Retired Marketing Executive Flips Burgers To Make Ends Meet

The number of Americans 65 and over who are employed has jumped 67 percent in the last decade.

Bloomberg
A managerial career in corporate America is supposed to provide enough of a cushion to last through retirement. But five years into the financial crisis, even workers who once earned six-digit salaries are seeking low-wage service jobs to make sure they stay afloat. As part of its series on the "Future of Retirement," Bloomberg News just profiled one such worker -- Tom Palome, who as a marketing executive worked for companies like Oral B. But at the age of 77, Palome now works part-time in low-paying service jobs making $10 an hour to demonstrate food for Sam's Club and $8 an hour flipping burgers for a golf club in Tampa, Florida.

"I earn in a week what I used to earn in an hour," he told Bloomberg.

Why does Palome need to work the low-paying jobs? According to the report, he hasn't had a major financial failing, but he has had to deal with a family crisis. Back in 1983, his wife Edna died in a car crash and so he was left to raise their three children on his own. He's also turned down offers for help; his children have said he could move in with him, but he said he preferred to remain independent.

Palome needs the work because his savings ran thin. The $90,000 he had in savings dropped to $40,000 after the financial crisis struck in 2008. "Longevity should be a blessing, but if you haven't planned for it, you're going to work much longer than you ever dreamed of doing," he told Bloomberg.

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And his story is reflective of the larger trend in America in which workers from all wage brackets are staying on in the workforce as they both live longer and have fewer retirement savings to rely on. Here are the data points:
  • About 7.2 million Americans who were 65 and older were employed last year, a 67 percent increase from a decade ago, as AOL Jobs has also reported.
  • A 2011 survey by the AARP found that roughly half of the respondents between ages of 50 to 64 don't think they'll ever have enough money for their retirement.

Palome can point to some impressive accomplishments over the course of his marketing career. Back in the 70s, when he was a vice president of marketing for the pharmaceutical company, The Cooper Companies, he helped secure an endorsement for the Oral-B toothbrush from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Now he's tasked with less high-flying work. Working for Sam's Club, he's expected to sell two boxes of the crackers during his seven-hour shift. And as for his job making hamburgers at the Rogers Golf Club in Tampa, he mans the takeout counter, cash register and grill. But he doesn't see his trajectory in a negative light. "I tell people I demonstrate food and I do short-order cooking. I don't mind saying it. What's important is that I can work today," he told Bloomberg.

And his appreciation is understandable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official unemployment rate for Americans 55 and over is 5.1 percent. But the true employment picture for older Americans is far more brutal. As AOL Jobs has reported, about 1.4 million Americans have been forced into early retirement during the financial crisis and so are left out of the official count.

Read the whole Bloomberg story here.

Know any older Americans who have reentered the workforce and have interesting stories? Share in the comments section below.

Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

Follow Dan on Twitter. Email Dan at daniel.fastenberg@teamaol.com. Add Dan to your Google+ circles.

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255 Comments

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Angela J Shirley

It is time to stop "talking" about the issue and finding "solutions" to this problem. The secret to life is picking yourself up after a fall and figuring out a way to NOT fall again. Okay, the economy is bad - stocks failed and so on. So what??? We need articles that are reporting about people who have found a way to "retire" in spite of the economy. Sorry to read about this gentleman and totally get it as at age 55 I am still unemployed after being laid off for the 3rd time in 2008. The other 2 times I found jobs before my unemployment ran out. This time it ran out in 2010 along with my savings. But I am not going to sit around discussing my issues with a reporter. No, I am spending my time finding solutions to my life's journey EVERY day. http://rockportinstitute.com/

December 12 2013 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lynda

Do we know anyone forced into working after retirement with "interesting stories?" The operative word here is "force." There is nothing interesting about being forced to do anything !

September 26 2013 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Doug Stimpson

Having been the VP and General Manager of multiple manufacturing companies and making six figure salaries I never imagined I would be a department manager at Walmart making $10 an hour so I could have medical insurance and help pay the bills at 64. Losses in the stock market and putting four kids through college helped to drain those resources that I thought I had. Don't regret much of that but have drummed into my kids to put away as much as is reasonable and take advantage of any 401k opportunity.

September 26 2013 at 1:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jennifer

He only saved 90,000 dollars? Boy, he was really stupid.

September 25 2013 at 11:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Steve

His situation was by choice: They never talk about his retirement investments made during his peak days. In 2008 he should have had more savings/investments/retirement funds than a nominal $90,000 (before "crisis").

Keep in mind what he was quoted as saying: "He's also turned down offers for help; his children have said he could move in with him, but he said he preferred to remain independent."

There is nothing wrong with a 77 year old widower moving in with one of his adult children. You don't have to give up "independence" by living with them. It is a normal part of the "extended family" situation. Given his financial situation, was that an appropriate choice? Living alone and working two jobs?

Really now!

September 25 2013 at 10:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve's comment
n45

It sounds like you are not understanding independence.

September 26 2013 at 10:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tluns810

I live in Florida, and all the low paying service jobs that used to be filled by high school and college kids are now filled by senior citizens. If the employees of McDonalds were to hold a wage protest here it would look like an AARP convention.

September 25 2013 at 10:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
buddyboygabe

take a "hat" off to him, instead of an asking for a handouts(welfares entitlement), he is working as a self reliance and be a proud to make his own hard earned dollars. God bless em'

September 25 2013 at 10:10 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to buddyboygabe's comment
Steve

Did you read anything about hand-outs or welfare? The article said he turned down assistance: that can be anything and in any form.

You think it would be better to have your dad work two jobs at 77 then to ensure that he lives with you while maintaining dignity of independence?

Your "hat's off" appears quite cruel and cold-hearted to this writer and lawyer.

September 25 2013 at 10:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
overexposed1

Retirement was my father in laws specialty. 22 years US Navy, roughly 20 years at a mid size oil field co., bought out and he took retirement package that he wanted, bought a small company to stay busy, it made a little money, turned 65, had 2 pensions already and added SS to it plus what he made from his business. Paid for his clubs, new car and golf trips. I should be as good as he was.

September 25 2013 at 9:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
hunt3r

Dear People, Did you hear at the end of the segment, " He is bringing in $3200 a month from Soc Sec, pension and his 2 jobs." Lets see, that is $3200 X 12= $38, 400 a year retired! He is spending his money on golf, theatre and social life.

September 25 2013 at 9:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hunt3r's comment
Trooper Brown

I don't know where you are from, but $38,400 is not that great.

September 25 2013 at 11:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
arlissholmes

With the lunatic fringe in Washington, the only people who will have anything in the future are the homosexuals, liars, criminals, minorities, and democrats, all groups of people too stupid to do anything but whine about what they don't have and to put blame on those responsible.

September 25 2013 at 9:54 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to arlissholmes's comment

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