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RISMEDIA, September 14, 2010—(MCT)—How many times have we said this? The story is not supposed to end this way. Older boomers looking forward to retirement after a lifetime of labor are finding the promised 60-plus land of plenty evaporating along with jobs and investments.

First there’s the data indicating more women are bringing home the bacon in a marriage because men are experiencing the greatest job losses—three out of every four lost jobs were held by men. And since women typically earn 78 cents for every dollar men earn, that strains the family budget.

Then there’s the reality that the number of long-term unemployed women ages 45-64 has more than doubled in the past year. As many as 900,000 women in this age group have been without work for at least six months, the Labor Department reports.

To add to this mix, AARP’s Bulletin has an article worrying about couples who don’t retire together. Usually the husband quits and the wife keeps working, the Bulletin says. “It’s a new social dynamic,” says the writer, Gil Klein.

Today, about 55% of all married couples have two incomes and retiring at different times raises thorny issues, including mismatched outlooks on life, the Bulletin reports.

Once, women followed their husbands out of the work force. Today, their employment is “more important,” the Bulletin notes. The women don’t want to quit. “More important” is putting it mildly, I think.

While couples retiring separately might need to cope with egos, time and job commitments, it is difficult to wring hands over their plight if they have enough money to maintain their lifestyle

Too many are barely getting by. Plus, increasing numbers of women are facing the so-called Golden Years on their own.

Responding to a question I asked about women and employment, a Santa Ana, Calif., resident, 58, said, “I have a part-time job with no benefits. No health insurance. I rent a room in a house with four other people. Savings? None. Husband? He met an online honey years ago and went with her. Is this where I’m meant to be at this stage in my life?”

A Florida resident tells me her husband has been out of work for two years. She continues to maintain a position with a consulting firm but worries about her future. “Our marriage is strained to the max,” she writes.

A woman from Orange County, Calif., says she and her husband were 67 when they retired, “feeling secure we had investments and Social Security that would sustain us.”

Today, in their early 70s, they are both looking for part-time work. Their investments have evaporated. They’ve cut back severely on their lifestyles, taking the bus instead of driving for example. Their major goal: to not impose their financial needs on their children.

Of course, the percentage of older Americans working for pay has been growing. Seventeen percent of men and 9% of women 65-plus were in the labor force in 1995 but by 2009, the number had grown to 22% of men and 13% of women.

Workers with college degrees, men and divorced urban women are more likely to work beyond traditional retirement age, according to a report from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. The report also says that about half these older workers are employed part-time.

The reality is most of us can work beyond the so-called “retirement” age. It’s important to remember that Otto Von Bismark, chancellor of Prussia, set the retirement age at 70 for the first pension program in 1889. The age was reduced to 65 in 1916.

Today, we talk about living to 100.

It’s unrealistic to expect to spend 35 years “at leisure.”

But I don’t think the issue is that older people want to retire. I think it’s that employers consider older workers “costly.”

It’s time to come up with a new game plan for the work force.

(c) 2010, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.