As Slump Drags On, Retirement Dreams Slip Away Many people look forward to retirement with hopes of spending more time with their families and on their hobbies. But as the stock market and the job market have headed south, some people near retirement age are having to push that date off a bit.
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As Slump Drags On, Retirement Dreams Slip Away

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As Slump Drags On, Retirement Dreams Slip Away

As Slump Drags On, Retirement Dreams Slip Away

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

This week, we've been hearing about what the turbulent economy has meant for retirement. Americans approaching retirement age are among the most affected. In a moment, we'll hear from Iowa farmers.

But first, we meet a man in North Carolina who had to delay retiring once the stock market and the job market went bad.

Here's NPR's Adam Hochberg.

ADAM HOCHBERG: This is the time of his life when 62-year-old Richard Rudy thought he'd be able to start taking things a little easier. After working for decades as a salesman and product rep, Rudy planned to be moving toward retirement now. Instead, he's back in school.

Unidentified Man #1: Rhodes(ph).

Mr. RHODES: Here.

Unidentified Man #1: Rudy.

Mr. RICHARD RUDY (Construction Management Technology Student): Here.

Unidentified Man #1: Sanchez.

Mr. SANCHEZ: Here.

HOCHBERG: Rudy's begun working toward an associate's degree in construction management technology. He's taking courses at Wake Tech, a community college in Raleigh, North Carolina. In this twice a week class in workplace safety, he's among the oldest and most involved students.

Unidentified Man #1: Somebody tell me what a tool talk is. Richard?

Mr. RUDY: Tool box talk. Generally, once-a-week, on-a-job-site presentation by someone about a current topic of safety or any violations that have been observed.

Unidentified Man #1: Exactly right.

HOCHBERG: Richard Rudy is in this class because his dreams of retiring at age 65 began slipping away as the economy faltered. He lost his job and began burning through his savings to meet his living expenses. The value of his retirement accounts plummeted and Rudy says he realized he'd need to keep working much longer.

Mr. RUDY: Never in my wildest thoughts did I believe I would be in school at 62. But I had not what you could call the perfect storm, but I certainly had an adequate squall.

HOCHBERG: Those storm clouds in Rudy's financial life began forming about five years ago. That's when things started to slow down in the construction industry, and demand fell for the countertops and other building products he sold. His commissions and bonuses began to drop. Then finally, this past September, his job was eliminated entirely. The timing was tough for Rudy, who found himself looking for work when he hoped to be easing into retirement.

Mr. RUDY: I thought at this age I would be scaling back my 60-hour workweeks and beginning to develop some of my outside interest. I enjoy kayaking. I love to travel. I have not had the opportunity to see Paris. I thought at this point that I could do some of those things.

HOCHBERG: For most of his working life, Rudy was on track to fulfill his retirement goals. He had a decent income, as much as $80,000 in good years. He lived frugally, saving about 15 percent of what he earned. And he avoided long-term debt. But after eight months without a job, he's been drawing down his savings. Meanwhile, his retirement investments, once worth about $300,000, have plummeted about 50 percent.

Mr. RUDY: When I met with the gentleman that looks after some of that little bit of money for me, there's littler - little bit than there was three months ago and a lot less than there was six months ago. I could have taken the money instead of investing it. I could have put it in a mattress, and I'd have just as much money today, maybe even more.

HOCHBERG: Rudy says he needs about a half-million dollars to feel comfortable going into retirement. Had he kept his job a few more years and had his investments continued to grow, he's confident he would have saved that much by the time he turned 65. Instead, with his net worth sliding backwards, he needs to extend his career.

Mr. RUDY: And here's the notebook that I start each day when I go into a class.

HOCHBERG: After seeing the market for sales jobs dry up, Rudy wants his construction management degree so he can find work as a project engineer at job sites.

Mr. RUDY: These are the jobs that can't be outsourced. The industry may have its ups and downs, but things will always be built, things will always need to be maintained. And I'll be well-positioned when the industry begins to recover.

HOCHBERG: A study earlier this year suggested many 60-somethings are finding themselves in a position similar to Rudy's. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants surveyed clients approaching retirement age and found more than a third have decided to keep working because of the economy. In announcing the results, the institute concluded that 70 is the new 65.

But in Richard Rudy's case, even that may be an understatement. To replenish his retirement nest egg, he says he may have to keep working until he's 75.

Adam Hochberg, NPR News, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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