Monday, April 23 , 2018, 5:54 pm | Fog/Mist 57º

 
 
 
Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Who Said Anything About Retirement?

Precarious economy, increasing life expectancy driving more seniors to work longer

Many people are faced with the seesaw decision of continuing work or retiring. What may have been a more black and white process 20 years ago is now clouded by a higher life expectancy and uncertain economy.

Jo Black is sifting through the gray area.

“I’m planning to work until I’m 70,” said Black, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center, which serves people with disabilities in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. “I decided not to retire at 66 because of the economy; I don’t feel safe stopping work at this point.”

Josephine Black, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center, is planning to work longer than she had expected. 'I want more of a cushion, and given the reactionary nature of the economy, you have to have more of a cushion than usual,' she says.
Josephine Black, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center, is planning to work longer than she had expected. “I want more of a cushion, and given the reactionary nature of the economy, you have to have more of a cushion than usual,” she says. (Alex Kacik / Noozhawk photo)

Black, 66, has worked for the center for more than 26 years, investing into her 403(b) plan, a tax-sheltered annuity similar to a 401(k) but primarily for nonprofit employees. Taking the advice of her financial adviser, she will work longer to draw more from her Social Security.

“At the low point (of my savings) it wouldn’t have provided enough foreseeable resources to save up for as long as my mother had lived,” she said.

“There is some down and dirty figuring you have to do. Is it going to as last as long as I need it to without having to eat my cat’s food?’” she joked.

Black wants to have the financial flexibility to spend time with her grandchildren and support various organizations and nonprofit groups.

“I want more of a cushion, and given the reactionary nature of the economy, you have to have more of a cushion than usual,” she said.

For more than two decades, Black has fought individual and statewide battles to provide disabled members of the community with equal access and the opportunity to live independent lives as they choose. Black’s job can take her anywhere from California Mental Health Planning Council meetings in Sacramento to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital to interpret a deaf person’s needs through sign language. It’s that variety and ability to enact change that ultimately motivates her to continue working.

“We serve anybody of any age, of any disability who can benefit from our services,” she said. “The fact is government is cutting services to people who have already been deeply affected. They are balancing the budget on the backs of people who can least advocate for themselves.”

Working longer has been a common trend not only because of the economy and state of wellness. People want to stay busy because they are afraid of inaction, Black said.

“If they come to the end of work and don’t have something they could market in retirement to augment their income, it’s scary,” she said. “I think that’s the situation with some of the greeters in Walmart. Those kind of jobs you see seniors take over and many were great workers.”

But Black is also motivated by her depression.

“I have depression so it scares me to stay at home, and thinking of not working concerns me,” she said. “That was the tipping point to go ahead and continue.”

In the 1970s, Black didn’t realize it was a feeling one could correct because depression was so stigmatized.

“Sometimes if you don’t have a place to routinely get up and go to it’s worse,” Black said. “To think ‘Why should I get up if I don’t have a reason’ is a scary thing. I don’t want to descend down that rabbit hole.”

She uses that experience and motivation to lead her advocacy efforts.

Black’s coworker, Ken McLellan, is a community-living advocate who uses his disability as a means to provide for the deaf.

“The fear of an unstable economy has kept me working longer, food and gas prices keep going up but many places are cutting payroll,” said McLellan, who relayed his sign language through Black as she matched the pitch and tempo of her voice with McLellan’s facial expressions.

Aside from the economy it’s the challenge a small town presents for the deaf that keeps McLellan, 66, motivated.

“I never want to retire,” he said. “Many deaf people feel left out and disenfranchised and I can be the advocate empowering them with communication. I help create a bridge so they can communicate so they don’t feel afraid of the world and develop self-esteem. Until there isn’t a need for that, I won’t stop.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

 

Special Reports

Heroin Rising
<p>Lizette Correa shares a moment with her 9-month-old daughter, Layla, outside their Goleta home. Correa is about to graduate from Project Recovery, a program of the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, and is determined to overcome her heroin addiction — for herself and for her daughter. “I look at her and I think ‘I need to be here for her and I need to show her an example, I don’t want her to see me and learn about drugs’,” she says.</p>

In Struggle to Get Clean, and Stay That Way, Young Mother Battles Heroin Addiction

Santa Barbara County sounds alarm as opiate drug use escalates, spreads into mainstream population
Safety Net Series
<p>Charles Condelos, a retired banker, regularly goes to the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics for his primary care and to renew his prescription for back pain medication. He says Dr. Charles Fenzi, who was treating him that day at the Westside Clinic, and Dr. Susan Lawton are some of the best people he’s ever met.</p>

Safety Net: Patchwork of Clinics Struggles to Keep Santa Barbara County Healthy

Clinics that take all comers a lifeline for low-income patients, with new health-care law about to feed even more into overburdened system. First in a series
Prescription for Abuse
<p>American Medical Response emergency medical technicians arrive at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with little time to spare for victims of prescription drug overdoses.</p>

Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

Evidence of addiction shows an alarming escalation, Noozhawk finds in Prescription for Abuse special report
Mental Health
<p>Rich Detty and his late wife knew something was wrong with their son, Cliff, but were repeatedly stymied in their attempts to get him help from the mental health system. Cliff Detty, 46, died in April while in restraints at Santa Barbara County’s Psychiatric Health Facility.</p>

While Son Struggled with Mental Illness, Father Fought His Own Battle

Cliff Detty's death reveals scope, limitations of seemingly impenetrable mental health system. First in a series