version of the phrase was used as a motto on the title page of Robert Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama, 1810:

    “Curses are like young chicken: they always come home to roost.”

    This extended version is still in use, notably in the USA.

    The notion of the evil that men create returns to their own door also exists in other cultures.

    Buddhists are familiar with the idea that one is punished by one’s bad deeds, not because of them.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge revived the imagery of a bird returning to punish a bad deed in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798. In the poem the eponymous mariner kills an albatross, which was regarded as an omen of good luck, and is punished by his shipmates by having the bird hung around his neck:

    Ah! well a-day! what evil looks

    Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross

    About my neck was hung.

  13. aislander says:

    So…who are we blaming besides ourselves for not being provident? If we shift off our responsibility for ourselves to some other entity, that makes us…well…children.

    Fifty-five is an awfully old child…

  14. alindasue, you were saying that it will be 17 to 19 years before your husband and you can cooect on Social Security, and “Until then we save what we can and work to reduce our expenses so that some day we can possibly “retire” to working part time rather than working two full time jobs.”

    If this is not too personal a question, may I ask:

    Is that the definition of “The American Dream” that you and your husband grew up hearing about?

  15. alindasue: “cooect” is actually Klingon for “collect”.

    (Actually, it’s not Klingon. It’s just another typo on my part, which was not caught by my proof-reader (me) so I am firing my proof-reader (me), because I like firing people who don’t provide good services to me. Chuckle! Chuckle!)

  16. alindasue says:

    muckibr said, “Is that the definition of “The American Dream” that you and your husband grew up hearing about?”

    Of course not. When I was growing up, the concept of staying with a company long enough to earn a pension was still a fairly common concept. Of course, when I was growing up, the spouse usually went to work to bring in extra money – not just so the family could cover the basic bills.

    Much has changed in the last few decades…

    By the way, thanks for the laugh!

  17. took14theteam says:

    So because you didn’t go out and work hard to achieve the American Dream, it is the fault of someone else who did?

    What a mindset of envy the have-nots have for the successful. But isn’t that the OWS’ers? Wait, are they still around?

    What I don’t understand is those who complain the most that they don’t have what others have and will have to work till they die, yet they give away 10% of their income to the church. Perhaps they should take care of themselves with that money first instead of expecting the government to help. Then they can donate what “they” feel is right.

  18. Life is full of choices. Yes, there are many people who may be compelled to work past their intended retirement. When people choose to spend more dollars on a vehicle than necessary, they forgo retirement dollars. When people choose to buy a 3,000 square foot home and finance it over thirty years rather than buy a 1,500 square foot home,they forgo retirement dollars. Yes, and when you choose to tithe 10% to your church, you are forgoing retirement dollars. The choices are endless.

    Some people gave up immediate gratification for long term retirement goals. So, when you’re debt free you can retire earlier. I really get tired of middle income people whining about working forever, when their own choices helped put them into that position. I also get tired of all the people belly aching about those of us who retire early because we planned it.

  19. Yes, I would agree alindasue, a whole lot has changed over the decades. I agree.

    Then there are those who haven’t got a clue that any change has occurred at all, and they’re stuck harping about the same old paradigm. Poor putz’s!

    Glad you got a laugh out of that add-on. Wasn’t sure how you might take it, but hey! You’re okay!!

  20. Insurance should be outlawed.

  21. aislander says:

    You can’t repeal the laws of economics, no matter how stridently one mewls on about “change.” Socialistic models just don’t work over the long haul, and once government has devoured all the wealth and killed the momentum of the economy…that’s it.

    As someone put it: A quasi-capitalistic system simply can’t afford to support a welfare state. I would add that a socialistic “economy” wouldn’t even come close to doing so…

  22. You can’t repeal the law of gravity, no matter how stylishly one meows about “cash.” So, plastic models just don’t work over the long fall, and once pavement has devoured all the stealth and filled the cementum of the e-hominy… that’s it.

    As someone put it: A quasi-plastic symptom can’t afford to sport a waffle plate. I would add the an elastic “e-hominy” could come pretty close to doing so…

  23. socialistic models just don’t work over the long haul

    And capitalistic models do??!!??


  24. aislander says:

    Capitalistic models work better than any other model, and the freer the economy, the more wealth it creates.

  25. itwasntmethistime says:

    Since when is retiring at 55 a God-given right as a human? 55 used to be old. It wasn’t unreasonable to rest and live off 30 years of savings for the last few years of your life. Now that people are living longer and not saving for 30 years, if at all, what did you think was going to happen?

    If your house isn’t paid off after 30 years (or worse, if you owe more than it’s worth after paying on it that long) it’s your own fault. You shouldn’t have spent more money than you earned.

  26. and that’s because aislander says so!!!

    And, if aislander says so, over, and over, and over, again, and again, and again, he doesn’t need to provide any proof or documentation, because it must be true, because he said so.


  27. aislander says:

    beerBoy: You have merely to look at the fate of the Soviet Union or to compare Maoist China with post-Mao China; North Korea with South Korea; Singapore with, say, Indonesia; Canada with Mexico.

    Africa is the most regulated continent on Earth, and the poorest.

    The freer the economy, the better the economy…

  28. beerBoy: You have merely to skip over any comment posted by aislander, and go on to comments that actually make sense and are worth responding to.

    “Africa is the most regulated continent on Earth,” he states with absolutely no proof, reference or attribution of any kind to back-up his bogus claim.

    Are you kidding me? With ALL THE POLITICIANS LAWYERS in THE UNITED STATES and CANADA or even those in MAINLAND EUROPE & THE BRITISH ISLES and he claims Africa is the most regulated continent.

    Prove your statement if you can aislander.

    Or just Get Real aislander, you are absolutely pathological with your disinformation!!!

  29. aislander says:

    beerBoy: While Africa–especially sub-Saharan Africa–has lately made the largest gains of any region with respect to economic freedom, it still has the lowest score in that regard of any continent.

    Property rights are very sketchy, with home ownership being statistically quite low, while it takes an average of fifteen permits to start a business in most cities, with bribes required every step of the way–only the tip of the corruption iceberg.

    Here is a link to the survey done by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. All the other rankings I have seen have been based on this.


  30. alindasue says:

    There’s one problem with your claim that Africa is the “most regulated” continent. You look at Canada and Mexico as separate economic entities, but you are looking at Africa as one big amalgamate.

    We only have three countries on North America, but there are well over two dozen African countries, each of them with different political and economic systems. While Israel and Egypt may be highly regulated, Somalia – which is currently in a state of anarchy, controlled by pirate gangs and warlords – is not regulated by the government at all.

    If your argument is that less regulation leads to a better economy, I’d say that Israel and Somalia are two cases on different ends of the spectrum that prove that argument wrong.

    It doesn’t take much looking around this area to see that Somalians prefer the “regulated” economic environment of the United States to the “unregulated” anarchy of Somalia. While we sit here complaining about when we can afford to retire, my friends from Somalia are just happy to be in an economy where they can get enough food to become “too fat”.

    So, while too much regulation can be a hindrance to business, the opposite extreme of no regulation is worse.

  31. aislander says:

    Yes, alindasue, anarchy IS worse than a civil society, but I credited you as being smart enough to avoid that cliched and invalid “point.” A free market cannot exist in turmoil, so a civil society is necessary for prosperity.

    A civil society is not the same, however, as a society regulated to the point of economic ossification. I looked at Africa as a whole for the sake of brevity, and, yes, some sub-Saharan nations are doing well on the economic-liberty scale. Mauritius is in the top-ten freest economies (above the US!), but the next freest economy in Africa is in the fifties. The overall average, however, puts Africa at the bottom of the scale.

    My point is that prosperity and freedom are two sides of the same coin, and I believe that the degree of prosperity tracks directly with the degree of freedom a nation enjoys.

    But freedom is not anarchy…

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