Marilyn Geewax, who recently retired as an NPR business editor, returned to Ohio for her high school class's 45th reunion. The visit showed how things changed dramatically for retirees in just one generation.
Her classmate Pete Nicolaou worked at Youngstown Sheet & Tube mill after graduation in 1973. Four years later the company shut down and instantly wiped out 5,000 jobs. Nicolaou went on to work at a van plant — until that closed down — and then on to an auto plant. But the hard, physical work wrecked his knees and triggered other health problems. He had to retire at 56. Nicolaou’s story is not uncommon for blue-collar baby boomers. Arthritis, diabetes, heart troubles, cancer and more — they make it impossible to work.
Today, the rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is triple what it was in 1991, according to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. Here's the cruel irony: Affluence is accelerating for retirees who had made it into the higher ranks of earners, such as business managers, doctors, accountants, lawyers — and even journalists at big news outlets.
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