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'The money is going to run out': Retirees forced to go back to work amid inflation, rising costs

Rising costs caused by inflation, the pandemic and other factors are forcing retirees to head to back to work.

WASHINGTON — With inflation in the U.S. hitting a 40-year-high in March at 8.5%, some retirees are making the decision to head back to work to help make ends meet.

Retired administrative assistant Suzanne Albrecht is one of them. 

"I was doing fine. I had saved for 20 years for retirement," said Albrecht who spent most of her career at Mercer Island High School and predicated her retirement on the ability to substitute part-time. 

But it was money she thought she could use on vacations with her family.  Instead, she's spending retirement frustrated and worried.    

"I never thought at 73, I would be making these kinds of choices," Albrecht said. 

Those choices include not driving, limited presents for her grandkids and buying generic brands just to pay the bills. 

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Taking a closer look at the math even with an $80 increase in social security from the cost of living adjustment, Albrecht takes home about $1800. An additional $1100 from retirement totaling $2900 a month. Rent on her two-bedroom Maple Valley apartment, which she downsized to last year, is $2330 a month, leaving Albrecht with less than $600 a month.

"The money is going to run out at this point because I've got to dip into it to the tune of $700/$800 a month," she said.

That's forced Albrecht back into the classroom proctoring AP exams. 

While she says she's grateful for the work, she knows she's not alone. 

The U.S. labor force participation rate for those 65 and older is at 19.1% this year, up slightly from 18.8% last year but down from 19.7% in 2020.

Experts say it's a trend that's been ticking upwards in the last decade. 

"We're seeing baby boomer generation participating more, delaying retirement," said Washington State Labor Economist Anneliese Vance- Sherman, who added it's hard to blame the trend entirely on inflation with so many knowns including the pandemic.  

"We're beginning to see people come back in. How much of that is because of inflation? And how much of that is because the uncertainty and threat of the pandemic have passed?" Vance-Sherman said.

No matter why there is some good news for retirees looking to get back into the game.

"Seattle is at 3.1% unemployment, so it's an employee market right now," said Josh Warborg, a staffing specialist at Robert Half. 

Warborg's advice is to be selective, go for flexible jobs and start with doing something you either enjoy or did before retirement if you can. 

"We're seeing 71% of hiring managers planning to add people in the first half of 2022," said Warborg.