Article: 'I'm too young to retire': What forced these workers to retire

One factor may be that the majority of folks who get laid off or fired at those ages are hoping to find work that pays at least as much as they were making. For some it may be that they need to be earning as least as much, based on their lifestyle and expenses. There is also the mental aspect of now having to work for less that can be challenging.

Unless they have unique skills, contract work rarely pays as much. For example, my Megacorp was willing to hire some folks that had been laid off back as contractors, doing essentially their same job, but at 2/3 the pay and zero benefits. This type of thing is not a rare occurrence.

Agreed though there are plenty of W2 contract gigs too, my BF has mostly done those so you still get some minimal benefits (sometimes great benefits) though the pay is certainly less. For us thats fine, he only has to work 40 hours, its 100% remote so creates great work/life balance and the jobs are easier as typically there is no extra meetings, all the work is funneled and prioritized thru 1 person, you do your job and dont' have to deal with typically corporate BS. No one seems to care that he is mid 50s, the interview process seems way easier (far less competition, far less interviews to land the job).

While having less pay and benefits doesn't work for everyone, its better than being permanently unemployed and as FIRE minded people its easy to see that we are just ticking off as one less year of retirement to fund out of pocket, one year closer to social security and Medicare. We have had that conversation with several friends over the past few months as unfortunately we have several unemployed 50+ yo friends that are now 8-12 months unemployed that I know could get contract jobs if they applied for them.
 
A number of folks I know left employment either because of RIF's or health.

An issue that some of them had was lifestyle inflation over the years. Not certain if it was aspirational, ego based, or just poor personal financial management.

A few end up unemployed in their mid fifties with large mortages, credit card debt, and car payments/leases on two vehicles. This is not where you need to be in you mid/late 50's potentially facing unemployment or a potential drop in earnings.
 
Another factor that likely doesn't affect this group as much is physically demanding jobs. If your brain is still functioning you can do a lot of knowledge-based jobs even if your body is slowing down. Factory work, assembly-line work, construction- they beat your body up and you many not be able to do the job as long as you wanted to and the company pretty much spits you out (and maybe outsources the work to someplace cheaper). It's why many former factory towns have a huge % of early retirees living on SS disability. Retailing wrecks your feet (walking on cement floors all day) and it's very hard to keep healthy diet and exercise habits if you're a long-haul trucker.

I'm grateful I had a desk job.
 
For us that's fine, he only has to work 40 hours, it's 100% remote so creates great work/life balance and the jobs are easier as typically there is no extra meetings, all the work is funneled and prioritized thru 1 person, you do your job and don't have to deal with typically corporate BS. No one seems to care that he is mid 50s, the interview process seems way easier (far less competition, far less interviews to land the job).
COVID changed things a lot. A dear friend who was happily working IT gigs on-site for decades had a serious stroke in early 2018. He still can't drive and his left side is wonky but in the last couple of years is beginning to pick up WFH jobs- he's now on his 3rd and the money is gravy since they'd figured out how to live off savings and SS after his stroke. He's also happy to have work where he can just keep his head down and do his assignment.
 
If DW and I were both RIF'd today with no severance or future earned income we'd need to drop our annual post-FIRE budget by $5k to maintain the same FIRECalc result. I have a $15k cushion in there anyway. So, not ideal but not insurmountable. Our goals would change.
 
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