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Surviving Recession

Older workers are barely making ends meet in an economy with few jobs

Steve Stanislowsky relocated from Wisconsin to Tennessee to find work - recession survivors

— Photo by Wayne Lawrence/INSTITUTE

Steve

After Steve Stanislowsky lost his job two years ago, he moved from Wisconsin to Tennessee to find work and a cheaper way of life. He took early Social Security last year, at 62, and blew through five jobs to supplement his income. "I've seen a lot of people my age going through the same situation, where they lost their job and benefits," he says. "All of a sudden it stops dead in the water and you have to rely on savings and part-time jobs." Not so for previous generations, who stayed with the same employers, acquiring tenure that largely protected them from layoffs in midlife, according to Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Today's older workers are more inclined to change jobs for higher pay or more flexibility. "People put themselves in vulnerable positions by shifting jobs in their 50s," says Munnell. "Now they face this horrible challenge of finding a job, and once you've lost your job, it's almost impossible to get one back. Plus, they're drawing down assets … and using the money just to stay alive."

Next: Veronica McGill faced foreclosure on her home after being laid off. >>

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