Catching Up With Retirement After a Recession
Posted March 2, 2018 7:03 p.m. EST
A number of Americans had to delay their plans to retire when the economic crisis hit in 2008. Some lost their jobs, some took serious losses to their 401(k) plans and some had to go back to work because of the shortfall in their retirement savings.
In the decade since, people who were close to retirement have struggled to replenish their lost savings and now are focused on financial security. We revisited some near-retirees who had been interviewed by The New York Times about coping during the recent recession along with others who stepped up to tell the stories of how they managed in ensuing years.
CAROL A. SHOBERG, 70
Planned to retire: 2013
Actual retirement date: 2017
Shoberg worked as the human resources director at a sports league membership group in Milwaukee until the group decided after the 2008 recession to move out of state. But as a divorced mother of three children and grandmother of four, relocation was not possible for her.
At 60, she was not ready to retire, and available jobs paid $20 an hour compared with her previous six-figure salary, so she began providing outplacement services. In 2011, she was hired full time for an employer association and later became the director of round-table meetings for its member businesses.
“I had to start all over, and begin putting as much money away as I could,” she said.
But at age 70 1/2, federal law mandates a percentage of withdrawals from 401(k) savings. Last July, when she turned 70, Shoberg took part-time status to meet the federal requirement but still contributed to her retirement.
“I’m probably at 70 percent of where my savings were in 2008,” she said. “And I still plan to work two days a week as long as I can. I enjoy it.”
NED and BARBARA PETRUCCI, 70 and 67
Planned to retire: 2012
Actual retirement date: 2013
When the Petruccis were interviewed for a 2009 Times article about older workers’ being unable to retire, Ned Petrucci, a sales representative for several printing companies, and his wife, Barbara, were feeling the recession’s impact.
“A lot of competition from overseas cutting into the market,” had damaged his job prospects, he said.
“Then we took a nice, big hit to our 401(k). We had downsized our home before that. Then the economy took the icing off our retirement cake.
“We were about to start doing whatever we wanted to do. But, you know, you have to roll with this stuff,” he said.
The couple moved in 2013 to Colorado, where Barbara Petrucci worked as a part-time dialysis nurse before returning to Atlanta. The couple have been replenishing their savings, and Social Security’s full benefits kicked in last October when Ned Petrucci turned 70.
“I can see continuing to work part time,” Barbara Petrucci said, “and be involved in a charitable organization. But, as you get older, it gets harder to find a part-time situation.”
FRED SANFORD, 65
Planned to retire: Undecided
Actual retirement date: 2018 (with an interim 2012 retirement)
In 2004, Sanford moved to Orlando, Florida, to become a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch. “But 2008 upset the whole applecart,” he said. “It was a slow drip, drip, drip of clients withdrawing, but in August 2010 I lost a large client, and that tipped everything.”
His wife took a job helping special-needs children, the couple rented out a room in their house and adopted “a very frugal” lifestyle, he said. And he decided to pursue a different line of work, but something he knew he could do: singing.
Starting in college, he had been a member of a Chicago-area band, the Onstage Majority, whose four members played a number of instruments and had a wide repertoire.
“I decided to sing, in supper clubs, restaurants and other places, as a solo act singing what I called boomer tunes,” he said.
He sang a couple of nights a week and put the money toward the mortgage. But “there was a lot of competition so it wasn’t always easy.”
Then he had a hip replacement, which made work more difficult. But in July, he will turn 66 and qualify for Social Security.
“I’m going for full retirement then,” he said.
KITTY RUDERMAN, 71
Planned to retire: 2009
Actual retirement date: 2009 (partial)
After decades as a legal secretary, Ruderman took a job in 1989 as secretary to John C. Whitehead, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs who later became chairman of AEA Investors, and led the effort to rebuild downtown Manhattan after the 2001 terrorist attacks. She retired from that position after two decades because, she said, “I just wanted a life for myself.”
“I thought I had factored everything in between my pension, medical benefits and Social Security, but the rent on my apartment keeps going up,” she said. Her daughter and grandson live nearby, she said, “so I don’t see myself moving out of New York, and I love the neighborhood around me.”
Last year, ReServe Inc., which helps place workers 55 and older in jobs, helped her find a data entry position two days a week for the New York Department of Corrections in an office near LaGuardia Airport.
The job pays minimum wage, Ruderman said, but the commute from her home in Queens is fairly easy, and she can still spend time with her grandson and volunteer for AARP.
“I don’t have to dip into savings,” she said, “and I plan on working as long as my health is fine.”
PATRICIA COTTON, 77
Planned to retire: 2003
Actual retirement date: 2015
Cotton, an immigrant from Trinidad, was working 60 hours a week as a home care aide in 2012 when she was interviewed for a Times article about people working past age 65. During the 2008 economic meltdown, Cotton’s $150,000 retirement savings lost half its value.
Her retirement funds took another blow when she incurred tax and penalties for withdrawing her remaining individual retirement account money. That left her short of the extra funds she had been counting on to supplement her monthly Social Security check.
To put more money away, she said, “I stopped buying clothes, I cut back on everything. I just bought the food I needed.”
She continued to work as a home care aide in Hyattsville, Maryland, and saved every penny, but it was tough, she said. “You do what you’ve got to do,” she added, echoing many who have had setbacks on the road to retirement.