That Wal-Mart Greeter May Drive You Home

 

shutterstock_342694016When the New York Yankees fired 70-year-old manager Casey Stengel in 1961, the team openly stated he was “too old for the job.” A resentful Stengel quipped: “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.”

While many corporations are addressing ageism, most folks look to retirement as their time to slow down and reap the rewards of their lifes’ labor.

But for many, that choice may not be possible. When I lived in Las Vegas in the 1990s, a recurring and depressing reality was hopping into cabs driven by septuagenarians who volunteered they were once the proud owner of a healthy retirement fund, but … oh, that darned stock market, sports-books, tables, slots, etc. Instead of cruising Alaska or comfortably watching Wheel and Jeopardy!, they were now hauling gaggles of the inebriated for $5 tips.

Flash forward two decades. In an age of few pensions and inadequate company matching 401(k)s, individuals have increasingly become responsible for their own retirements. Outside of the relatively few disciplined savers, baby boomers are retiring en masse woefully unprepared to financially compensate their remaining years.

The problem is no longer that someone squandered their retirement fund, but that the fund — or any viable semblance of one — never existed. The retirement crisis is now hitting many squarely between the eyes.

The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) calculates the average working household has virtually no retirement savings:

Financial experts suggest targets of 8-11 times income in retirement assets in order to replace 85 percent of pre-retirement income.

When all households are included— not just households with retirement accounts—the median retirement account balance is $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households. Two-thirds of working households age 55-64 with at least one earner have retirement savings less than one times their annual income, which is far below what they will need to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

To call this a “crisis” isn’t hyperbole. Many will have to work hand-to-mouth until they die.

However, there are significant challenges to working in our later years. While sitting at a desk is something most able-bodied people can do, many workers come from physically taxing occupations that can no longer be done as the body ages. What can older workers do for a living when they can no longer perform required labor? And what about disability? Reuters reports that physical labor is linked to disability after retirement.

Men who had strenuous jobs during their working years were 70 percent more likely to experience at least some daily limitations during retirement than their peers who had not had physically demanding careers, the study found.

So what are retirees to do? To many, minimum wage work — such as becoming a WalMart greeter — is neither financially attractive nor emotionally stimulating, and working in regimented corporate atmospheres may not work with a retirees schedule.

The good news is there are growing options that have not existed before. Newer business models are rising up while disrupting ancient ones, providing opportunities to supplement one’s retirement. For example, the upward trend of older drivers transporting strangers around town in the comfort of their own car provides a self-employed option with preferable time management and freedom. Groups like the AARP are sponsoring new efforts to have Uber and its competitors hire older drivers. The New York Times reports:

Drivers are in such demand that last July Uber and Life Reimagined, a subsidiary of AARP, the organization for people over 50, formed a partnership to recruit more people as drivers.

They are trying to tap into the 50-and-older work force, a segment that is growing steadily, according to an AARP report released last year.

As the population ages and more baby boomers challenge traditional retirement norms, the number of older workers should continue to rise. One reason is that many people are leaving the full-time work force with less money than they need to support themselves at a comfortable standard of living.

Uber, which surveyed drivers in 2014 and 2015, found that nearly one-fourth of its drivers were 50 or older.

With the massive number of people hitting retirement age, are we seeing the idea of “traditional” retirement change forever?

David Plouffe, an Uber board member [and former Obama campaign manager], argued, most drivers work far less than full time. As many as half drive only 10 hours a week, he said in a speech in November, and 61 percent, or nearly two-thirds, have other job commitments.

The livelihoods of taxi drivers throughout the world are being undercut by the growing phenomenon that is Uber, Lyft, and their smaller would-be competitors. Those with flexible time and a desire to supplement their income (some report making up to $50,000 per year) it is seniors who may benefit the most.

Other industries may also start targeting the older part-time demographic such as online food delivery services GrubHub and DoorDash.

It isn’t just income that incentivizes seniors to continue or go back to working. Retirees also point to mental stimulation and productivity.

Merrill Lynch released a study focused on retirement. It pointed to a fascinating statistic that nearly 60% of retirees “launch into a new line of work after retirement,” and those are “three times more likely to be entrepreneurs than pre-retirees.”

As more people continue working in their later years, the U.S. workforce is steadily transforming. In prior decades, workforce growth was driven by the influx of young workers. In the last seven years, however, workers aged 55-plus accounted for virtually all workforce growth.

In the coming years, it shouldn’t surprise us to get into an Uber or open our front door to find retirees supplementing their income. We are also likely to continue working with older colleagues who run their own part-time consulting service while leveraging their decades of experience to give advice to their younger counterparts.

For those who look to retirement for enjoying pastimes, the sailboats will always be there. But for those seeking additional income or productivity, the growing field of part-time careers now provide more opportunities than ever before.

As Stengel also said: “There comes a time in every man’s life and I’ve had many of them.”

There are 35 comments.

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    It isn’t just income that incentivizes seniors to continue or go back to working. Retirees also point to mental stimulation and productivity.

    There’s something to be said for that. My dad retired at 52 and kind of went downhill after that.

    • #1
  2. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    David , a friend looked in to Uber and found it did not make sense. I forget the particulars but he said that the people doing it must not realize they are wearing out their cars. Also in many cities they are lowering the rates. He said it may not give a return equal to min. wage.

    • #2
  3. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    PHCheese:David , a friend looked in to Uber and found it did not make sense. I forget the particulars but he said that the people doing it must not realize they are wearing out their cars. Also in many cities they are lowering the rates. He said it may not give a return equal to min. wage.

    I personally don’t know the particulars, but gas prices, wear & tear, and insurance would certainly eat into the margins.

    • #3
  4. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    RightAngles:It isn’t just income that incentivizes seniors to continue or go back to working. Retirees also point to mental stimulation and productivity.

    There’s something to be said for that. My dad retired at 52 and kind of went downhill after that.

    Yeah I couldn’t imagine stopping… slowing down, maybe, but I’ll stop when I’m dead.

    • #4
  5. HeartofAmerica Inactive
    HeartofAmerica
    @HeartofAmerica

    My plan: if a package is offered this year, I will take it. I will wait the mandatory six months, and then sign up with the managed service provider that my company uses and work PT as contractor in my old department. Less money, but my own hours. I even shared the idea with manager who loved it.

    • #5
  6. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    David Sussman: Yeah I couldn’t imagine stopping…

    You’re young yet.

    • #6
  7. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    David Sussman:

    RightAngles:It isn’t just income that incentivizes seniors to continue or go back to working. Retirees also point to mental stimulation and productivity.

    There’s something to be said for that. My dad retired at 52 and kind of went downhill after that.

    Yeah I couldn’t imagine stopping… slowing down, maybe, but I’ll stop when I’m dead.

    I’ll never stop working either. My work is so much fun it doesn’t even seem like work. I’d be doing it anyway even if nobody paid me.

    • #7
  8. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I saw a news show about Bernie Madoff, and one of his victims, an old lady who thought she was set for life, is now a Walmart Greeter.

    • #8
  9. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    RightAngles:I saw a news show about Bernie Madoff, and one of his victims, an old lady who thought she was set for life, is now a Walmart Greeter.

    Devastating. There is a Madoff movie with Richard Dreyfuss I would like to see.

    • #9
  10. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Too depressing, David!

    • #10
  11. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Ryan M:Too depressing, David!

    Ryan, depressing yes, but with some silver linings. Personally, I could always benefit from the advice of seasoned business executives.

    • #11
  12. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    David Sussman:

    RightAngles:I saw a news show about Bernie Madoff, and one of his victims, an old lady who thought she was set for life, is now a Walmart Greeter.

    Devastating. There is a Madoff movie with Richard Dreyfuss I would like to see.

    Trailer!

    • #12
  13. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    I retired at 60 with a defined benefit plan that was solid. I did every home project on the yellow legal size blue lined pad that I had carefully written down months before. Then what?  Watch the neighborhood empty out every day as people went off to work. I missed the routine and interaction with people. Seven months retired was enough. I went back to work full time and I love my new job. As I look around at the 250 some odd people in this corporate office I see lots of grey hair and people even older than me ( I am 71). I think I will die on this job, no plans to quit. My Dad died at 70 and had been retired for 10 years. I watched him decline in retirement even though he stayed busy. Staying busy is one thing and working at a job is another. I believe you live longer working.

    • #13
  14. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    PHCheese:David , a friend looked in to Uber and found it did not make sense. I forget the particulars but he said that the people doing it must not realize they are wearing out their cars. Also in many cities they are lowering the rates. He said it may not give a return equal to min. wage.

    I had a friend in college that delivered pizza.  His car was brand new at the start of the school year.  By the end of the year, it was in bad shape.  All he really did was take the equity out of his car.  He didn’t really make any money in the end.

    • #14
  15. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    How much does indebtedness play into the problems facing retirees?

    • #15
  16. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    The King Prawn:How much does indebtedness play into the problems facing retirees?

    According to Newsweek, it has a major impact on retirees. Less than 20% have saving or retirement plans to supplement their social security. Most companies have dumped their defined benefit retirement plans and folks are left with either nothing or a ify 401 K plan. PBS did a special last year on 401 K plans and called them a fraud due to high fees hidden in the small print as well as poor performance.

    My present company does the 401 K and have matched it each year with 1 1/2 to 2 for 1 as long as I’ve been here. Strange thing is that when they do the 2 for 1 match the market tanks and I loose all that the company puts in and part of my contribution as well. They did a 2 for 1 this year and I’m waiting for the shoe to drop!

    • #16
  17. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Mixed feelings about this.   At 74 no plans to retire, and neither, apparently, do my employees, several of whom are of retirement age (whatever that is anymore) but I do worry about them and many of the other middle-aged-to-older people I see, because as you point out, some of them have no viable plan.  On the other hand, if that keeps them working for me, that’s great, because at this stage they continue to bring more value than a new hire, even if they cut back on the amount of time they work.

    I do worry a bit about the effect of delayed retirement on the entry of young people into the job market.  On the other hand, many of them are not fit for any job, so maybe I should worry more about that. One must prioritize one’s worries.

    • #17
  18. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    Interesting topic David.  Although I am in my upper 30s, my parents are both “retirement age” and my father is now considering retirement.  Unfortunately, I am concerned that he really has not taken into account that he may have many more years of life unlike his father who died at age 68, and as a result, may not have the resources to care for himself and my mother until old age actually hits.

    • #18
  19. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    We have many retired military,  civil service (both Federal and State) and airline people in our church congregation that have gone into self employed service industry jobs. Home repair, landscaping and other sideline jobs such as security consulting and investment counseling.  One, a retired Marine 0-5 has a janitorial service he runs. It is the new trend to work as long as you can. The health benefits that come from a steady routine of work seem underrated and little understood.

    • #19
  20. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Slightly off-topic, but I have just never understood this thing about being bored when you retire and/or preferring to work as long as possible (setting aside financial necessity). Even the jobs that I have loved, I would choose not having to do them over doing them, every time. Are you all just lucky? Or unimaginative with your free time? Or what? I’ll be the first to admit that I am not particularly ambitious and have not really put together a “career” in the traditional sense, so maybe that has something to do with it. But wouldn’t you rather be on your own schedule and pursue your own interests at your own pace?

    • #20
  21. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    This is why we conservatives have to be careful about how we approach social security and medicare reform. For too many people this is all they have. Politically viable reforms would protect those who only have SS and Medicare, encourage later retirement, and incentivize savings for the current working age population so that in 20 years SS and Medicare are seen as the old-age welfare benefits they should be.

    • #21
  22. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Half the reason I’m looking forward to 59 1/2 is to pay off my mortgage, run the clock out on my non-compete, live on my IRA proceeds, then bootstrap another company.

    • #22
  23. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Charlotte:Slightly off-topic, but I have just never understood this thing about being bored when you retire and/or preferring to work as long as possible (setting aside financial necessity). Even the jobs that I have loved, I would choose not having to do them over doing them, every time. Are you all just lucky? Or unimaginative with your free time? Or what? I’ll be the first to admit that I am not particularly ambitious and have not really put together a “career” in the traditional sense, so maybe that has something to do with it. But wouldn’t you rather be on your own schedule and pursue your own interests at your own pace?

    I think it’s different for men. What they do for a living is more entwined with their sense of self and self-worth. A lot of them just turn into old men when they retire. Not all, so nobody yell at me.

    • #23
  24. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    RightAngles:

    Charlotte:Slightly off-topic, but I have just never understood this thing about being bored when you retire and/or preferring to work as long as possible (setting aside financial necessity). Even the jobs that I have loved, I would choose not having to do them over doing them, every time. Are you all just lucky? Or unimaginative with your free time? Or what? I’ll be the first to admit that I am not particularly ambitious and have not really put together a “career” in the traditional sense, so maybe that has something to do with it. But wouldn’t you rather be on your own schedule and pursue your own interests at your own pace?

    I think it’s different for men. What they do for a living is more entwined with their sense of self and self-worth. A lot of them just turn into old men when they retire. Not all, so nobody yell at me.

    Yes, that’s certainly part of it. But you, RightAngles, are one of the commenters who said you’d never stop working, even for free! :-)

    • #24
  25. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Charlotte:

    RightAngles:

    Charlotte:Slightly off-topic, but I have just never understood this thing about being bored when you retire and/or preferring to work as long as possible (setting aside financial necessity). Even the jobs that I have loved, I would choose not having to do them over doing them, every time. Are you all just lucky? Or unimaginative with your free time? Or what? I’ll be the first to admit that I am not particularly ambitious and have not really put together a “career” in the traditional sense, so maybe that has something to do with it. But wouldn’t you rather be on your own schedule and pursue your own interests at your own pace?

    I think it’s different for men. What they do for a living is more entwined with their sense of self and self-worth. A lot of them just turn into old men when they retire. Not all, so nobody yell at me.

    Yes, that’s certainly part of it. But you, RightAngles, are one of the commenters who said you’d never stop working, even for free! :-)

    I am a girl! But what I do for a living is draw cartoons as I sit at home watching movies on TV. Why would I want to stop?

    • #25
  26. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    RightAngles: But what I do for a living is draw cartoons as I sit at home watching movies on TV. Why would I want to stop?

    Good point.

    • #26
  27. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    RightAngles: I think it’s different for men. What they do for a living is more entwined with their sense of self and self-worth. A lot of them just turn into old men when they retire. Not all, so nobody yell at me.

    Hey!!!

    Actually, you’re right. My sense of worth isn’t what I do for a living, but the fact that I’m involved and helping others through business. I suppose that can happen in several ways such as volunteering, charity, etc, but I will always be moving.

    I know a lot of retired folks through SCORE and other business associations who really enjoy consulting, and they complain about their friends who became shut-ins (or as they call it, G-ds waiting room).

    • #27
  28. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen
    @DuaneOyen

    We are retiring in 4 months, and one big reason is that we want a change, plus we’ve seen too many younger people suddenly have health issues that prevent them from enjoying life at all.

    We are both fairly well-compensated, but spend way too much time at work now, on a treadmill that resembles a Charlie Chaplin movie assembly line.  Enough.

    An interesting half time job would be great.  I sure would not want to sit around trying to kill time.

    Regarding 401(k), most of the hype you see is from those who are trying to glorify the defined benefit concept.  It is gone, folks, get over it.  Just don’t try to beat the market- if you dollar-cost-average over decades with a reputable firm like Fidelity, Securian, Vanguard, etc.- not some fast talking individual who does not have enough oversight, you do OK.  David’s initial example is telling- people destroy their lives with “sports-books, tables, slots, etc.”, and gambling on the market with day-trading.

    If we are disciplined and patient, we can start investing in mutual funds at 1% of income- off the top- at 30, boost the percentage every couple of years, don’t carry credit card balances, live within your income.  Can people have bad luck?  Sure- but most such pain is self-inflicted.

    • #28
  29. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    David Sussman:

    PHCheese:David , a friend looked in to Uber and found it did not make sense. I forget the particulars but he said that the people doing it must not realize they are wearing out their cars. Also in many cities they are lowering the rates. He said it may not give a return equal to min. wage.

    I personally don’t know the particulars, but gas prices, wear & tear, and insurance would certainly eat into the margins.

    I can’t say that I’ve looked into the details much either, but I’ve ridden with Uber drivers who rented their cars, a fairly common phenomenon, and they claim to make a decent living. Similarly, one of the excitements of UberBlack is that you can employ drivers through it, and I’ve ridden with people who found it profitable to provide drivers with cars.

    Unless you’re keen to work hard and hustle, Uber isn’t going to make you rich (the $90k that top drivers can hope for). Buzzfeed thinks that a typical driver nets a little over $34k/ year for a thirty hour week after deducting the car rental costs or car payments and other expenses (and, as a perk, you get a self employed company car, sort of). That’s quite a lot better than minimum wage.

    Most drivers, though, prefer Uber to taxi companies not because it pays better, but because it’s safer, it gives the driver control over when and where he works, and because they enjoy the conversation more. For others, the choice is between Uber and some other hobby; there are plenty of Uber drivers who really don’t need the money, but find driving and chatting therapeutic. For others, Uber really is all that they have. I had a deaf and developmentally disabled driver in Uber was was in his forties and for whom the the gig was his first real job, and which, six months in, he was still super happy about (the app tells you that he’s deaf when he accepts your ride, so you can cancel if you have complex directions or some other reason for preferring a hearing driver).

    In other words, Uber isn’t generally all about the money, but the money is quite a lot better than your friend suggested. This can change if you have a very expensive car. If your problem is that your Tesla is going to object to hoi polloi joining you, though, then you can rent another car, and parking space, and still do better than minimum wage.

    • #29
  30. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Z in MT:This is why we conservatives have to be careful about how we approach social security and medicare reform. For too many people this is all they have. Politically viable reforms would protect those who only have SS and Medicare, encourage later retirement, and incentivize savings for the current working age population so that in 20 years SS and Medicare are seen as the old-age welfare benefits they should be.

    Agreed, and this was the push W. did before the Left, AARP (sorry I repeat myself) and some on the right skewered him. There simply isn’t enough courageous politicians to band together through the incoming barrage they would endure.

    But I’m sure all is ok… we have the lock box.

    • #30

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