Job loss typically comes unexpectedly, and if you do manage to find a new job, it's likely to pay less than your old one. Highly educated workers will fare slightly better. "Going forward, the economy will add some jobs for college graduates with technical specialties in finance, healthcare, education, and engineering," predicts Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. "However, for high school graduates without specialized technical skills or training and for college graduates with only liberal arts diplomas, jobs offering good pay and benefits remain tough to find. For those workers, who compose about half the working population, the quality of jobs continues to spiral downward." So, there's no better time to go back to school and make sure your skills are up to date.
Many baby boomers would like to scale back to part time, start a new business, or take an extended break from the workforce instead of retiring completely. But opportunities to try these creative forms of retirement could become scarcer. In 2006, 37 percent of employed men and 22 percent of employed women ages 65 to 69 worked for themselves, but the credit crunch could make it difficult for people to start and sustain small businesses.
It may be a good time to hold on to the job you have now. "Lots of people in their 50s and 60s experiment with retirement, find out they don't like it or can't afford it, and then go back to work," says Johnson. "If they try that these days, many won't be able to find new jobs." As more older Americans need to work full time to pay for living expenses, part-time and flexible work arrangements may also be harder to find. "People need to think carefully before they retire from their full-time jobs," says Johnson. "Because the part-time retirement jobs may be drying up."