80-Year-Old Oklahoma Man Says He Blames Himself For Inability To Retire
WAGONER, Oklahoma - For the first time since the 1940's, Americans are reaching retirement in worse financial shape than their parents. An estimated 10 million above age 65 are still working, a number that has more than doubled since 1985.
“If I had planned harder when I was younger and if things had went better,I wouldn't be goin' to work this mornin'. I'd be goin' fishin' or I'd be goin' huntin'” said Tom Coomer.
Coomer's still working. He's 80 years old as a part-time greeter five days a week at Walmart. He is one of nearly 10 million Americans over 65 who are still working.'
We met him in Wagoner.
CBS News' Mark Strassmann: When you got this job you needed this job?
“Yeah, you betcha I did yeah. When you lose your retirement at a big place like McDonnell Douglas you need a job,” said Tom Coomer.
In 1994, McDonnell Douglas closed its plant in Tulsa. Coomer, a machinist, had worked there 29 years.
“And all of a sudden, the loudspeaker come on. and it said, "Attention, McDonnell Douglas will close in 60 days." And I mean, we was just, we stopped and looked at each other and thought, "what in the world?" And to me, that was just like you had walked up and slapped me in the face,” said Tom Coomer.
Mark Strassmann: Because all your plans?
“All my dreams was just then going out the door,” said Tom Coomer.
He was 56 years old with an 8th-grade education and one year shy of a full pension. Financially, the Coomers have never recovered. Over the years, they burned through retirement savings, downsized their house and lifestyle, but still have a mortgage they can never pay off.
With his Walmart checks, their social security, and his partial pension, Tom and Ellen Coomer live on around $3,100 a month, more than a thousand dollars less than the national average.
Tom's wife of 63 years has four heart blockages and diabetes. He checks on her every work break.
Tom Coomer worries he'll never be able to afford retirement.
“He likes to work. And needs to work. but I feel guilty, too, because he's having to work at his age,” said Ellen Coomer.
Mark Strassmann: Do you feel like the American dream came true for you?
“Ii was right at the door, but I never did get to go through it,” said Tom Coomer.