Inflation and recession fears scare retirement-age Americans

We’re going crazy.

A bear market, falling 401(k) plans, and rising inflation have Americans suitably scared – especially those retiring or approaching.

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

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

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

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

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

His short-term advice: Look for ways to tighten your belt, reevaluate your portfolio, and take up 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, how the economy recovered from previous crises in 2002 and 2007.

“I can control my budget, I can control the things I value, the things I’m saving on and what moves I’m going to make financially. I focus on these things, my panic subsides,” he added.

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

A $100 bill being stuffed into the gas tank of a car, 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.

back to work

Just before the pandemic, Virginia resident Terri Tychan, 58, retired from her job as the school’s administrative secretary to help care for her aging father. Her professor husband planned to join her in retirement this year or next, and the two would move to Florida.

“We had plans. Suddenly they’re not working,” Tychan told The Post. Instead, her husband is indefinitely putting off submitting her documents and she is going back to work.

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

“If things had been the way they were two years ago, it would be 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 his golden years with new uncertainty, Tychan’s grandchildren have been a bright side: “Kids really brighten up your day. It has been a blessing.”

Donna Jackson of Syracuse and her son at her graduation.  Jackson retired from the Air Force and his job as a court reporter;  the economy makes her rethink her plans for the future.
Retired court reporter Donna Jackson, 56, put her son through college and was preparing for the next chapter in life — but now she’s had to get back into the workforce.

Delaying 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 was a single mother since 2000. I raised my son and took him to college. I have two health plans. I’m doing everything right. But things look different than they did two years ago,” said Jackson, who also has an Air Force contract.

She had planned on becoming a snowbird, renting in a few different warm-weather locations before deciding where to settle down. She was also considering selling her main home to be close to her son in Washington, DC.

“I’m going to see where I am in six months and see if I’m making good money from contract work. If I feel like I can support you, I’ll pull the pin [and go south],” she said.

To offset inflation, she is tightening her belt — forgoing expensive facials, budgeting on her groceries and considering selling one of her two cars.

“The bear market lasts about nine to 10 months, so I keep telling myself that everything will be fine,” he added.

Donna Jackson, retired from the Air Force, in uniform.
Donna Jackson’s Air Force pension does not insulate her from worries about the current economic climate.
Photo courtesy of Donna Jackson

pushing retirement away

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

“I had to postpone. I’m afraid my pension is not enough with the rising cost of living,” he told The Post.

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

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

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

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

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

“I started working at 17. You would end up enjoying living your life,” he said.

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