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Many boomers delay retirement, take on more work

Usher Michael LaRocca of Geneva chats with concession workers while waiting for guests to arrive before a recent Kane County Cougars game at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Usher Michael LaRocca of Geneva chats with concession workers while waiting for guests to arrive before a recent Kane County Cougars game at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Retiring baby boomers could drain Social Security fund

Michael LaRocca doesn’t need as much money as he once did.

But more than a year after losing his job, the Geneva baby boomer was seeking full-time employment in addition to his part-time gig as an usher at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

As he prepared to sell programs and scorecards to Kane County Cougars fans on a recent summery afternoon, LaRocca said he lost his job of nearly four years in June 2012 when his division’s new ownership didn’t keep anyone older than 50 on the payroll.

His job search wasn’t faring much better, he said.

“I think age has a lot to do with it,” said LaRocca, who declined to provide his age for this story.

LaRocca belongs to a generation – the baby boomers, so named for the massive number of babies born from 1946 to 1964 in post-World War II America – whose employment and retirement plans often have taken unexpected detours as they aged.

As baby boomers approach retirement age – the oldest began turning 65 in 2011 – various studies have set out to determine the boomers’ impact on the workforce and their plans for their golden years.

“With seniors living longer and more active lives, and with more than 77 million baby boomers turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day, the United States is experiencing historic growth in the 65-plus demographic,” states the United States of Aging Survey conducted last year.

“…The ultimate question is: Are we as individuals and communities ready for an aging population?”

Financial worries

The baby boomers might not be ready themselves.

The aging survey – created by the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today – found that while many Americans 60 and older are on good financial ground now, they are less confident about their future.

About 24 percent aren’t confident their income will meet monthly expenses over the next five to 10 years, and 23 percent aren’t confident in – or don’t have – a financial retirement plan, according to the survey.

Bob Brown, 66, always planned – if possible – to retire at 55, which he did. For the past 11 years, the former CEO has filled his days with traveling, St. Charles Noon Rotary Club activities and, among other pursuits, volunteering as an English language tutor at Waubonsee Community College.

“Before I retired, I did a lot of research on retiring,” the St. Charles resident said, adding he didn’t want to go from working to just playing golf every day. “People are amazed at how busy I am.”

But for other baby boomers, retirement is no longer a magical day on which they will stop working, get a gold watch and live a life of leisure, said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

More than 60 percent plan to work past age 65 or not retire, she said.

“It’s not their parents’ retirement,” Collinson said. “Baby boomers plan and expect to work longer, delay retirement and transition into retirement in a way that involves at least working part time.”

The majority of baby boomers, Collinson said, are delaying retirement out of necessity.

“One of the most really tragic aspects of the last five years is the number of workers who were displaced due to layoffs,” Collinson said, noting many had to dip into retirement savings while looking for work.

Margaret Evans, a 57-year-old divorced Geneva resident, said she works three part-time jobs and one full-time job because she has many bills and supports her 22-year-old son.

Her financial adviser recently told her she could retire at age 62 – a tempting option. Her decision will depend on her finances, she said, noting she might instead cut down to two or three jobs because of the health insurance.

Although Dave Klussendorf, 66, retired from teaching 11 years ago, the Batavia resident said it’s important to stay active. He serves on the Kane County Fairgrounds grounds crew during the summer and is in his fourth season as an usher at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

“You can’t beat fun at the old ballpark,” he said.


Mary Sue Vickers, director of the American Association of Community Colleges’ Plus 50 Initiative, said it is common for baby boomers to want to remain active and give back to their communities.

The Plus 50 Initiative, which supports programs for plus-50 students at community colleges throughout the country, began in 2008 with a focus on personal enrichment, volunteering and workforce training for baby boomers looking at new pursuits, Vickers said.

She said students 50 and older have different needs from younger students, such as needing to take math refresher courses or tests to get credit for what they already know.

The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program – which Elgin Community College has joined – is a national effort to train 10,000 baby boomers for new jobs in health care, education and social services.

“This is a population that picks those kinds of occupations that are helping professions, giving back,” Vickers said.

Judy Burman, adult program coordinator for unemployment services at ECC, said the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program enhances programs the college already has, such as short-term completion programs and those that help older workers become more marketable and competitive.

To make the return to school easy for older students, ECC is working to ensure every department is equipped for their needs, Burman said.

“At least 18 percent of the people I’m seeing now are over 50,” she said. “Retirement in certain cases is not an option.”

Baby boomers’ plans to remain in the workforce longer don’t necessarily mean they are taking jobs away from younger generations.

Nationwide employment statistics from December 2007 to May 2010 generated widespread media reports that delayed retirement by baby boomers caused higher unemployment among younger adults, but the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found no evidence for such a claim.

“The estimates show no evidence that increasing the employment of older persons reduces the job opportunities or wage rates of younger persons,” according to the center’s October 2012 report titled “Will Delayed Retirement by the Baby Boomers Lead to Higher Unemployment Among Younger Workers?”

“Indeed, the evidence suggests that greater employment of older persons leads to better outcomes for the young in the form of reduced unemployment, increased employment and a higher wage.”

LaRocca, who is spending his seventh summer with the Kane County Cougars, said he will continue to work as long as he is able.

“To me,” he said, “health dictates retirement.”

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