This year was starting out with a bang. It was filled with travel and trips, presentations and podcasts. By early February, my calendar was booked through December with conferences and events. It was particularly exciting that Jean Chatzky invited me to be a guest on her podcast, HerMoney. Yes, THAT Jean Chatzky. Of Today Show fame, financial author and voice for women, and CEO of her own company. On March 11th, we sat down to talk about what women need to know about Social Security.
The podcast started out so well
It was great fun to be interviewed by Jean. We scheduled a Zoom session, since I couldn’t make it to her studio in New York City. It didn’t seem to be a good time to travel as the coronavirus news was shifting by the day.
But no matter, Jean was genuinely interested in getting at the heart of what women need to know about Social Security. Her audience of devoted listeners needed to know. Her friendly, upbeat style makes it easy to share information. We had a lovely chat, focusing on topics like the implications of the woman’s wage gap on Social Security. And, different claiming strategies that are available to women whether married or divorced. She was also very interested in talking about younger women – what did they need to know about Social Security and did I think it would be around for them.
We ended the podcast with a few tips for using your Social Security statement. And, the plan was for the podcast to go “live” in just a few weeks.
The very next day, March 12th, New York City begins to shut down. By St. Patrick’s Day, Boston was in lockdown. And the world was put on hold.
Unemployment skyrockets almost immediately
Needless to say, there was not going to be a podcast about what women need to know about Social Security going live any time soon. We all were riveted to how this global pandemic was forever changing our lives. And, how we could learn to cope in a situation that we’d never experienced before. All while hoping to keep our jobs.
Early on, there were hints of serious unemployment to come. While my husband and I were among the fortunate to get to work from home, millions of workers in small businesses were getting laid off. And, whenever there is a significant unemployment issue, older workers get hit hard. And, often, older women the hardest.
By end of May, just two months into the pandemic, we’re seeing tremendous job losses. Older workers are losing jobs on par with other age groups so far. With a notable exception of the 16 to 24 year olds. A full 25% of these young people have lost jobs so far. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and an analysis by the Pew Research Center, unemployment is skyrocketing:
|16 – 24||8.0%||25.3%|
|25 – 34||4.0%||13.1%|
|35 – 44||3.0%||9.8%|
|45 – 54||2.8%||10.4%|
While the oldest population does not (yet) have the highest unemployment rate, there is a hidden problem on the horizon. Their ability to return to work is going to be much less successful as the months of uncertainty go by.
Claiming Social Security early is a problem, even if you lose your job
As you know, I am always concerned about people making their Social Security decisions too early. Every single person knows full well that they can grab and go at 62. They want what’s theirs and to be on their merry way.
It’s really tempting. The gate to fame and fortune has finally opened after some 40 years of sloggling through work and family obligations. Over one-third of all retirees have claimed their benefit at 62.
What’s so wrong with that? Well, they lock in the very lowest amount of income from Social Security that they’ll ever get. As much as 30% less in monthly income. And, it’s unlikely they can make up that difference with their own resources. That’s what’s so wrong.
So, as unemployment was climbing, I wanted to try to reach people with a cautionary message. I was concerned with women specifically. There are irrevocable consequences of claiming Social Security if they lose their jobs just as they reach 62.
Being in lockdown can create new opportunities
In a moment of bravery, I reached out to Jean’s wonderful editor, Kathryn Tuggle, with a question. Might she be interested in an article from me about the dangers of claiming Social Security early? Even if you are an older woman who loses her job during the pandemic?
Much to my delight, she said yes! And, in early May, my first guest article appeared in the HerMoney blog:
It’s never easy dealing with a job loss. Especially if you are so close to retirement age. But, it’s still so important to take a step back and look at all your options. Simply grabbing the lowest hanging fruit is not necessarily the best idea.
We’re slowly coming up for air
We’re three months into the effects of the pandemic, and still hunkered down at home. But there are signs of life returning to our communities. Some reopenings of local small businesses. More cars are on the road. Summer will certainly be different, but at least it looks like we can get out a bit more.
And, not every article and podcast is focusing on how to cope in a pandemic. Much to my surprise I got a note from HerMoney in early June. Kathryn let me know that the podcast from March was going live after all!
I think Jean and I were both hoping there would be interest in what women need to know about Social Security. Maybe it would be a good departure from all the doom and gloom of COVID-19?
I am happy to report that this episode did start out strong. I hope you’ll take a listen when you have some time.
Podcasts were a winner during the pandemic
We can probably all agree that we needed entertainment more than ever during the crazy days of the pandemic. Podcasts, along with Netflix, saw increased subscribers and usage.
For all my women followers, I do hope you’ll take a few minutes to look through the HerMoney podcast library. Jean has assembled a tremendously interesting group of women who talk about all kinds of financial topics. The information is approachable, informative, and delivered in a conversation. Not a bunch of charts and graphs showcasing performance highs and lows along with a standard deviation!
I’d love to hear how you’re holding up during quarantine. And, let me know what podcasts you’re listening to. Besides the one I did with Jean, I mean…