He speaks from experience. In the 14 years since he retired, Mr. Jones has lost about 35 percent of the buying power of his pension. To offset those losses, he returned to work as head of the retirees' association. "Had it not been for that, I certainly would be making a significant change in my standard of living," he says.
Other retirees with reduced pensions are already scaling back. "They stop buying a car every four or five years, and get by rattling around in the old buggy," says Jim Norby, president of the National Retiree Legislative Network, a grass-roots group. More than half of its members are former managers and supervisers.
Women face particular challenges. As they interrupt their careers to care for families, they typically earn less than men. That translates into smaller retirement benefits. "The last generation of women had all their eggs in their spouse's basket," Hounsell says. "Now a lot of women are doing the same thing. They have their second baby and stay home. You don't make up those retirement benefits for the years you don't work."
Just ask Emily Kimball of Richmond, Va., who spent 11 years at home rearing a family. "My Social Security is not that great," she says. Her pension from working for the county is not enough to live on, and she does not want to touch other assets she might need later.
To supplement her income, Mrs. Kimball gives motivational talks about aging creatively. She also takes advantage of opportunities offered free to seniors, such as attending classes at a local university.