PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Although many seniors would love to enjoy the fruits of retirement, the rising cost of living in South Florida is forcing many residents over the age of 60 to return to work.
A few weeks ago, 92-year-old Mauro Salazar received a note telling him he was being fired as a light duty security guard in Palm Beach County.
“I was doing security at Town Square Villas in Greenacres four nights a week, then doing parking enforcement at Montecito two nights,” Salazar said.
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Hard times don’t usually trouble him too much.
Salazar is a Korean War veteran who has seen a thing or two.
Decades later, he never imagined that at his age he would be sitting at CareerSource Palm Beach County looking for a job.
“I have to work. I have to pay my property taxes, my home insurance,” Salazar said.
His security job paid just enough to keep him in his family’s home. This is where he and his wife, Delores, raised their children.
“I’ve been in the house since 1967,” he said. “It’s my house now, and I want to stay there.”
But skyrocketing insurance premiums in Florida have put him under water.
“You can’t believe how [much] it’s increased,” Salazar said.
He’s not the only retiree looking for work at CareerSource.
“I’m between a rock and a hard place,” said Ruby Gilbert. “I am retired, but unfortunately due to economic conditions and housing conditions, we are forced at my age, 64, to re-enter the labor market.”
She worked in corporate America for 45 years, but retired when COVID-19 hit.
“My car stays parked. I can’t go on vacation because of gasoline [prices]and I’m on a fixed income, so we can’t travel,” Gilbert said. “There’s nothing we can do.
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She lives on $40,000 a year through pension and social security.
His monthly budget was already tight, but the recent increase in rents has compounded the problem.
“You have a whole set of seniors who are in my price range,” Gilbert said. “We are not entitled to anything, so we are forced to come out of retirement and supplement our income just to afford housing.”
This whole situation worries many inhabitants.
“I’m angry at the way our seniors are being treated,” Gilbert said.
She is not alone.
Figures show that 1,661 people ages 60 and older in Palm Beach County lined up looking for jobs in the past month.
“They retired primarily because of COVID. It wasn’t a safe situation for them,” said Julia Dattolo, president and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County. “We were in lockdown, so they decided to stay retired, but now because of the economic situation, the cost of food, the cost of gas, they can’t afford their retirement and their wallets. pensions are shrinking right now, so they want to come back and get a part-time job, a full-time job, and in some cases two jobs.”
In addition to returning to work, seniors are watching their investments closely and many are tightening their spending.
Taylor Northrop has been a financial advisor for 17 years with Buttleman and Associates in West Palm Beach.
“If you’re nearing retirement – or if you’re retired – and the market is falling like it is today, does it make sense to keep pulling money from the same source of income?” Northrop asked. “Or should you have in your retirement plan, another place to draw income, so you can ride the wave…You have to have a plan that has something in place.”
Many seniors don’t have a financial backup plan right now.
So for a lot of people like Salazar, that means finding work.
“If I can find someone who will hire me,” Salazar said. “The problem is, when you get older, nobody wants to hire you.”
But if he can’t find a job, he’s already thinking about the consequences.
“Well, it’s FHA homeowners insurance, so they’re going to exclude me,” Salazar said. “I have a comfortable car. The seats were pushed back, a Lincoln Town Car. I could live with my son or somewhere.”
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