Bridge Club Members Fret About Retirement

The recent volatility in the stock market is causing many Americans, young and old, to worry about retirement. Will the money they've saved last? Members of an Atlanta area bridge club discuss their plans for retirement.

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DAVID GREENE, host:

The volatility we've seen recently in the stock market is causing many Americans, young and old, to worry about retirement. People are wondering if the money they've saved will last. And they're unsure if they'll ever be able to stop working. NPR's Kathy Lohr visited an Atlanta area bridge club to talk with people there about their plans and their fears.

(Soundbite of shuffling playing cards)

KATHY LOHR: More than a dozen card tables are set up at the Ruff 'n Sluff Bridge Club in Marietta, Georgia. On this evening, about 20 mostly regulars get ready to play bridge, including Nancy Salazar. She's 76 and still working full time.

Ms. NANCY SALAZAR (Realtor): I'm a realtor.

(Soundbite of laughter)

She says, oh. Yeah, we're a little nervous.��

LOHR: Most of Salazar's money is in property and those values have been declining. The turbulent economy is making everyone anxious and Salazar says she won't retire anytime soon.

Ms. SALAZAR: I don't see things getting better for three or four years. So no, I think I'll have to keep working for awhile.

LOHR: Another regular here, Richard Holland has already retired. He was in collections with the IRS. Holland is 67 and has a pension but he's now looking for a part-time job.

RICHARD HOLLAND: For me, it's not a matter of whether or not I can survive. I can do reasonably well. For me, it's a matter of how long I'm going to be able to survive. Okay?

LOHR: Holland is married and still paying for his home in an Atlanta suburb. He's says he withdraws about $800 dollars a month from his IRA for living expenses. But because the market plummeted, so has the value of his retirement account and with it the amount of time his money will last.

HOLLAND: I figured it's going to last about 30 years, well 25 years. Okay, well now that went from 25 or 30 years to maybe 18 or 19 years. Okay, so after 18 or 19 years, I'm like toast unless I can supplement that to live longer.

(Soundbite of shuffling cards)

LOHR: Holland is tall and lean and he laughs easily. He likes to make others smile too. So even with the unemployment rate in Atlanta at around 10 percent, Holland jokes about the kind of part-time jobs open to him.

HOLLAND: Pizza delivery guy...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HOLLAND: Okay, my skills are limited. All right? I mean how many people go: Oh, you were with the IRS - oh good, I've got plenty of jobs for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HOLLAND: No, it's doesn't work out that way.

LOHR: Is it hard because, look, there are a lot of young people looking for a job that are just...

HOLLAND: There are a lot of young...

LOHR: ...you know, college graduates?

HOLLAND: Who's going to hire me? You know, at my age it's going to be extremely difficult. I've looked around but with limited success.

LOHR: In a recent AARP survey of 5,000 Americans who are 50 or older, 44 percent say they're likely to work part-time during retirement because of the ailing economy and one third say they plan to delay retirement.

At another table, Marilyn Brown analyzes a bid that she and her partner didn't quite make.

MARILYN BROWN: But I threw one away. That was stupid, I just should have kept throwing my clubs

(Soundbite of laughter)

LOHR: Brown is fed up with the U.S. economy.

BROWN: I'm 66 years old. I've lived in this country all my life and I'm moving to Costa Rica five weeks from tomorrow.

LOHR: Really?

BROWN: Mostly to go where my money will go somewhere. My Social Security check will pay more than my living expenses. And if I stay here, I'm just going to be a bag lady.

LOHR: Brown says she lost her job in the cable industry 2007, and it took her three years to find a new one at a local company where she's been making much less. She bought property in southern Costa Rica with a friend, and they're moving because says she can't afford to stay in her home here.

BROWN: But really and truly, who wants to work the rest of their life? I mean I've worked hard all my life and I lost a ton of money in 2000 and 2001, dotcom and 9/11. So I should have had a really nice retirement and I will now that we found someplace else to go.

LOHR: Brown has two sons and a granddaughter and she says she'll miss them. But at the same time, she can visit and they won't have to worry about supporting her.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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