Inflation, recession fears spook retirement-age Americans

Inflation, recession fears spook retirement-age Americans

We’re freaking out.

A bear market, plunging 401(k) plans, and rising inflation have Americans properly spooked — especially those in or nearing retirement.

“When you hear the doom and gloom, you feel the doom and gloom,” Joe Saul-Sehy, a former financial adviser and co-host of “The Stacking Benjamins Podcast,” told The Post. “You go to the gas station, you go to the grocery store, and you can see things getting bad in a hurry.”

According to an April study by Global Atlantic Financial Outlook, three out of five retirement-age investors believe the current conditions will deflate their nest egg.

But Saul-Sehy warned Americans not to hit the panic button — even if they’re in the older demographic.

“Realize this is the money you are going to spend for the rest of your life,” Saul-Sehy said. “You don’t have to worry about your entire nest egg, just what you will spend in the next few years.”

Even if you’re feeling “the doom and gloom,” don’t hit the panic button, said Joe Saul-Sehy, a former financial adviser and co-host of “The Stacking Benjamins Podcast.”
Natalie Jennings

His advice in the short-term: look for ways to tighten your belt, reassess your portfolio and pick up part-time work to temporarily supplement your income.

“We’re probably in a recession, but it’s easier than ever to get a job,” said Saul-Sehy, adding that history repeats itself: Look, he noted, at how the economy rebounded from previous downturns in 2002 and 2007.

“I can control my budget, I can control the things I value, things I am saving into and what moves I am going to make financially. I focus on that stuff, my panic goes down,” he added.

The Post spoke to three people about how they’re recalibrating their post-career plans.

A $100 bill being stuffed into a gas tank of a car, to illustrate the current economic pressures being faced by Americans.
The sky-high cost of fuel is just one of many pressures on the pocketbooks and wallets of Americans approaching retirement age.
Shutterstock

going back to work

Right before the pandemic, Virginia resident Terri Tychan, 58, retired from her job as a school administrative secretary in order to help care for her elderly father. Her teacher husband planned to follow her into retirement this or next year, and the pair would move to Florida.

“We had plans. All of a sudden, they’re not working out,” Tychan told The Post. Instead, her husband is indefinitely holding off on submitting his papers, and she is going back to work.

“I am preparing to start looking for another job again,” said Tychan, who is hunting within the school system in hopes of bulking up her pension and health benefits.

“If things had been like they were two years ago, it would have been fine without me working. We thought we were doing everything right,” she continued.

Tychan — whose son, daughter-in-law and three granddaughters are living with her and her husband — cites rising gas costs, inflation and higher housing prices as impediments.

“I’m really nervous,” she added.

But, despite approaching her golden years with newfound uncertainty, Tychan’s grandkids have been a silver lining: “The kids really do brighten your day. It’s been a blessing.”

Donna Jackson of Syracuse and her son at his graduation.  Jackson retired from the Air Force and her job as a short reporter;  the economy has her rethinking her plans for the future.
Retired court reporter Donna Jackson, 56, had put her son through college and was gearing up for the next chapter in life — but has now had to reenter the workforce.

Delaying retirement gratification

Last week, 56-year-old Donna Jackson retired from her job as a short reporter. The Syracuse, New York-based mom, who also has a pension from the Air Force, had recently overcome a chronic health condition and wanted to enjoy her life.

“I was a single mom since 2000. I raised my son and got him through college. I have two healthcare plans. I am doing everything right. But things feel different than they did two years ago,” said Jackson, who also has a contracting gig with the Air Force.

She had planned to become a snowbird, renting in a few different warm-weather locales before deciding where to settle. She was also thinking of selling her primary home to be near her son in Washington, DC Instead, she has had to pivot, staying put upstate while ramping up her contracting work.

“I will see where I’m at in six months, and see if I am making good money with the contracting work. If I feel like I am able to sustain it, I will pull the pin [and go south],” she said.

To compensate for inflation, she is tightening her belt — forgoing pricey facials, budgeting on her groceries and thinking of selling one of her two cars.

“The average bear market lasts about nine to 10 months, so I keep telling myself it will be OK,” she added.

Donna Jackson, retired Air Force, in uniform.
Donna Jackson’s Air Force pension doesn’t insulate her from worries over the current economic climate.
Photo provided by Donna Jackson

Push-off retirement

This month, New York City band teacher Daniel, who withheld his last name for professional reasons, was ready to call it quits on his career after 20 years in the public school system.

“I had to postpone. I’m afraid my pension won’t be enough with cost of living going up,” he told The Post.

Daniel and his 59-year-old wife have three adult children, live in Brooklyn, own a second home in Pennsylvania and hoped to travel.

“Now my wife’s 401(k) has lost so much money,” said Daniel, a Ukraine native. “We don’t know how long it will take to recover.”

Among his concerns: rising medical costs, food and gas bills.

“Every day I am thinking about [finances]. Part of the American dream is to be able to come to this country and work,” Daniel continued. “You get the benefits of what you built or earned. Now that dream is not secure.”

After consulting his financial adviser Vlad Shafir, Daniel has decided to work at least another year.

“I started working when I was 17. You’d eventually like to live your life,” he said.

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