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Encore: Some workers who retired during the pandemic question their decision

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

With inflation at a 40-year high and the worst stock market in decades, many Americans are anxious - understandably, right? And for older adults living on fixed incomes, the astronomical rise in prices has delayed some retirement plans and prompted some retirees to even go back to work. Cathy Carter from member station WUSF in Tampa introduces us to one of them.

CATHY CARTER, BYLINE: A little over a year ago, Dave Hade spent most days tending to his plants and visiting neighbors. He lives in a close-knit 55-plus mobile home community in Bradenton, Fla. But these days, he's up most mornings at 6 to get ready for work.

DAVE HADE: Well, we get breakfast ready here - a little Mountain Dew (laughter).

CARTER: After a jolt of caffeine, Hade pops open a can of tuna for his admittedly spoiled cat Buddy.

HADE: Usually when she hears that, she comes a-running. I break it up for her 'cause it's what I do (laughter).

CARTER: Early morning wake-up calls were certainly not part of Hade's retirement plans. The 64-year-old opted into Social Security in November of 2020 but says it wasn't long before skyrocketing prices forced him to pivot.

HADE: And I didn't want to dip into my 401s just to pay bills. So about Christmas, it was like, well, after the first of the year, I better go out and scare up a part-time job.

CARTER: And he did, assembling small parts for a hydraulics company. And Hade is not alone. Jeff Johnson, the state director of AARP Florida, says inflation has many seniors rethinking whether they left their jobs and salaries too soon.

JEFF JOHNSON: What we've called the great resignation was, in many respects, the great retirement. And now as costs have gone up, they look at the money that they had saved and realize that they're not sure if they can keep up. I recall back at the recession - 2008, 2009 - we saw much of the same.

CARTER: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, grocery prices have risen just about 12% since this time last year.

HADE: A year and a half ago, I wouldn't have thought about buying baked beans and stuff. Now it's like, well, it's cheap. It fills the empty spot up. I can get two meals out of a can.

CARTER: And electricity is up nearly 14%. That's why Hade doesn't run his air conditioning unit until after he gets home from work.

HADE: Where's my kitty at? You got to turn this air conditioner on. Phew. Man.

CARTER: Hade says if he runs the AC a lot, his electric bill more than doubles. And he's also had to spend money updating his typical Florida retiree wardrobe.

HADE: I had to get long pants for work. I didn't have any. So I went over to the outlet mall and stocked up on that stuff.

CARTER: A recent study from Nationwide Retirement Institute shows more than 1 in 10 people near retirement age have already postponed or are considering postponing plans to retire. But if there is any good news, it's this - there are a lot of job openings. Jeff Johnson with AARP says with employers hungry to hire, it's easier for older Americans to find work.

JOHNSON: There's certainly some pretty attractive opportunities to come back in as workers are offering higher pay in many areas and more flexibility, which is also something that is pretty important to this generation.

CARTER: And he says seniors could see returning to work as a short-term solution until prices stabilize. Until that time comes, Hade says he'll keep on working. And that's not all bad because he likes his co-workers.

JOHNSON: The two people that I work with, couldn't ask for two better. It's worked out really good.

CARTER: And he says sitting at home all day was actually a little bit boring.

For NPR News, I'm Cathy Carter in Bradenton, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cathy Carter
Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.