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Pandemic forcing delayed retirements and wiping out Baby Boomer's savings

Baby Boomers
Posted at 12:31 PM, Jun 25, 2021

DENVER, Colo. — Around 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, and record numbers of this generation are now retiring. But for many, the savings they hoped to have in retirement just is not there.

The typical 65-year-old has $58,000 saved for retirement, according to Vanguard, but 45% of Baby Boomers have no retirement savings.

Neil Zavishlak is in his fifties and found himself feeling that pinch. He is now delaying retirement to help care for his mom, and the pandemic made his quest to work again even tougher. “My parents took care of me my whole life. It's my turn,” said Zavishlak.

He never imagined caretaker as a line on his resume, but it’s the job he knew he needed to take and wanted to take. “My mother had just been diagnosed with dementia, and we were told she couldn't live by herself anymore,” said Zavishlak. Zavishlak had just lost his long-time job.

“I worked 13 years there before they let me go,” he said. “It was a shock. So, that's when I sold my house, and I moved in with her.”

Since then, he’s tried to find jobs that allow him to care for his mother, even making it through several interviews, but with no luck. He said he was hopeful last year until the second wave of the pandemic hit over the holidays. The job he was counting on was eliminated.

“I haven't been able to find work, and now it's even harder since she's progressed in her dementia. It's harder for me to do that, and I have no money to pay for a keeper to come in and stay with her,” he said.

His unemployment eventually ran out and bills started to pile up.

“I had to cash out my retirement in order for us to live and take care of bills and take care of this home, and, you know, try to keep the upkeep on as much as possible. It's become very difficult, and now I'm scared for my future because I have no future at this point,” said Zavishlak. The retirement he planned for, now a dream deferred.

“My picture has changed dramatically. Fifteen years ago, I was on track. I was doing well. I was going to retire early. My finances were in order,” he said. “Then I had to sell my home, and my truck got repossessed, and I was trying to move here, it was all caving in on me at one time. I actually almost had a nervous breakdown."

A study by Edward Jones found that one in three Americans is now delaying retirement after financial problems caused by the pandemic, and even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% percent of retirees said they wish they had done a better job of planning financially for retirement. Nearly half of Baby Boomers surveyed have no savings going into retirement.

Bob Byers is retired and is facing that struggle. He tried to prepare for retirement as much as he could, but as he said “life happens.” Illness, maintenance on his home, and many other expenses have piled up, costing him thousands of his savings long before he planned to use it. Now, he’s left stretched pretty thin.

“Life for a retired person, you have to watch your priorities on everything,” said Byers. “It gets down to, a senior citizen like me, I eat two meals a day.”

Hilary Simmons runs a nonprofit, A Little Help, that connects neighbors wishing to assist their older neighbors with everyday tasks for free, helping seniors age well in their own homes. Byers is one of the many community members whose been helped over the last 15 years this nonprofit has served Colorado.

“Life is much harder,” said Byers of his expectation versus the reality of retirement. “There’s a lot of people trying to take advantage, especially of senior citizens. A Little Help has helped me tremendously."

Simmons said many of the older adults she assists are coming out of retirement just to pay the bills. She and her volunteers do as much as they can to help people stay comfortable, but sometimes retirees have to get back into the workforce.

“This next generation of older adults are delaying retirement, are looking for supplemental income opportunities as they age, and kind of getting to that gig economy that millennials are so familiar with,” said Simmons, the executive director. “So that's been an interesting trend to see. I don't know that the previous generations of older adults needed to do that.”

For Zavishlak, he’s working on getting back into the workforce now so he can have a chance to retire. He knows the choice he made to care for his mom was the right one. “You do the best you can to survive and to and to take care of the people you love, and that's where it comes down to,” said Zavishlak. Each day reminds him that his life isn’t over. It’s just about starting over.

“I have hope that I'm going to be able to find employment again. Something to start gaining ground to take care of me when I need to be, when it's my turn. I don't know that it's going to happen, but there's always hope. There's always hope,” he said.

If you’d like to connect with A Little Help, click HERE.