Clint Eastwood’s famous “Halftime in America” Super Bowl ad from 2012 sounded a note of defiant optimism about the American economy. It’s tough for anyone who heard Clint talk about how “the world is going to hear the roar of our engines” not to feel inspired. But, while the ad stated that it was “halftime America” and that our “second half is about to begin”, I think that today, a year and a half later, it’s tough to feel too good about what the overall employment landscape looks like.
These days, it’s not so much halftime in America as part-time in America. Because not only is unemployment not really moving much in the right direction, but the kinds of jobs that are being created are of poorer quality—and many of them are not full-time or long-term jobs. In some respects, it feels like we’ve become a nation of part-time workers. What makes things even worse is that the numbers don’t reflect just how bad the employment situation has become: more people than ever have been dropping out of the workforce altogether. So, while the top-line unemployment number has ticked down slightly over the last year, it still paints a dire picture overall.
There is nothing wrong with part-time work, of course, and it’s commendable that people are willing to sacrifice, work hard, and, in many cases, work multiple jobs to make ends meet. But the long-term implications of this trend are worrying, especially when it comes to savings and retirement. Part-time work not only generally pays less, it also means that benefits are minimal, making it harder to save money and invest in your future. It’s not like years ago, where more workers had full-time jobs with an employer offering them a defined benefit pension. In fact, in many cases, people struggling to find steady work have begun living on their savings or cutting into their nest egg, a last-resort that is obviously detrimental to their long-term retirement plans.
The reality is this: whether you’re fresh out of school or 58 and looking to work for just a few more years before retirement, you probably don’t have the traditional employer-provided options for saving. All of which makes it all the more important to be more proactive and strategic about providing the necessary income during retirement—you need to work harder than ever to control your retirement “destiny”. More on that topic next week.