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For Many Seniors Working Well Beyond 65 Is New Reality

Mar 5, 2013

Felipe Barraza of Visalia, Calif., is 68 and has no plans to retire. He says his children, of whom the youngest is 13, keep him young. If he ever retires he plans to travel the globe with his wife.
Credit Stephanie Barraza

The world for the retiree is evolving. For some retirement means a chance to globe-trot or travel across the country in an RV, but for many 65 is just another milestone, a reminder of poor financial decisions earlier in life or a chance to explore a second career.

In short, 65 – the usual retirement age – has widened for many Americans because the cost of living, including medical expenses, has risen drastically from when most seniors started their careers.

We asked a few Valley seniors about why they are still working past 65.

“I don’t know what it exactly means to retire. If it means not working I have no plans whatsoever to do that.”

That was Felipe Barraza. He’s 68 a general contractor in Visalia, father of two college students and his youngest daughter is 13. With all that Barraza say’s retirement is a long way out for him. But even when he does retire, Felipe said he plans to travel the world with his wife.

Frank Scharton, 78, a certified public accountant in Fresno couldn’t agree more.

“I want to keep going until I can’t. If I drop dead or get Alzheimer so bad that I can’t remember what I am doing… then I’ll quit when I have to.”

Scharton also says that many seniors work well past retirement or reinvent themselves because they fear falling into the trap of what he called uselessness.

“You just hear about so many people that retire and then all of sudden they just keep on going downhill.  I figured if I stop I might go downhill and I don’t want to do that.”

Uselessness is exactly what Barraza is living to combat. He says that working keeps both his mind and his body young.

“I’m 68 and I still run marathons and that’s 26.1 miles and I still do that and play racquet ball and still go the gym. You know at 68 I am feeling really great physically. ”

Barraza is on his fifth marathon and fell two minutes short of the qualifying time for his age bracket to make the cut for the Boston Marathon.  

Tom Haverty, 73 and a commercial plumbing estimator in the Fresno area, is as energetic and youthful as Barraza, but he says in order to maintain the lifestyle he’s lived he needs to work.

“It’s probably fifty-fifty. You know I puts some money away and I got a descent social security check and I don’t have any second homes, or boats, or planes or anything like that, but when social security isn’t enough and what I have put away wasn’t gonna last me forever. We haven't done anything spectacular. We call it our normal life and working has made that easier to do."

Haverty remembers when his parents ran out of money during retirement.

“That’s one of my biggest things. My parents ran out of money in their 90’s and that is kind of a fearful thing that you don't want to do that. So working definitely is about fifty-fifty. It’s nice to have the money. We’d be much poorer without it, but it’s really enjoyable and it keeps me going.”

And that’s where all three of these men agree. Reliance on pensions, social security and savings don’t fit the bill anymore for seniors when retirement comes around.