"Our whole retirement system is predicated on the assumption that workers have access to meaningful employment," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
That might strike you as obvious, but it often gets lost in the media deluge of retirement planning advice.
Consider this. While the national unemployment rate has fallen to 7.4 percent in July 2013 from a high of 9.6 percent in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that 22.1 million Americans -- 14.2 percent of the workforce -- remained unemployed or underemployed. The bureau defines "underemployed" as those who work part-time because they couldn't find full-time work, or they work at jobs they consider inadequate. Almost 20 percent of people who have been unemployed for more than a year said they have given up looking.
If you're in that boat, chances are you have tapped into your nest egg. In its latest economic survey, Transamerica found that 36 percent of the under- and unemployed had withdrawn money from their retirement savings accounts.
Collinson offers some common-sense advice, especially for older workers who are struggling with unemployment and worried that they won't be able to recover fast enough to survive -- let alone enjoy -- retirement.
- Budget carefully. Managing the biggest bills is key. If you have to move in with family, do it.
- Take a job right away. Do it even if it isn't a great position and means a cut to unemployment benefits. It is easier to find a job when you have one. Employers are much less likely to be skeptical about your abilities, and earning some money will reduce the amount you have to pull from savings. As Collinson says, "Bad things happen with the passage of time."
- Be flexible. In this economy, you may not be able to find a position that is as good as your previous job, but getting your foot in the door could lead to something better.
- Enhance your skills. Look for affordable training at community colleges and community centers.
- Keep your chin up. Having a positive attitude makes it more likely that you'll be hired.