Still Getting the Job Done

Survey: Many Choosing Part-Time Work in Post Retirement Years

Published in Woonsocket Call on September 13, 2015

In 2010, when Michael Cassidy retired as Pawtucket’s Director of Planning & Redevelopment after working for the municipality for 40 years he had no intentions of easing himself into full-time employment.   While he was retiring to “retirement” he had every intention to remain active for the rest of his life.

Cassidy instinctively knew that retirees, who stay active by playing sports, traveling or even volunteering, always seemed to live longer.  His father was a good example of this belief, living to the ripe old age of 92.  Before the nagenarian died he had worked part-time as realtor, also playing in an Golden Oldies softball league and umpiring three times a week.

Part-Time Job Gives Many Bennies

With Cassidy planning to retire at age 62 from the City of Pawtucket, he went to see Paw Sox President, Mike Tamburro asking him, “Do you have a job for an old retired guy.”  Ultimately, he took the position as usher at the Pawtucket-based McCoy Stadium.  He says, “The job keeps me on my feet four to five hours.” Each game he puts around 15,000 steps on his pedometer.  But the job also allows him to interact with old friends and even gives him an opportunity to make new ones, too. .

There are additional benefits of having a part-time job, besides just getting physical active and having an opportunity to mingle with people, says Cassidy.   He now has more time to spend with his six grandchildren, travel with Jane-Ellen, his wife of 45 years, and to just putter around his home.  Now he even serves as Chair of the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor Organization, he says.

Like Cassidy, according to a new AARP released last Tuesday, older Americans are not choosing to retire, many are now seeking part-time jobs in their post retirement years, not full-time ones.

Work the New Retirement Activity

According to the findings in the 26 page AARP report, “AARP Post Retirement Career Study,” work seems to be the “new retirement activity.” While many Americans state that they plan to retire between ages 65 and 70 (45%), the data indicates that the typical retirement may have changed.  Thirty seven percent say they plan to work for pay in post retirement.  Of these respondents, 73 percent desire a part-time job and almost half are looking to work in a new field (44%).  Twenty three percent will stay in the same field, and 33% are undecided.

The researchers say that connecting with co-workers, interesting and challenging work, and the desire for a work-life balance are all stated as top reasons why work is enjoyable. Some are seeking to pursue their dream job or dream field in this next stage of life.  Sports, hospitality,  and education fields are frequently cited.  Most are hoping that their new dream jobs will be part-time, flexible with work from home options, and allow time for travel and fun.

The findings also indicate the importance of job training for those who plan to work during their retirement years.  Among those who plan to enter a new field, training is seen as even more crucial to succeeding on the job (46% vs. 36% among those staying in the same field).

Meanwhile, when asked about what they enjoyed most about their current career, most mentioned income, benefits, and the schedule/work-life balance.

According to the AARP survey, regardless of the field, respondents are hoping to work part-time (73%), with over half expecting to work for someone else (57%) vs. being a contractor (21%) or starting their own business (19%).

Personal contacts and job listings are the primary avenues respondents say they use to find post-retirement work (49% and  43%, respectively). Professional networking is also a popular way people plan to find work, note the researchers.

When questioned about their dream job, many respondents talk about a profession, for others it may be a particular type of working lifestyle.  Jobs in the sports, creative, hospitality and education fields are mentioned frequently by the respondents while those looking for lifestyle benefits seek flexibility, lucrative, opportunities to travel, and employment with a charitable aspect to it.

.AARP’s efforts to look into how people spend time in their retirement years is the first  survey of this kind and there are no comparative stats from previous years, says Kim Adler, AARP’s Work and Jobs Lead.

The findings suggest that there are major implications for employers, adds Adler.  “Americans are living longer, healthier lives and we will see a continuation of the long term trend of working into retirement years. Nearly 19 percent of 65 and older workers are in the workplace and the percentages – as well as the actual numbers – are likely to continue to rise. This will give employers the opportunity to hire and retain experienced workers who look forward to the opportunities and challenges in the workplace,” she says.

According to Adler, “there are shortages of skilled workers in certain industries and many employers report difficulty filling jobs. For these jobs – and all others – employers and employees benefit from an intergenerational workforce that encourages mentoring and knowledge sharing.”

Great Wealth of Experience

“The survey gives us a better picture of what retirement looks like today and, likely, well into the future,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “But it also is a conversation starter about the value of older workers. Older Rhode Island workers represent a great wealth of experience and accomplishment at every level of the workforce.

“Employers should embrace the willingness of people to work part-time after 65 or 70 as a “golden’ opportunity, if you will. And this is especially true of startups, where wisdom is a critical success factor. Growing the Rhode Island economy might depend on synergies of young innovators guided by experienced leaders and managers.

Adds Charlie Fogarty, Director of the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs, “Many older adults look at retirement as a transition period, and not a defined point in time in their lives.” He notes, “This population has a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be shared while working part-time, making for a more productive and richer work experience for all employees.”

“Our new research shows a fluid workplace, with many experienced workers looking for flexible part-time work in interesting and challenging positions to continue their careers,” said Kim Adler, AARP’s Work and Jobs lead.  “The new website [AARP.org/Work] will help experienced workers control their careers and stay connected, competitive and current in the workplace,” Adler added.

This AARP survey, overseen by Gretchen Anderson, AARP Research, was fielded online from July 27 to August 3, 2015 and conducted among adults age 50-64 who are currently employed full time.  A total of number of 4,975 surveys were completed. The final data has been weighted to U.S. Census for analysis.

Is it Really a Happy Birthday for Social Security?

Published in Woonsocket Call on August 23, 2015

With the stroke of his pen, over 80 years ago, on August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.  Over the last eight decades, this domestic program has become one of the most popular federal programs, paying $848 billion to 59 million beneficiaries at the end of calendar year 2014.  During that year, an estimated 166 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid taxes.

Celebrating the 80th birthday of Social Security over two weeks ago, AARP released the results of its anniversary survey.  The August 2015 survey followed earlier surveys conducted during previous milestone anniversaries in 1995 (60th), 2005 (70th) and 2010 (75th).  The latest 29 page report found that Americans of all ages continue to have strong feelings of support for Social Security, and this latest survey found several key themes.

According to the national survey of adults detailed in “Social Security 80th Anniversary Survey Report: Public Opinion Trends,” Social Security remains a core part of retirement security, it also remains popular across the generations and political ideologies.

“As we celebrate Social Security on its 80th anniversary, our survey found that it remains as important as ever to American families,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “We also found that although most want to continue living independently as we age, obstacles to saving often continue to occur in our lives. However, Social Security continues to help generation after generation to diminish these obstacles.”

“When it comes to how important Social Security is to Rhode Islanders, the numbers speak for themselves,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “210,975 is the number of Social Security beneficiaries in the state; 23.7% say that Social Security provides 90% or more of their total income. And about half say that Social Security represents 50% or more of their income. Without Social Security, many retirees would be living below the poverty line.

“It is plain to see that protecting this key earned benefit is critical. A recent AARP survey found 68% of respondents express at least some concern that they won’t have enough savings to last their lifetime. Imagine if they are given reason to worry more about the viability of Social Security. People who are working toward retirement need to make themselves heard and – as we approach the 2016 elections – hold politicians to their promises to protect Social Security.”

Social Security Key to Surviving Old Age

            Older American’s look to rely on their Social Security checks to pay bills, say the researchers.  Four in five adults (80%) rely or plan to rely on Social Security benefits in a substantial way.  Survey respondents (33%) say that Social Security is the source of income that they rely on or plan to rely on most during their retirement years.

The study finding’s reveal that Social Security has broad support, even across political ideologies and America’s generations, too.  Sixty six percent believe that this domestic program is one of the most important government programs when compared to others. This view has remained consistent over time in similar AARP anniversary surveys taken in 1995, 2005, and 2010.  According to the study, the vast majority of Americans (82%) also believe it’s important to contribute to Social Security for the “common good.”

Like aging baby boomer and seniors, even younger Americans value this program. Specifically, nine in ten adults under 30 (90%) believe Social Security is an important government program, and nearly nine in ten (85%) want to know it will be there for them when they retire.

The survey respondents also want to live independently in their communities at home. The findings indicate that four out of five adults (83%) consider it extremely important to have the ability to stay at home as long as they want; although 64% believe they won’t be able to do so as they age and become frail. Additionally, while 68% feel it extremely important to have family around, 80% want to be able to financially take care of themselves so their children and other relatives won’t have to support them financially.

While recognizing the importance of financial planning, survey respondents say they face a multitude of challenges that keep them from effectively putting away money for their retirement.  Specifically, 69% note that they must focus their income on current financial needs, while 47% believe they do not have enough money left over to put into their retirement savings after paying their monthly bills.  Survey respondents (39%) says health issues and family problems keep them from saving for retirement.

SS Trustee Report Gives Nation a Warning

The six member Social Security Board of Trustees issued its 2015 report, on July 22, giving the nation a snapshot of the fiscal health of the nation’s retirement and disability program.

Within the 257 page report, the Trustees gave a dire warning to Congress.  “Taken in combination, Social Security’s retirement and disability programs have dedicated resources sufficient to cover benefits for nearly two decades, until 2034.  However, the projected depletion date for the separate Social Security’s Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund is only a little more than one year away, in late 2016,” says the widely anticipated federal report.  “After the DI trust fund exhaustion, annual revenues from the program’s dedicated payroll and taxation of Social Security benefits will be sufficient to fund about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2089.”

According to the Social Security Administration, there were about 10.4 million Americans who received benefits from the DI Trust Fund in 2014, including roughly 42,429 in the Ocean State.  In order to qualify, these beneficiaries are required to have worked in a job covered by Social Security, and must have been unable to work for a year or more due to a disability. If Congress fails to act to direct more funding into the DI trust fund, disabled workers throughout the nation and in Rhode Island will be hit hard financially right in their wallets.

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins offered her observation about the released Social Security Trustees report. “While the Trustees once again report that the combined Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance Trust can pay full retirement, survivor and disability benefits for approximately two more decades, we know that if no action is taken, benefits will be cut by nearly 25% in 2034.  As the campaign season gets underway, we will be urging all Presidential candidates to share their plans for the long term solvency and adequacy of Social Security.”

Democrats are calling for an easy fix to shoring up the DI Trust Fund, specifically shifting a small percentage of the Social Security payroll tax from the retirement fund to the disability trust fund.  This has occurred 11 times in the past with bipartisan support.  But, with the 2016 presidential elections now catching the attention of politicos, GOP Senators have threatened to block any transfer of funds, charging that following this strategy is just a way to push the political “hot potato” issue down the road.  Political observers say that this year’s Republican opposition to quickly fixing the DI Trust Fund is a way to force Democrats to the negotiation table to get concessions on higher Social Security payroll taxes or to cut program benefits.

Now, it’s time for Congress to pull together to fix the ailing Social Security program to ensure its future solvency and to adequate fund the DI Trust Fund.  Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle must stop their political bickering and craft a compromise to keep Social Security’s retirement and disability trust funds well-funded and up and running for years to come.  For the sake of older Americans who now rely on their meager Social Security benefits to survive, our elected federal elected officials must begin to act like Statesmen not simple-minded politicians.  Hopefully, the voters will push for this change in thinking when they go into the polls in 2016.

 

 

Unpaid Caregiver Care Saves State Money

Published in Woonsocket Call on July 26, 2015

With the graying of state’s population, Ocean State caregivers provided 124 million hours of care—worth an estimated 1.78 billion —to their parents, spouses, partners, and other adult loved ones in 2013, according to a new AARP Policy Institute’s report.  The total estimated economic value of uncompensated care provided by the nation’s family caregivers surpassed total Medicaid spending ($449 billion), and nearly equaled the annual sales ($469 billion) of the four largest U.S. tech companies combined (Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Microsoft) in 2013, says the 25 page report.

AARP’s report, Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update, noted that family caregiving for relatives or close friends with chronic, disabling, or serious health problems – so they can remain in their home – is nearly universal today.  In 2013, about 134,000 family caregivers in Rhode Island helped another adult loved one carry out daily activities (such as bathing or dressing, preparing meals, administering medications, driving to doctor visits, and paying bills), says the report issued on July 16.

Log on to AARP Rhode Island’s caregiving Web page (www.aarp.org/ricaregiving) to download the report as well as access information on recent caregiver legislation passed by the General Assembly and other resources: www.aarp.org/ricaregiving.

The Difficulty of Caregiving

The AARP report detailed how caregiving can impact a person’s job, finances and even their health, says the researchers.   More than half (55%) of family caregivers report being overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs, says the report.  Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) family caregivers report a moderate (20%) to high degree (18%) of financial strain as a result of providing care. In 2014, the majority (60%) of family caregivers had full- or part-time jobs, placing competing demands on the caregivers’ time.

According to AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell, AARP’s study on caregiving affirms the state’s record as a trailblazer in the field of caregiving. In 2013, Rhode Island became just the third state to enact paid family leave, which is known as Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI). Also in 2013, Rhode Island enacted the Family Caregivers Support Act, which requires a family caregiver to receive an assessment,” she said.

Connell said that this year the Ocean State remained in the forefront of helping caregivers with passage of the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which calls for hospitals to provide instruction to designated caregivers. Additionally, Rhode Island became the 42nd state to enact the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act. In Rhode Island, a court-appointed guardian can make important decisions across state lines.

“This new report, however, does demonstrate that we need and can do more to assist the many caregivers in our state,” said Connell. “Some of the ways we can help family caregivers include continuing efforts to improve workplace flexibility, respite care, tax credits and home care services,” she says.

Adds Charles Fogarty, Director of the state’s Division of Elderly Affairs (DEA), “This study demonstrates that the backbone of long-term services and supports are family members and informal caregivers.  Quantifying the hours and economic value of caregiving provided by Rhode Island families and informal caregivers raises public awareness of the impact these services have upon Rhode Island’s health system and economy.  It is clear that there is a significant need to support caregivers who, at a cost to their own health and economic well-being, work to keep their family members in the community.”

DEA works with the state’s Aging Disability and Resource Centers and local nonprofits and agencies such as the RI Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Office of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Providence, local YMCAs and Adult Day Care programs, to provide programming, support groups and information to Rhode Island’s caregivers, according to Fogarty.  “Rhode Island also requires that a caregiver assessment be conducted when a recipient of Medicaid-funded Home and Community Based Services has a caregiver providing support in the home,” he says.

Improving State Support for Caregiving

            Although Maureen Maigret, policy consultant for the Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island acknowledges Rhode Island as being a leader with progressive laws on the books supporting caregivers, specifically the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program, more work needs to be done.

Maigret calls for better dissemination of information to caregivers about what services and programs are available.  “In this day and age we should have a robust Rhode Island specific internet site that offers caregiving information about state specific resources,” she says, noting that too often caregivers “just do not know where to turn to find out about programs like DEA’s co-pay program.”  This program pays a share of the cost for home care and adult day care for low-income persons whose incomes are too high to meet Medicaid eligibility.

          Rhode Island also falls short in providing subsidies to caregivers of frail low income elderly to keep them out of costly nursing homes, says Maigret, noting that the program’s funding was cut by 50 percent in 2008, creating waiting lists which have occurred over the years, It’s “short sided” to not allocate adequate resources to this program. The average annual cost of $ 1,200 per family for the caregiver subsidy program can keep a person from going on Medicaid, at far greater expense to Rhode Island taxpayers, she says.

          This AARP report must not sit on a dusty shelf.  It gives an early warning to Congress and to local lawmakers.  As Americans [and Rhode Islanders} live longer and have fewer children, fewer family members will be available for caregiving duties. Researchers say that the ratio of potential family caregivers to the growing number of older people has already begun a steep decline. In 2010, there were 7.2 potential family caregivers for every person age 80 and older. By 2030, that ratio will fall sharply to 4 to 1, and is projected to drop further to 3 to 1 in 2050.

With less caregivers in the trenches providing unpaid care to keep their loved one at home, the state will have to step in to provide these programs and services – for a huge price tag to taxpayers.  State lawmakers must not be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to caregiver programs.  Funding should not be slashed in future budgets, rather increases might just make political sense especially to tax payers.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.