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Arkansas retirees returning to work as inflation rises across America

During the height of the pandemic, more than 3 million people in the U.S. retired. Now, a majority of those are returning to the workforce to make ends meet.

ARKANSAS, USA — During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 3 million people in the United States retired, some before they turned 65 years old. 

In the last few months, quite a few of those have had to go back to work to make ends meet because of inflation.

Clara Duckworth retired in December 2021 from the State Workforce Services office in Fort Smith. She says she's been working since she was 16-years-old and was really looking forward to fully retiring.

Now she says she more than likely will go find part-time work on fears these high prices will continue to climb.

"We that recently retired on set incomes, we're gonna suffer from that unless we can get out there and start adding more resources to our retirement funds," Duckworth said.

Gary Maxwell retired from the military and was laid off from the Fort Smith Post Office after 19 years. He now works four days a week, 12 hours a day because his social security and military disability benefits weren't enough to cover the cost of living.

"So I was stuck with about $1,435 a month to live on, and that don't work," he said.

Maxwell says he was able to live off of that income until inflation set in.

"We pay our rent and our bills and what food we needed and that was it we couldn't go anywhere or do anything," he said.

Duckworth and Maxwell are not alone though. According to a Wall Street Journal report, more than half a million retirees across the country had to go back to work because inflation is simply too much. 

University of Arkansas economist Mervin Jebaraj says retirees going back to work is a trend that actually started in early 2019, and got worse during the pandemic. 

"One,  wages are higher and two, several people retired early in the last two years retired earlier than they planned because of COVID but they are coming back," Jebaraj said.

Duckworth says she's hoping it won't be difficult to find a job.

"They're looking for people who can hit the ground running and I think in that sense people that recently retired we're gonna have a leg up on that because we have skills today's skills to bring to the table," she said.

Jebaraj says the rise in inflation will hopefully level off this year. 

"We think, hopefully, fingers crossed, that inflation has peaked but there's gonna be, it's gonna remain elevated for a fairly long time probably through the rest of this year," he said. "At that point, your increases in social security will remain as part of your income so people should be able to retire again."

But not Maxwell.

"I figure I'll be working from now on, I don't see any other way out of it," he said.

Maxwell says he's doing just fine though. He just turned 70 years old and plans to get married in a few weeks. Duckworth says she's hoping to find part-time work in the medical field. 

RELATED: US inflation slowed last month from 40-year high

RELATED: New 30-year mortgage rate highest in 13 years

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