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Another reason to work

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Monday, December 19, 2011
Posted: 5 pm ET

The unemployment rate for people older than 55 is 7.3 percent -- relatively low compared to that of younger people, but a recent report from the Congressional Research Service said once older people have lost a job, it is hard for them to find another. About 50 percent of out-of-work people older than 55 have been unemployed for 45 weeks or more -- three months longer than for younger people.

If you are among those who are out of work with no success finding another job, check out the National Council on Aging's  Senior Community Service Employment Program, or SCSEP. This program places older adults whose household  income is less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level in full- and part-time jobs. Funded through the U.S. Department of Labor, SCSEP placed more than 6,000 older adults this year. The average wage for SCSEP workers is $7,600 a year -- not a fortune, but enough to put your retirement planning back on track.

A little jingle in your pocket isn't the only reason to take a modest-paying job. Social Security calculates retirement benefit amounts by averaging your best 35 years of employment earnings. If you haven't worked 35 years, it adds in zeros until your work years total 35. If unemployment will leave you short on work years or if you are like many women and spent a significant number of years out of the job market raising children, working one of these SCSEP full- or part-time jobs could increase your Social Security benefits because it will erase one or more of your zero years.

Once a year -- usually in November -- Social Security does an automatic review of everybody's benefits. Your benefit amount is refigured and if you are already receiving Social Security, any increase will show up in the December benefit payment. The increase may not be an huge amount, but any increase is better than no increase at all.

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