AARP Report Details the Recession's Impact on Boomers

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Prolonged unemployment. Dwindling savings. Working for less money. Retiring reluctantly when no job offers come in. Taking early Social Security benefits (and a smaller payout) to make ends meet.

After working their entire lives, these are the unexpected situations in which many boomers found themselves after the deep recession. Their struggles were documented in a comprehensive AARP report released Wednesday.

Researchers surveyed more than 5,000 working or job-seeking Americans, primarily aged 50 to 64, in 2010 and 2011 to learn how the recession had affected their livelihood. Their predicaments, and fears, were dramatic. And they didn't change much from one year to the next.

Years spent meticulously planning for retirement were for naught, as millions lost their jobs and spent more than a year pounding the pavement in search of new work. Some found jobs, others didn't. But very few people expected to be in such a precarious and vulnerable state so close to retirement, when time to rebuild savings was limited.

If you were one of millions laid off during the recession, you know how challenging it was to find work. Respondents who landed new jobs were asked about the biggest barriers to employment.

Their responses:

  •  67 percent said the bad economy
  •  41 percent said jobs that paid fairly for their level of expertise
  •  37 percent said age discrimination

To make ends meet, some respondents took desperate measures, including withdrawing money from savings accounts (57 percent) and delaying medical or dental treatment (52 percent).

Other actions included:

  • Cutting back on expenses (69 percent)
  • No longer saving for retirement (37 percent)
  • Using credit cards to pay for daily living expenses (35 percent)
  • Taking distributions from retirement accounts (18 percent)

The most obvious way to make up lost savings is to stay on the job longer, and that's what most respondents said they planned to do. But even with that, more than five in six doubted that their standard of living in retirement would be better than their parents. About one in two expected it would be worse.

The AARP report made several recommendations for policymakers to boost the retirement income prospects for older Americans.

Among them:

  • Expand opportunities to help the unemployed get the job training they need to enhance their prospects.
  • Strengthen government efforts to monitor and enforce age discriminationlaws.
  • Identify government and private programs that would advise older workers who were consideringstarting their own business.

Photo credit: Juggernautco via flickr.com

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