“All our lives were very different after that,” Hoss said. “I delayed my retirement almost a year and a half.
“It was just not a good time to leave the office,” he said, pointing out that it was an especially bad time to leave for someone who’d been in the governor’s office for so long and had so much diverse experience.
The local story
During a December C-Tran Board of Directors meeting, the agency’s chief executive officer, Shawn Donaghy, brought up recruitment and retention compensation.
The agency, he said, was faring well compared with other transit agencies around the country. But applications for employment had slowed down. And as many employees neared retirement age, they stuck around in 2020 but decided to leave in 2021. The loss of staff was noticeable.
Donaghy said he understood the desire to move on but added that the agency would need to work harder to overcome the losses. He asked the board to approve a reallocation of funds from C-Tran’s budget to offer retention pay to recognize years of service and the work C-Tran employees had to do during the pandemic.
Some large local employers, including Vancouver Public Schools, Evergreen Public Schools and Georgia-Pacific’s Camas mill, have said they have not seen a rise in unexpected retirements.
Evergreen Public Schools has, however, offered an incentive for certified staff this school year if the human resources department is notified of their planned retirement before Feb. 1.
“So we have learned of retirements earlier than a typical year,” said Craig Birnbach, communications manager at the school district.
Still, not all companies and organizations track when an employee retires as opposed to when they just resign.
At the Vancouver Police Department, for instance, an average of 11 officers per year left the department between 2010 and 2020. In 2021, however, that number spiked to 24 officer resignations. The department has seen seven officers depart so far in 2022.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office announced last week that it would no longer be responding to certain calls due to staffing shortages.
So are people retiring en masse?
Nationally, the picture is fuzzy. The number of people over the age of 65 who are collecting Social Security checks was about 42,107,000 in January 2016. In January 2019, that number was about 45,942,000, which is a 9 percent increase between the two years. In January 2022, there were about 49,503,000 folks over 65 collecting Social Security. That’s a smaller increase of 7.75 percent.
But locally, there is some evidence of a bump in retirements.
In the second quarter of 2021, there was a local drop in the number of women aged 65 and older who were employed in education compared with the same period in 2019: 902 in 2019 but 650 in 2021, resulting in a 28 percent decrease. But this wasn’t seen in every industry. The number of women age 65 and over who were employed in health care and social assistance during that period actually rose from 868 to 1,209 — a 39 percent increase.
Still, the number of women over the age of 65 who were working was only up 0.6 percent while the number of men was up by 6.1 percent. Before the pandemic, employment for all those 65 and older was increasing about 6 percent annually.
“It appears to be a pretty substantial drop in older women’s labor force participation rate, and a drop about half as big for men,” said Scott Bailey, regional economist for the Washington Employment Security Department. For Bailey, however, he saw a huge wave of women entering the workforce decades earlier.
“The reason I consider this a retirement is those lesson plans are made for me,” said Graham. “All I have to do is open up the books and it says ‘Do this, this and this.’ Whereas in a public school, I’d have to lay all that out and submit it every week.
“This is still relaxing for me and it lets me do the part that I like to do, which is interacting with the kids,” he said.
Graham works just 30 hours per week with an hour lunch every day. Before and during the pandemic, he was working as a teacher in a public school using a hybrid format, which grew difficult as the situation stretched on and the number of students in his school grew from 125 to more than 400.
“It was crazy,” Graham said. So what he’s doing now is enjoyable.
Graham spent more than 20 years teaching and was in the military before that. He’d always planned to retire at 68, which is essentially what he did: He retired only a couple of days before his 68th birthday. By 68, he would have 24 years vested in the school’s retirement system and he would be eligible to collect Social Security.
Is this the real story of the Great Retirement? That more of the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age? Or could they be stepping away temporarily because of their health or money? The short answer is there are no answers, just guesses.
A Gallup poll in May 2021 found that the mean retirement age in America was 62, which increased from 61. It also indicated money may not be a huge factor for most retirees just yet.
The data showed 80 percent of retirees reported having enough money to live comfortably. And that hasn’t changed much, even with the pandemic. Fifty-seven percent of retirees in the U.S. say they rely on Social Security, whereas 36 percent consider a work-sponsored pension to be a major source of income and 35 percent consider a 401(k) to be.
Notably, despite the drastic rise in home prices, the Gallup poll found only 17 percent of seniors reported relying on the equity built up in their home; 59 percent didn’t consider it a source at all, and 23 percent considered it a minor source.
Still, the economy could have an effect on retirement plans.
Hoss doesn’t expect his retirement to be temporary. He doesn’t expect to need to go back to work to earn more money. He does, however, think that he may take up part-time consulting on protocols for visiting dignitaries, if only to share his specialized skills.
“I don’t call it retiring. I call it repurposing,” he said.