JUDY WOODRUFF: Many Americans say they focus
on saving for retirement when they reach their 50s. But what happens if you lose your job
at that age? Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman,
and his producer, Diane Lincoln Estes, look at that challenge as part of our Making Sense
series Unfinished Business. PAUL SOLMAN: Every morning, 59-year-old Jaye
Crist leaves his home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and drives to work at a local
print shop. JAYE CRIST, Works Three Jobs: I’m a fulfillment
associate fulfilling individual orders, and then making sure that all the product that
is printed and needs to be distributed locally is delivered, so, like a delivery driver. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist spent his career in a higher
echelon of the printing industry than this. For almost 30 years, Crist was a manager at
printing giant RR Donnelley. JAYE CRIST: I have always supervised, always
managed. And there was part of me, like, this — I will be one of those guys that retires
here. PAUL SOLMAN: No such luck. He was laid off
in 2016, his plans derailed when the firm reorganized. Economist Richard Johnson’s work has shown
that Crist is far from alone. RICHARD JOHNSON, Urban Institute: We found
that more than half, 56 percent, of workers experience an involuntary employer-related
job separation after age 50. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist, who’d made $100,000 a
year, began looking for a comparable job. But he soon realized: JAYE CRIST: Where I had been after all those
years, with salary and benefits and things, was what I was going to get if I stayed here. But also, at the same time, I’m looking at
— I still had kids in school. I had bought a house, all the things that kind of hold
you to a place. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist is a case in point of what,
in our ostensibly booming economy, so many workers in their 50s and older face these
days, says Professor Teresa Ghilarducci. TERESA GHILARDUCCI, Economist: They’re less
mobile. Older workers are sticky to their geographical place. They have relationships
with people in the community. They have a house, for all the reasons that we all know.
And so they can’t move to get a better job. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist also faced another hurdle
shared with Americans turning his age, 59, 400 of us every single minute. JAYE CRIST: A lot of companies don’t want
to hire somebody who’s 50-plus and needs — you know, has a salary expectation that’s above
what they’re willing to pay. So they can easily say it’s because of salary or wage. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist only found the job at local
H&H Printing after about a year of looking. JAYE CRIST: Had to take a heck of a cut in
pay, but I was happy about it. It’s hourly. It’s about $40,000 a year. PAUL SOLMAN: That’s not unusual, says Richard
Johnson. RICHARD JOHNSON: Almost all workers who lose
a job at older ages end up making much less on the new job than they did on the old job.
We found that only 10 percent of people earned as much on the new job as on the old job,
and, on average, they tended to earn only about half as much. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist’s printing job doesn’t
pay enough, so he also works nights, from 7:30 to 2:00 a.m., at Planet Fitness for $12
an hour. JAYE CRIST: If it’s your front counter service,
and you’re checking people in, and you’re helping them — you know, helping them with
their memberships. So it’s about four-and-a-half-hours of sleep during the week that I’m getting. PAUL SOLMAN: Half-a-night’s sleep, and then
back to H&H Printing. JAYE CRIST: If I wanted to lay down right
now and fall asleep, it would be easy. PAUL SOLMAN: But he can’t, not even on Sundays,
when Crist heads to a third job at a local brewery. JAYE CRIST: It’s nice to get, you know, a
little bit of cash for tips, because it’s just a minimum wage job otherwise, because
then you have a little extra money, and you’re not waiting, you know, between paychecks,
and having to manage all of that. PAUL SOLMAN: With three jobs, plus a $14,000-a-year
pension from RR Donnelly, Crist still brings in barely 70 percent of his previous income. JAYE CRIST: Can I manage to continue to work
this many hours, these many — this many jobs? My mind says I can, I will, I have to. If
I start thinking I can’t or it’s too hard, then, mentally, I don’t — I wouldn’t — you
wouldn’t be able to manage it. So, so long as I’m, you know — stay healthy
and can manage it, and — I will have to. PAUL SOLMAN: Crist’s younger daughter is in
college. His wife’s depression and anxiety have worsened since his layoff, preventing
her from working. JAYE CRIST: I see my wife and her — you know,
the depression and the physical things that she’s gone through. And so there’s that part of it, too, just
the economics of, you know, care, medicine these days is just — it’s outrageous. It’s
like we’re — you — so, I try not to think about that, because that almost would put
you over the edge. You just do whatever you got to do to keep everything else afloat.
But… PAUL SOLMAN: So, many older workers are struggling
to do just that, says Ghilarducci. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: When you look at real
lives, and you see the turmoil in their work life between, let’s say, 59 to 63, and their
health, there’s a lot of shocks that are going on with their spouse and with themselves,
because they’re interdependent. PAUL SOLMAN: Which raises the stakes for workers
like Jaye Crist to stay healthy. JAYE CRIST: I was unloading off of one of
the trucks and fell onto my shoulder and back. Thank God I didn’t break anything, I didn’t,
you know, tear anything, I didn’t cut anything. I didn’t lose any days of work. And it wasn’t
you know — it was — I was just lucky as hell. And then I thought, man, that’s all
it would’ve taken. PAUL SOLMAN: Traditional retirement, as for
so many once-secure older Americans, is out of the question. JAYE CRIST: I pretty much blew through all
of the 401(k) stuff I had. So, at this point, here’s, there’s like really
no savings. I mean, this — the house, and still paying a mortgage on it is — that’s
what I have. It’s frustrating that, you know, in my mind, somebody who’s done the things
you kind of were told as a kid and as you were growing up you needed to do, you know,
stay at a job, work, learn, you know, be helpful, get promotions, do right by people. And then you find yourself at this point in
your career, like, going, that doesn’t mean (EXPLETIVE DELETED). PAUL SOLMAN: Crist now understands what he
didn’t when he was in the manager’s seat. JAYE CRIST: I had to lay off an entire family,
a husband, and wife and daughter. And I — prior to that, I kept telling them, you guys need
to try to do something. You need to try to find something. Now I find myself in that situation, like,
going, that’s that wasn’t really helpful to be able to say those things, because you can’t
just go out, find another job. And I was the guy who laid them off. And at least I’m not
that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) anymore. PAUL SOLMAN: No, he’s not. Jaye Crist works
more, is paid less. And now that a third of the work force is 50-plus, there figure to
be many more like him. For the “PBS NewsHour,” this is Paul Solman.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

Related Post