Photo: Photo: Jackie Booley
Ask 67-year-old Jackie Booley about life after retirement, and within minutes her story paints an all-too familiar picture of the challenges faced by today’s older workers:Widowed in 2006 after 42 years of marriage, Booley retired from her 15-year career as a call centre specialist at AT&T. With a healthy $120,000 in her retirement account, she decided it was time to ride out her savings and leave her desk job behind.
But a year into her newfound freedom, 2008’s stock market crash turned half her savings to dust.
“I was taking supplements from my 401(k), plus the Social Security my husband left me, but it wasn’t quite enough (to live on),” Booley said. In the end, she wound up with only one viable option––going back to the workforce she’d left less than two years before.
She’s certainly not alone. 80-six per cent of workers in their 60s say they will work past age 65 and more than half admitted they probably hadn’t saved enough to support themselves after retirement, according to the Transamerica centre for Retirement Studies.
It’s a bleak outlook that many have found difficult to overcome. Booley’s taken a different approach.
“I’m happy being out of retirement and back to work, if that makes sense,” Booley said. “After becoming a widow, I kind of went out and found myself. I hadn’t been single in 42 years…I jumped in the car and could go wherever I wanted. It was nice. But I got bored.”
With her skill-set in customer service, she took a job with Alpine Access, a company that employs about 5,000 telecommuting call centre representatives around the country. The company’s garnered lukewarm reviews on Glassdoor.com, but it fit the bill for Booley, who said she wanted a job that allowed her to work flexible hours from her Florida home.
All in all, she might be onto something. A recent study showed evidence that early retirement could actually harm workers’ health more than plugging away at a desk all day. Researchers estimated early retirees shave an average two months off their lives for every year they’re out of the workforce.
With the combination of feeling satisfied with her life and staying active in the workforce, Booley said she’s adding years to her own.
“I don’t feel 67. I’m as young as I feel,” she said. “I could be 42 for all I care because that’s how I feel.”