SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER Marcia Duhart never thought retirement would be relaxing — but she didn’t think it would be exhausting either.
Yet when the Monroe, N.J., resident lost much of her retirement?savings to the downturn, she not only had to scramble to save her business teaching seniors how to use computers, she had to take on a second job working weekends as a receptionist at a nursing home, plus pare back on her expenses. “I’m working on catching up,” says Duhart, 67.
Though Duhart estimates that her savings are still down between 40% and 50%, she says she has begun to be able to pay down some of the debts that she built up in the last couple of years, thanks in part thanks to the markets’ ascent since last March. She is now feeling more optimistic about the future. Who knows, she says, “the business could bounce back.”
Duhart is like many retirees, who have had to find jobs to make ends meet during the downturn. Nearly 10% of seniors who weren’t working before the recession have returned to the work force; almost 20% more expect to do so soon, according to a December survey of seniors from Golden Gateway Financial, a financial services firm in Oakland, Calif.
It wasn’t until Duhart bought a new apartment in 2007 — without first selling her old one — that she recognized that the economy was shifting. In seven or eight months, “I didn’t get one bid,” says Duhart, who ultimately began to rent the property out. As she watched the market tumble — along with a nest egg she had invested in stocks — Duhart had to dip into her shrinking savings to make payments on two mortgages, plus property taxes and gas and electric for two homes. “I was a little frantic,” she says.
On top of that, Duhart’s business, CyberSenior Services, started to slow, with the number of clients signing up for computer-tutoring classes falling by roughly 90%. So instead of relying on her business income to pay for her expenses, she started drawing somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 a month from her savings. “I was running out money,” she says.
Last fall, the tide began to turn for Duhart. A first-time home buyer, motivated by the prospect of the government’s federal tax credit, expressed an interest in the apartment Duhart had been renting out. By November, the apartment was sold – though, for $50,000 less than its original price. “I don’t know what I would have done if that buyer hadn’t come forward,” says Duhart. “I hate to even think about it.”
Here are some strategies that could help lessen the downturn’s pain for small-business?owners and retirees:
Where does someone trying to rebuild their retirement savings begin?
The first thing anyone looking to retire one day should have is a plan, says Kelly Campbell, the founder and president of Campbell Wealth Management, a wealth advisory firm in Fairfax, Va. Retirees need to know how much money they will need when they ultimately stop working. “Unless she has a plan, she won’t know where she stands,” he says. To help retirees get there, of course, consider inflation and taxes. But Campbell also suggests asking yourself a couple questions, including: What are your expenses going to be? Also, what kind of income — be it from a pension, an annuity or Social?Security — can you count on?