The retirement city where people work

Marketplace Staff Mar 12, 2010

The retirement city where people work

Marketplace Staff Mar 12, 2010


Fewer people are saving for retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute released its annual retirement confidence survey this week. Almost 30 percent of the nation’s workers have less than $1,000 set aside for their golden years. A majority has less than $25,000 socked away. That means retirees and future retirees are having to rethink their plans, and popular retirement communities, like Bend, Ore., are having to adjust.

Ethan Lindsey reports.

Sound of rushing water

Ethan Lindsey: Just a couple years ago, Jim and Berle Goddard retired to a brand new condo in an “active retirement” home in Bend. From their patio, they can watch hikers, bikers, even cross-country skiers pass by along the Deschutes River.

Jim Goddard: The whole area has, I think, what I call “got the fever” for being in good health.

The Goddards say the sun — even on cold winter days — is one of the reasons they retired here. In the winter, they dance and attend concerts. In the summer, they golf and hike. But the Goddards know they’re among the lucky. Some of their neighbors, who moved here about the same time, are finding they don’t have the money to stay retired.

Jan Meredith moved here in the early 1990s for the same reasons as everybody else.

Jan Meredith: I like to get out and golf, I just love to be outdoors and do all those sorts of things. I was never one to sit on the couch.

Sound of horse hooves clicking

A few years back, Meredith finished out her career as a 4th grade teacher. She planned to spend her time relaxing and volunteering, including here at a horse stable, named Healing Reins. For years, she’s donated her time by helping disabled kids get into the saddle. She felt at peace with her decision to retire.

And then, without warning, the bottom dropped out of the economy. Like many fast-growing communities, Bend was hit especially hard. The city’s unemployment rate tripled to 16 percent. Yes, there were job losses. But the untold story is that the number of people looking for work has dramatically increased.

Carolyn Eagan: We have retirees who are not retiring.

Carolyn Eagan is a regional economist with the state employment department. She says retirement nest eggs have shrunk and home equity is gone.

Eagan: It makes it harder to find a job. When one job opens now, you could have 100 people applying for a job.

This is happening across the country, but especially to retirement communities in places like Florida, Arizona and Bend.

Leslie Toll: I am seeing people who are reentering the work force after being retired.

Leslie Toll is the director of recruiting for St. Charles Medical Center, that’s Bend’s largest employer. She says going back to work after a few years off can be difficult in any office. But it’s especially true in her high tech world of health care.

Toll: You know, I’ll hear post-retirees say, “Maybe I’m not as fast as I used to be,” etc. But I think they have a lot of value to add.

Retired teacher Jan Meredith sure hopes so. The economy dealt her a double whammy when her investments dropped and gas prices shot up. Meredith was forced back into the work force, first, at the post office sorting mail.

Eventually, she found a job as a part-time tutor with the Sylvan Learning Center. It’s not the retirement she dreamt of. Remember, she wanted to spend most of her time outdoors with kids and horses. But she needed the paycheck.

Meredith: This now allows me to do the volunteering, to provide the gas, and the maintenance and things like that, and not dig from my household budget.

Instead of living a life of retirement leisure, Meredith’s now filling the job some younger worker might have had.

In Bend, Ore., I’m Ethan Lindsey for Marketplace Money.

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