Most Americans are confident they will have enough money to survive after they retire.
Yet many of them also plan to continue working in retirement … just in case.
An annual survey on retirement confidence conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute shows that six in 10 current workers think they’ll be OK financially in their golden years. Among retirees, EBRI reports the confidence level is even higher.
On the other hand, three in 10 working Americans are stressed about saving enough for retirement, and only one in 10 has come up with a formal retirement plan. Many may be forced to continue working well past age 65 or 70, considering nearly half of those surveyed have less than $25,000 in savings and investments.
At the same time, nearly all retirees who’ve gone back to work say they do it more to stay active than to make money.
Meet three people who retired earlier than expected, two by choice, one not so much. One went back to work for fun, one for money, and one has figured out how to see the world without paying for hotels.
“I’m bored,” said Walt Krakowiecki.
The 77-year-old New Jersey native retired 17 years ago after a long career in food services. He ran all the restaurants, food carts, warehouses and bakeries at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
But when he turned 60, Krakowiecki decided to hang it up.
“There were things I wanted to do,” he said. He looked at his retirement accounts and was convinced he could afford to retire, so he did. “Between 60 and 65 I felt like a kid,” he added.
Eventually, though, Krakowiecki wanted to be busier, so he took up acting.
“I always kind of wanted to,” he said, remembering what it was like working on the Universal lot. “Just watching the action was great fun, and if I could be a part of it, then I wanted to be.”
His first role was as a stand-in for Carl Reiner on “Crossing Jordan.” “He wanted to go home at 5 o’clock, and so at 5 o’clock I just stepped in,”Krakowiecki said.
His favorite role was in the movie “Bad Teacher” with actress Cameron Diaz. “I was the dirty old man with the Cadillac,” he said.
Over the two days Krakowiecki worked with the movie star, and he was paid about $650, including $35 a day for the car because it was his Cadillac that Cameron cleaned in the car wash scene.
“I didn’t wash my car for about two months after that,” he admitted.
According to EBRI, most Americans believe they will live to at least age 85, and a quarter think they’ll see 95.
“I’ve been lucky, no major illnesses, no broken bones,” said Krakowiecki. “I need things to do as I get older. It’s fun.”
We caught up with Krakowiecki at a class teaching the art of being a background actor (aka an “extra”) put on by Central Casting in Burbank. The class was led by Jason Roberts, a veteran assistant director whose long list of credits includes “Jurassic World” and “Dexter.” His advice included tips like “subtlety sells” and “be on time.”
“It’s fascinating to be on set,” said 67-year-old Abe Rogland, a distinguished-looking man also taking the class. He was called up to the front during Roberts’ lecture for an acting demonstration.
Rogland got bit by the acting bug early, attending the High School of Performing Arts in New York, before traveling to Hollywood in the late 70s to provide moral support for his friend Didi Conn after she landed the role of Frenchy in “Grease.”
Rogland started picking up acting roles — “I was a waiter on ‘Happy Days'”— but soon realized he needed a “real” job.
Eventually, Rogland started his own business in travel logistics, working with cruise ships, conventions and trade shows. He lost that business in the 2008 recession.
“People stopped spending money,” Rogland said.
“Social Security is just not making it. It’s kind of a frightening time.”
With a mortgage to pay, Rogland decided to pursue more acting jobs. He’s had some success, playing a senior CIA agent in the Oscar-winning “Argo,” and he recently did a commercial for ADT home security.
“I made $7,000 for the day,” he said.
While Rogland said it’s important to keep busy, he sees many in his age group on set who, like him, could use the money.
“A lot of them cashed out their IRAs already. A lot of them are working now because they have to pay the rent — Social Security is just not making it,” he said. “It’s kind of a frightening time.”
Sherry Goodloe’s own frightening time convinced her to retire early.
“I had breast cancer six years ago, and I looked at between retiring at 62 and 65, and I thought, ‘Do I really want to stay there another few years, or do I want to start really living?'” she said.
The Chicago native spent most of her professional career in Southern California, where she worked as a supervisor for the Auto Club.
She retired two years ago at age 62. Goodloe realized that bydownsizing and cutting expenses, she would have enough money through her Social Security, 401(k) plan and pension to “start really living.”
After taking a train trip across America and a one-way “repositioning” cruise to Europe, Goodloe discovered U.K.-basedTrustedHousesitters.com.
“I travel the world, house- and petsitting through TrustedHousesitters,” she said. “It’s almost like an Airbnb that you don’t pay for.”
Goodloe has to pay her own way to locations where she housesits, but once there, she stays for free. Sometimes the homeowners will allow you to use their car, she said.
“I got a world map and I started mapping out places I wanted to go,” she said.
She’s been a housesitter in England, Italy, Australia and even the Canary Islands. TrustedHousesitters says nearly 40 percent of its U.S. sitters are over the age of 55, and they allow anyone up to age 84 to apply.
To afford her new lifestyle, Goodloe sold almost everything and got out of her lease. Her “home base” is the second bedroom of her best friend’s condo in Chicago. That friend noticed the change in Goodloe once she started traveling the world.
“She says it was almost like a rose that was closed, and it just opened up,” Goodloe said.
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EBRI found that nearly half of retirees they surveyed said they left the workforce earlier than expected, often for health problems or a company downsizing.
But one in three left because they could afford to, or they wanted to do something else. Goodloe considers herself in that last category.
Recently, she was petsitting a dachshund named Biggie Smalls at a modern apartment in Dallas. Most stays allow her hours of free time to go exploring.
“If it’s a cat, it’s very easy, because cats are so independent,” she said.
Her next stop is a home in Seattle, where she’s already stayed before.
“The new retirement is not retiring. Yes, that’s me,” Goodloe said. “I plan to do this as long as I can. I love it.”