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Many retirees are now returning to the workforce after pandemic

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 18:49:12-04

DETROIT, Mich. (WXYZ) — Inflation is squeezing household budgets across Metro Detroit – but it’s putting undue strain on retirees and seniors— who rely on fixed incomes. To ease the pain, many older adults are now returning to the workforce – and some of them, are actually embarking on a second chapter that looks nothing like the first. In our Two Americas, has a look at how one grandmother is rebranding herself and has an expert’s take on why now might be the best time to un-retire.

Most people driving a 50-foot truck are young, white, and male… so with Christine Smith sitting behind the wheel, needless to say, she stands out.

“I’m almost 60. I’m going to change my whole life and think of something I would have never thought to do before,” said Christine Smith.

Christine retired from corporate America, almost a decade ago.

“I just wanted to slow down,” said Smith.

But when the pandemic hit, things got a little too slow. Her ability to raise two grandchildren amidst crippling rising prices became too hard to bear.

“At the rate that we were going as family, it would have been unsustainable,” added Smith.

Right now, Christine gets $1100 in monthly retirement. But after bills that include groceries, household supplies, utilities, car insurance & transportation, Christine is at most left with $100 to spare- expenses that account for more than 90 % of her income.

“The economic environment we’re living in now, you have to kind of learn how to go with the flow,” said Smith. “Either you bend, or you break.”

But there’s no breaking this grandma who today is bending by going back to school at the Detroit Training Center.

“He’s doing what you call a 90° turn,” explained Smith describing a truck driving maneuver.

To get certified as a trucker, today, stories like Christine's are becoming more common.

It is being coined unretirement, a growing trend in the pandemic economy. In the past year, roughly 1.7 million older adults left retirement to take a job.

“You’re seeing a lot of seniors enter into totally different career fields,” said CJ Eason, Hired In Michigan, Career Institute.

Job expert CJ Eason has seen retirees transition into everything from teaching to the trades.

“If you took a buyout, maybe you didn’t factor in this inflation so you’re thinking maybe a part-time position,” said Eason.

While many retirees are re-entering out of necessity, the silver lining is that it comes as a growing demand for workers has more companies eager to hire older adults.

WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “To what extent is this job market kinder to a retiree?”

“The need is so great, the need for someone without experience,” said Eason. “They know about the value of working hard and being there every day and showing up.”

And doing it all with a positive attitude.

“I’m going to love the heck out of this, I really am,” said Smith.

“What does it mean to you to be able to provide for your family doing something that you love to do?” asked David.

“I feel like once I've achieved this the horizon opens for me to make choices, to save money... to establish a legacy, a foundation,” said Smith.

A chance to re-gear and reinvent herself on the open road.