Rising costs driving retirees to work

At 70 years old and four years into retirement, Jim McCauley might have to go back to work, possibly
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At 70 years old and four years into retirement, Jim McCauley might have to go back to work, possibly in the construction sector.

On Thursday, after meeting with his senior citizen bowling team in Scotia, McCauley swung by a Hannaford supermarket in Glenville for groceries and bundled other tasks into his ride home.

Despite the Galway resident’s attempts to defray the impacts of $3.75-a-gallon gasoline, his efforts are falling short. McCauley expects to be working part-time on home roofing or siding by summer.

“Unless things get better, I just don’t see any other way because [inflation] keeps chipping away at your income,” said McCauley, who worked at the SI Group as a water treatment operator.

McCauley is far from being alone in losing purchasing power. Sixty-nine percent of New Yorkers are spending more on gas, and 71 percent are spending more on food. Higher prices are forcing New Yorkers to curb vacation plans, dine out less and put off home and automobile repairs, according to a Siena Research Institute survey released Thursday.

According to the survey findings:

*  Fifty-one percent of New Yorkers said current prices are causing them a financial hardship.

*  For 64 percent of New Yorkers, that means saving less.

*  Forty-nine percent are cutting back on pleasures such as dining out.

And for some retirees, it could mean a return to the labor force, they told The Daily Gazette.

“It’s just too much. It’s getting out of hand,” said Brian Dunlavey, a Ballston Spa resident who was shopping at the Glenville Hannaford Thursday afternoon.

Dunlavey retired in January from his quality control inspector job at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory. Although Dunlavey tries to combine as many chores as possible each time he drives his car, he believes he soon might have to get a part-time job.

“It’s not something you want to do. But if you’re struggling with those expenses, then [getting a part-time job] is something that you have to do,” said Karyn Dettbarn, manager of the Consumer Credit Counseling branch in Colonie.

Dettbarn noted that even younger workers with full-time jobs are pursuing part-time work as their regular wages fail to keep pace with inflation. U.S. Consumer prices in March rose 4 percent over the year, but wage growth slowed to 3.6 percent.

A majority of New Yorkers surveyed by the Loudonville-based pollster, 73 percent, believed the state should step in and help ease the pump pains by cutting the state’s gasoline taxes from 41 cents per gallon to the national average of 28.5 cents.

State Senate and Assembly Republican leaders have proposed suspending state gas taxes this summer, as they did after Hurricane Katrina caused prices at the pump to jump in September 2006.

However, Gov. David Paterson has worries about that measure, saying that retailers haven’t promised that they “aren’t going to take what would be the windfall and keep it for themselves.” If retailers pledged to let prices drop in the wake of a gas tax suspension, Paterson said he would support that measure.

“It’s not just low-income people saying it’s a hardship. You have people all the way up the socioeconomic ladder saying it’s a hardship,” SRI Director Donald Levy said of the high prices.

According to the survey, three quarters of New Yorkers earning less than $25,000 said they were now worse off than they were before gas and food prices surged, while a third of people earning more than $150,000 found themselves in the same boat.

Categories: Schenectady County

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