There’s No Retirement When You Can’t Afford to Stop Working

Friday, July 18, 2014

RV A growing number of older middle-class Americans who can’t afford to retire are migrating across the country in RVs, taking one temporary job after another to make ends meet. (Copyright: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock)

Journalist Jessica Bruder discusses the growing number of older middle-class Americans who can’t afford to retire and have been crossing the country in RVs. Instead of vacationing, they’ve become migrant workers, taking temporary jobs doing things like picking blueberries in Kentucky, selling roadside Christmas trees, giving tours at Dollywood, taking tickets at NASCAR events, and maintaining campgrounds in National Parks. For her cover story for Harper's, “The End of Retirement,” Bruder travels the country, profiling people who must keep working well past retirement age just to make ends meet.


Jessica Bruder

Comments [16]

J Gavin Heck from baltimore, md

Great piece!
Enjoy BRC this year.

Aug. 05 2014 02:27 PM
Reality from Nassau County

I agree somewhat with the comments about the economy, but has anyone taken fiscal responsibility

Jul. 21 2014 02:46 PM
Judith from Santa Cruz, CA

Mr. Lopate doesn't seem to realize that contractors are becoming the norm in the corporate world -- with no benefits at all in most cases. No insurance. No paid time off. Maybe six company holidays if you're lucky. And for most of us, we're forced to work through "staffing agencies" that do NOTHING but process payroll (automated) and take a percentage of every dollar that we earn. One agency that I had to work through for one of the biggest tech companies in the world took 37% of what I made. The current one takes 28%.

Jul. 19 2014 03:01 PM
Samiono from Indonesia

Here in Indonesia, the welfare problem of the pensioners are caused by lack of conciousness to save money plus the financial condition is still not possible to do it. They are concentrating to the shortage of family daily needs that are still not being fullfilled yet. Especially for the poor even the great number of the niddle class.
So I try to push them to be active for earning money a.o in affilite business online.

Jul. 19 2014 01:25 AM
Grouchy from NYC

Welcome to the kinds of jobs the new economy produces. Relevant story:

Jul. 19 2014 12:22 AM
Ol' Sparky from Ridgewood, BK

I don't know how we keep getting into these situations as a nation. My roommate in college 1988 was a German guy who moved back after graduation. Even though he has a normal middle-class office job, he is going to have a fine retirement lifestyle. He's already planning it in fact. I have a similar job here and my tombstone is going to read "He worked until he died." It's so frustrating. Why isn't anyone getting elected who can address this? Why are Germans preparing, but we can't seem to?

Jul. 18 2014 05:12 PM
Ben from Minneapolis, MN

The problem with so many older workers can't afford to retire is that Republicans and Corporatist Democrats have conspired by untangling the free market with less regulations and more economic burden to the working masses. After all, wealthy elites needed that larger tax cut by Uncle Sam to keep more of their concentrated wealth without putting a single penny into our country's mass infrastructure and commerce. If corporate tax rates were at a whopping 90 percent like during the Eisenhower years, then we will see less and less older retirees struggling financially since the tax system would be aimed primarily at wealthy folks owning corporations.

Karl Marx was right after writing the "Communist Manifesto" in 1848. Capitalism, as its unregulated form, is unstable to sustain itself with the bourgeoisie investing more and more of its money into advance technology and innovated ideas, and less investing towards its workers. When the proletariat class are systematically crippled and dismantled in society financially, they become incarcerated into a permanent underclass community with little or no resources to live on. Workers loose out by an uneven economic system whereas the wealthy take everything they get from a limited government system that is favored with the money interests nationwide.

Jul. 18 2014 02:24 PM

Jgarbuz, I am all for technological advances to allow all people to live better. You describe a dystopian world where corporations can keep us all working with no regard for enjoying our later years.

The point is better economic models. We don't have to work until we drop dead.

Jul. 18 2014 01:40 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

What was the point Mark, that people get very old and that most end up without much retirement money to live on? What else is new?
My point is that new technologies can help keep people in the workforce producing and getting paid until they really do give out completely. Artificial muscles and such could keep people in their feet and getting around. That is my point. Not changing the universal reality that people get old and most will never have sufficient savings or pensions to live well into advanced age.

Jul. 18 2014 12:47 PM

@ jgarbuz: You totally missed the point. Nothing new, apparently.

Jul. 18 2014 12:42 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Robots running off solar energy are the salvation. It is happening in Japan already. Also real exoskeletons, like the one manufactured by an Israeli company, will enable old people to walk and do things as long as their brains still function. So I believe that there will be technologically fixes that will enable many to work well into their '70s and possibly '80s and ameliorate the hardships of old age.

Jul. 18 2014 12:37 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Whether people in Linda's situation can get coverage under the Affordable Care Act probably depends on what state they apply in. Many should qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, but different states have decided differently on whether to expand Medicaid. And if they're moving from state to state, that could complicate things.

But shouldn't most of them be eligible for Medicare?

Jul. 18 2014 12:34 PM
RosieNY from NYC

Middle age workers are facing lack of appropriate job opportunities way before retirement age. If you are unlucky enough to find yourself unemployed after 45, the chances of finding a job and/or salary commensurable to experience and knowledge are very slim, regardless of education level. Young and H1B labor are more profitable options for companies these days then again, why am I surprised about this trend in an society like ours that values profit more than people.

Jul. 18 2014 12:28 PM
J from Cincinnati, Ohio

I am one of the latter-day baby boomers that illfg describes. The way out of that grim fate may be a return to intentional communities: sharing for mutual benefit -- preferably in multigenerational arrangements -- and to realize economies of scale. If the choice is between institutionalization in later years or a certain loss of autonomy mediated by voluntary agreements, the latter, if made workable, may become the obviously preferable option.

Jul. 18 2014 12:21 PM
J M from UWS

The real story is the myth of retirement. Retirement as we know it and expected it only came into being in mid-century America, and now for a variety of reasons, it is going away. And the baby-boomers are on the cusp of an economic tsunami. No one will be able to retire moving forward unless there are some drastic shifts in our approach to aging.

Read Rana Foroohar in Time Magazine: "2020: The Year Retirement Ends"


The Economist:

Jul. 18 2014 12:18 PM

americans born in the 60's forward will not be able to retire. the american dream is dead. rising taxes, and cost of living with companies not offering pensions and social security running out, we will all be 3rd world elderly having to live with our children if we have any or being destitute and being stuck in nursing homes.

Jul. 18 2014 12:13 PM

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