Retiring Into an Uncertain Job Market

Susanne Johnson is looking for an employer that values her experience.

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Unplanned retirement - Susanne Johnson

Many people forced or enticed into retirement earlier than planned have to find a new job to "cheer up your 401(k)," as Susanne Johnson, 62, of Long Grove, Ill., puts it. When she was 56 in 2002, Johnson accepted an early retirement offer from United Airlines. The airline was going into bankruptcy and the retirement plan was underfunded, so she was afraid she would get nothing if she didn't retire. The package included inexpensive health insurance until she became eligible for Medicare, free or low-cost flights when space is available, and a reduced pension. "You can't live at the level that we're living at on it," Johnson says of the pension.

Johnson then got another job doing information-technology procurement for a bank but was laid off in a merger when she balked at relocating. Johnson would like to work until age 66, when she can get her Social Security "full boat," but for now she's networking and job hunting. At job interviews, "every situation I am asked about I have already faced in my career," Johnson says. "I [would] bring a lot of knowledge to the company that a lot of people in their 20s don't have."

This blog post is part of an ongoing series of stories about people who retired while they were making other plans. If you'd like the story of your unplanned retirement featured in an upcoming post, please write me at and include your phone number. Or you can discuss your story in the comments section.