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Digging Deeper: Working: The New Retirement

(WGEM) — Are your parents or grandparents still working?

Now more than ever, it’s not unusual for people to be working into their seventies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.6 million people over the age of 65 were working in 2011. That number rose to 8.9 million in 2016, an increase of almost 35 percent.

And the bureau projects that trend to continue.

Bernard Hirner

Throughout his 47 years at Bleigh Construction, Bernard Hirner says he’s worked his way into a foreman position overseeing job sites like the new Hannibal Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

“You know this gives me a lot to do. It keeps my mind sharp,” said Hirner.

But at almost 70 years old, well past the typical retirement age of 65, he’s still not quite sure when he can retire.

“Healthcare is the worst,” stated Hirner. “Since Obamacare went in, my healthcare has gone from $200 a month to $1500  a month.”

Working at Bleigh allows Hirner to afford that insurance which was critical just a few years ago.

“My wife broke her leg and it was over a $100,000 but the insurance paid it,” he said.

Janet Hughes has found herself in a similar situation. To afford medical bills, she had to re-enter the workforce after

Janet Hughes

retirement answering phones at the Quincy Senior Center.

“Medical Bills that we had to get all caught up on after five consecutive surgeries so I had a lot of that motivation to try to get to where when we do actually want to retire, that can be all taken care of,” said Hughes.

And with things becoming more expensive, Hughes says retirement isn’t something she and her husband are even considering.

“His full retirement age, he is there. But we’re thinking of downsizing, doing that sort of thing,” she explained.

Mitch Ellison

Quincy University professor of economics Mitch Ellison said both Hughes’s and Hirner’s situations are becoming a common theme in the workforce; but, he said that trend is helping the economy.

“The population of the United States isn’t growing so what this allows the economy to do is actually be more productive with the existing workers,” said Ellison.

Even so, Ellison said that an older workforce can also hinder advancement for younger employees forcing them away in order to find better opportunities with the competition.

“The problem is not so much youth. It’s the fact that you’re really productive young workers, you have to keep them interested enough in the company that they don’t go out and start their own company and become your competitors,” he explained.

Yet for Hirner and Hughes, they feel the pressure to continue to work.

“I got more money to do other stuff if I keep working,” said Hirner. “If I stop and just pay the insurance, then you know it gets down to where it starts cutting into my pension.”

“It’s not only just your gas and everything else, it’s food, the grocery bills, clothing bills, everything has gone up and the wages don’t seem to compensate that everything is going up,” said Hughes.

Local doctors at Hannibal Regional Medical Group say 65 is no longer the norm.

Due to rising healthcare costs, many people are working into their seventies.

Dr. Hossein Behniaye

Dr. Hossein Behniaye said it’s important employers create an environment where employees don’t feel they may lose their job if they call in sick or need to visit a doctor.

“That, unfortunately, is the story for many patients. I don’t think they’ve hidden it but always anytime it comes to issues with medical care whether it’s a cost fear or whether insurance doesn’t cover certain things or worried about job security, they don’t come,” said Dr. Behniaye.

Behniaye said continuing to work past retirement can be beneficial in some cases because it keeps your mind stimulated. But he said that’s more so for people who are satisfied with their workplace.

AARP:  Working After Retirement: Beware the Cost
AARP Life Reimagined Survey Finds More People Expect to Work Longer
Social Security Administration: Working While Retired
The Pew Charitable Trust: When do Americans Plan to Retire?
U.S. Census Bureau: Working Beyond Retirement Age (PDF)

AARP: Retirement Health Care Costs Calculator
Fidelity Retirement Score
The Flexible Retirement Planner
Ultimate Retirement Calculator
Retirement Nest Egg Calculator


Brett Knese

Multi-Media Journalist at WGEM News.

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