Pivot or Poverty? Recession Forces Pre-Retirees to Choose

This pandemic-induced recession is especially cruel to people ages 55 to 65 – those on the cusp of retirement.

Millions will lose current and future income, right when they need to be stoking savings for retirement. The choices are plain: accept the financial losses and downscale retirement accordingly, or pivot to continue earning.

A new study by the New School   outlines the double whammy for middle-income earners who have retirement savings and who are hoping to continue working:

  • Older, middle-income* workers are more likely to be laid off. Up to 22% of such workers are likely to lose their jobs in this recession.
  • Retirement savings will erode as markets flail. Though middle and upper-income families have retirement savings, their portfolios are likely to lose value. “A household earning $100,000 a year would lose $10,000 in annual retirement income,” according to the study, and “A household earning $200,000 a year would lose $20,000 in annual retirement income, falling to $86,000 from $106,000 before the recession.”
  • As the Federal Reserve pledges to stay in low-interest, emergency gear for the forseeable future, interest rates on safe, insured savings vehicles, such as certificates of deposit,  will continue to hover around 1%. That is below the inflation rate.  Families will have to choose between putting savings in investments in a highly volatile market in an period of unprecedented risk, or see their savings erode as the interest earned is overtaken by inflation.

Not a pretty set of circumstances. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of medical care, especially for the nearly retired forced into the private insurance market because they haven’t yet aged into Medicare.

Lateral career strategies can provide direction for a late-career pivot. The key is to start plotting next steps now.  If you are concerned about having  a looming job loss, start scooping out possible moves now. Here are three considerations that can help you see potential ways forward.

  • What market opportunities have you detected in the pandemic chaos, that might tee up either a lateral move at your job or potential self-employment?
  • Who have you met through working remotely and on pandemic projects, that you might not have otherwise, either within your current workplace or business partners? If you’ve made a new work friend, would that person be open to brainstorming lateral or self-employment moves with you (and you, for them?).
  • Has working from home or on a pandemic-adjusted schedule been a change for the better, the worse, or neutral?  Figuring out what you would like to keep and what you would like to change about a dramatic change in work place and conditions can yield clues as to how you might pursue lateral moves or structure self-employment.

*(The study defines middle income households as those with $48,000 to $137,000 in annual earnings.)