Janine Vanderberg is the director of a Colorado-based initiative called Changing the Narrative, a campaign against age discrimination, something she says has increased during the pandemic.
"They were laid off. They were pushed out. They had their hours reduced. They had their salary reduced. I’ve heard hundreds of stories of people who not only want to work, but need to work basically for survival and are not able to," she said
According to a recent study by the New School Retirement Equity Lab, the pandemic forced an additional 1.7 million Americans into retirement than expected, saying that due to health risks and disproportionate job loss, more older workers were pushed into early retirement.
"One of the things that we know this is true in Colorado and across the country is that age discrimination isn't treated as seriously as other forms of discrimination," said Vanderberg.
Vanderberg says age discrimination is hard to prove but can be countered with proactive steps like getting rid of graduation dates on applications and putting money into re-training programs.
"If we're going to have successful workplaces where younger people and older people work together in any kind of workplace and gain the benefits of each other's perspective and insights and knowledge, why don't we train them together as well?" she asked.
But what about preparing for that unexpected early retirement? Financial experts say the earlier you prepare, the better.
"We've seen the turning point of most people not having large pensions and retirement, that, that notion of one day it all stops becomes a bit of an exercise and, and, and scares folks," said Scott Sparks, founder and CEO of Sparks Financial affiliated with Northwest Mutual.
He says the sooner you can establish a budget and figure out ways to put money away that can supplement your income, the more financial independence you will gain.
"If we can help our clients compartmentalize the time frames of when they're going to need and spend money, they become less emotional about their money. And we have a plan so that when we have market events, we can enter that in an opportunity mindset versus a scarce, fearful mindset that tends to cause people to panic," he said.
Whether it's planning years ahead or reaching out for help in the moment, there are avenues of help available if you find yourself in sudden retirement.
Meanwhile, Vanderberg hopes more employers realize the benefits of having a more diverse age range in the workplace.
"We can all sort of stop and think become aware of ageism. I like the concept of taking really small steps in our own lives to do something right," she said.