I retired from my job in 2014 and started drawing my Social Security at age 62. My income is around $1,600 a month but my monthly expenses are about $300 more than my income. I have no savings nor any other resources. I am 66 years old and need to go back to work full-time. I have severe knee pain but I am mobile and in good health and have good strength. How can I start over with a high enough income to live on and create some savings to carry me through the next 30 plus years? Please help.
I’m sorry you’re having a difficult time right now. Know that you are far from alone, and your question has the ability to help many people — yourself included, of course.
Most immediately, it would be prudent to look over every single bill you are currently paying and every transaction you’ve made in the last couple of months. This might seem obvious, and you may have even already done a check-up on your expenses, but looking at these figures in minute detail can really make a difference in the short term. Either print out your credit card and bank statements from the last three months, or log into your financial accounts and pore over them on the computer.
Make note of recurring retailers or vendors you’re paying, and if you don’t have the receipts still, try to remember what it was you spent on. Do you have any subscriptions you’re currently paying that no longer serve you, such as a magazine or gym membership? Do you have a cable or phone bill that may be too high, and if so, could you call the company and try to negotiate a less expensive plan? How about your groceries? I firmly believe you shouldn’t deny yourself little joys, but are there ways you could spend a little less at the supermarket, maybe by clipping coupons or getting a less-expensive brand? Any dollar amount, no matter how big or small, adds up and could really make a big difference for your balance sheet and your stress levels — especially if your expenses currently outweigh your income.
Now on to your main question — how can you start over? Looking for a job is rarely simple, and may be even more overwhelming as someone who has been out of the workforce for six years. Still, you wouldn’t be the first retiree to re-enter the labor market. Some people do it because they simply find themselves bored in retirement, while others may realize they need more income to live comfortably. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late.
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There are also challenges you may be aware of for someone in your situation. Age discrimination is a real problem, but hard to confirm in the hiring process. You might feel uncomfortable when applying for jobs, especially if you think you are underqualified for a position — but try to work around that, and remain confident. You worked before your retirement, and because of that, you have skills you can offer an employer. Never lose sight of how valuable your experiences can be.
Other ways to combat these issues include brushing up on web-based skills, such as creating a professional online presence and becoming acquainted with common applications for your field. If you have social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, check what your profile appears like to the public. If you don’t have any online presence, make a LinkedIn profile and add your work history. Highlight your experiences, and explain in these profiles and cover letters how your work history and skills can assist you in not only accomplishing employer expectations, but exceeding them.
Here are a few more tips when job-hunting: Create job alerts, such as on Monster and Glassdoor, and try to narrow down what type of role you’d like to work in or what sorts of job demands there are in your preferred field. Note what these companies are looking for, said Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster, and tailor your resume and cover letters to address those specific details. Of course, keep everything truthful and accurate, but also know it isn’t uncommon to see applicants make mentions of the types of skills and requirements in a job listing. Keep in mind, some companies may have you start out working remotely with an eventual transition back into the office, she said.
Reach out to former colleagues and bosses, who could act as references or point you in the direction of a possible job opportunity, Salemi said. And remember to give yourself a break so you don’t become overly stressed with all of the job searching and applications. Get out of the house for some fresh air, take a Zoom yoga class or spend time on a hobby. Set timers, where you spend an hour or two looking for jobs, revising your resume or networking and when the timer stops, so do you. “It’s so important to stay positive,” Salemi said.
There are also ways to earn cash while you’re searching for a full-time position. Older Americans are just as much a part of the gig economy as anyone else, and are taking jobs as car service drivers, babysitters, dog walkers and so on. You can try your hand at a freelance job, such as in writing or photography, or if you’re crafty, create custom artwork to sell on Etsy or another platform. Sixty and Me, a website dedicated to people in your age group, has a long list of suggestions for ways to make money in retirement.
Remember when I said you should carefully examine your spending? That goes for a full, comprehensive financial plan as well. A financial planner can help you understand various factors to achieve a sustainable retirement, and lay out projections for what you need to accomplish your financial goals. If you can’t afford to work with a financial professional just yet, you can search for advisers who may do pro bono work. The key is to get a financial plan together so that you have goals to work toward, and also a sense of relief that everything will come together. I wish you all the best.
Have a question about your own retirement savings? Email us at HelpMeRetire@marketwatch.com