Inflation, recession fears spook retirement-age Americans

Inflation, recession fears spook retirement-age Americans

We are going crazy.

A bear market, falling 401(k) plans and rising inflation have Americans rightly spooked, especially those retiring or nearing retirement.

“When you hear the pessimism, you feel the pessimism,” Joe Saul-Sehy, a former financial advisor 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 worse very quickly.”

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

But Saul-Sehy warned Americans not to hit the panic button, even if they are in the older demographic.

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

Even if you’re feeling “sad and downbeat,” 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 short-term advice: Find ways to tighten your belt, reevaluate your portfolio, and get a part-time job to temporarily supplement your income.

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

“I can control my budget, I can control the things that I value, the things that I am saving and the movements that I am going to make financially. I focus on those things, my panic goes down,” she added.

The Post spoke to three people about how they are recalibrating their post-race plans.

A $100 bill being stuffed into a car's gas tank, to illustrate the current economic pressures facing Americans.
The skyrocketing cost of fuel is just one of many pressures on the pockets and wallets of Americans approaching retirement age.
Shutterstock

going back to work

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

“We had plans. All of a sudden, they’re not working,” Tychan told The Post. Instead, her husband takes forever to file her papers and she goes back to work.

“I’m getting ready to start looking for another job again,” said Tychan, who is looking within the school system in hopes of increasing his pension and health benefits.

“If things had been the way they were two years ago, I 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 live with her and her husband, cites rising gasoline costs, inflation and higher home prices as impediments.

“I am very nervous,” she added.

But, despite approaching his golden years with new uncertainty, Tychan’s grandchildren have been a silver lining: “The children really brighten your day. It has been a blessing.”

Donna Jackson of Syracuse and her son at her graduation.  Jackson retired from the Air Force and her job as a court reporter;  her finances have her rethinking her plans for the future.
Retired court reporter Donna Jackson, 56, had put her son through college and was preparing for the next chapter in life, but now she had to re-enter the workforce.

Delay retirement gratification

Last week, Donna Jackson, 56, retired from her job as a court reporter. The mother from Syracuse, New York, who also has an Air Force pension, had recently overcome a chronic health condition and wanted to enjoy her life.

“I have been a single mother since 2000. I raised my son and put him through college. I have two health plans. I’m doing everything right. But things feel different than they did two years ago,” said Jackson, who also has a contracting job with the Air Force.

She had planned to become a snowbird, renting in a few different warm-weather places before deciding where to settle. She was also thinking of selling her main house to be near her son in Washington, DC. Instead, she had to change addresses, stay upstate while she increased her hiring job.

“I’ll see where I am in six months, and see if I’m making good money from contract work. If I feel like I can hold it, I’ll take the pin out. [and go south],” she said.

To offset inflation, he’s tightening his belt, forgoing expensive facials, budgeting his purchases and thinking about selling one of his two cars.

“The average bear market lasts nine to 10 months, so I keep telling myself it’s going to be okay,” he added.

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

pushing retirement

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

“I had to postpone. I am afraid that my pension will not be enough with the increased cost of living,” she told The Post.

Daniel and his wife of 59 years have three grown children, live in Brooklyn, have a second home in Pennsylvania, and were hoping to travel.

“Now my wife’s 401(k) has lost so much money,” said Daniel, a native of Ukraine. “We don’t know how long it will take for her 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,” continued Daniel. “You get the benefits of what you built or earned. Now that dream is not safe.”

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

“I started working when I was 17 years old. Eventually you would like to live your life,” she said.

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