It’s an oft-told reply made half-tongue-in-cheek to anyone inquiring about my eventual retirement plans. I borrow the well-known 2nd Amendment remark of the late actor and NRA President Charleston Heston and reply, “Retirement? What retirement? I’ll be found at my desk. And someone will have to extract the pen and paper “from my cold dead hands.”
Most of my lawyer friends, especially those toiling in the solo practice vineyard, hew to the same philosophy. Some of them are already past the used-to-be-traditional age of retirement but they’re still working. Some do it because like me, they still love what they do.
Others want to explore different legal practice areas or are working pro-bono to give back to their communities. Other 60-something year-old lawyers are more prosaic, they work because they have kids in college. Or they have mortgages to pay off. Many others never got around to socking away money for retirement or the nest egg they once had got irreparably scrambled by the stock market.
A few years ago, I read about a 98 year-old estate planning lawyer who was still going into the office to work half-days at his firm. The article in The Rotarian magazine described how he enjoyed seeing clients and being around the hustle and bustle of law practice.
More recently, there’s Jack Borden. Jack turned 101 this year but he’s still working full days at his Weatherford, Texas law office. He still takes depositions and goes to court. Jack is a probate and real estate lawyer who plans on never retiring. (See the blog-post, Weatherford lawyer is nation’s ‘Outstanding Oldest Worker” from the Dallas Morning News).
But last week, I was taken aback by an entirely different set of circumstances. According to the story in the New York Times, many seniors are struggling. Today, such is their lot in life that they’re now leaving retirement to look for work.
Others who want to retire are on indefinite deferral status. And while younger Americans are having trouble finding work while businesses cut back, for those older, this only means matters are even worse.
Why are people past age 65 looking for work? The recession has decimated retirement portfolios. Some have grown kids laid-off from jobs who now need help. Still others have illness and attendant medical bills that need to be paid. Many others have seen their home equity value eviscerated or worse still, are scrambling to pay refinanced mortgages. The net worth they once thought they had is gone forever.
So as described in The New York Times, older Americans are struggling to find work in today’s tight job market. “There are more Americans 65 years and older in the job market today than at any time in history, 6.6 million, compared with 4.1 million in 2001.”
Sadly, these job-seeking seniors look for work not because they want to — but because they have to. And it is this reality that gives the rest of us such pause.