Proving Age Discrimination in Employment is Too Hard

OntheClock Woman-1246587_1920A recent article in The New York Times got me fired up again about age discrimination in the American workplace, particularly when it comes to hiring and firing practices. I've written about this issue before, providing some links to useful online resources.

The Times article highlights the serious nature of the problem for workers over 50 years old. As the article points out, recent court decisions in age-related anti-discrimination cases have made things harder, not easier, for older workers. It's largely because of the way the federal ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) works, or doesn't work. As usual, when Congress writes a law, it carries with it loopholes -- and there are plenty of them in ADEA. Proving an employer uses age discrimination to hire or fire someone age 50 or over is difficult, and the legal burden is on the individual to pursue a case that can be very costly. What's more, doing so basically blacklists that individual in the job market.

The Times article cites this sobering fact: "More than half of workers over 50 lose longtime jobs before they are ready to retire..." along with this even more sobering fact: "On average, a 54-year-old job hunter will be unemployed for nearly a year." The article also reveals the experiences of some older job-seekers who faced obvious age discrimination. Some of the cases are startling in terms of what older workers are told by prospective employers; one of them reportedly said, "We are not looking for old white guys." Thankfully, that particular employer, a restaurant chain, was sued and agreed to pay a $2.85 million settlement.

The good news is some organizations are starting to fight back against age discrimination, even if individuals cannot afford to do so. According to the Times article, the Communications Workers of America, a union, has filed a lawsuit accusing hundreds of major employers of "systematic age discrimination in hiring based on targeted online advertising." They are looking at the possibility of class-action lawsuits. Still, a recent court ruling demonstrates an uphill battle: The court found that "recruiting practices that have the effect of screening out older applicants — what is known in legal terms as having a “disparate impact” — did not violate the law."

You would think that, with low unemployment and "Help Wanted" signs proliferating that older workers would be welcomed by employers. Sadly, that is not the case.

Image: Pixabay.com

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Financial Security in Retirement is Important, But...

Musings Man-505353_1920There are so many sources of information that talk about the financial aspects of retirement. Of course, nothing could be more important than being financial secure when you retire. But what about psychic security? One of the most challenging pieces of the retirement puzzle is finding your true self, especially if you have spent decades working in a single profession. Making the transition from a career into a whole different way of life -- one that may not be centered around full-time work -- can be disruptive and even painful for the ill-prepared.

That's why I like the assessment provided by Michael Rubin in his article for The Balance, "4 Non-Financial Keys for a Happy Retirement." Rubin discusses these four elements in detail:

  1. Work - Rubin makes the point that work in retirement can be a gratifying experience if it is voluntary. He writes "studies have shown that people who voluntarily continue to work, even just part-time, past the age of 65 are happier than their full retired peers."
  2. Relationships - Moving on from work also means moving on from work-related relationships. Maintaining relationships in retirement is essential to avoid social isolation. Rubin indicates "recent studies have suggested that loneliness can result in higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and other dementia-related diseases."
  3. Keeping Busy - Filling time when there is no full-time job to go to can be daunting, but busy retirees are generally happier. "One study showed that the happiest retirees engage in three to four regular activities and the retirees with the busiest schedules tended to be the happiest," writes Rubin.
  4. Staying Active and Healthy -  As Rubin notes, "in a recent study, having good health was outranked financial security as the most important ingredient for a happy retirement, but the two are more intertwined than you might think." One key point is that one's health in retirement directly relates to medical expenses, which can be significant for less healthy retirees.

Rubin's article puts retirement into perspective by emphasizing the non-financial aspects of a happy retirement. Food for thought.

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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Acknowledging an Aging Population

OnaWhimA United Nations estimate projects that between now and 2050, there will be an increase in the age 60-plus population in every country in the world. By 2050, those age 60-plus in the U.S. are likely to be as much as 25 to 30 percent of the total population. In 2017, the U.S. birth rate dipped to a 30-year low. With people living longer, the percentage of older Americans is sure to accelerate.

These statistics, while long range, are evidence that the world's population is aging. This means that businesses and governments will be forced to acknowledge this reality and provide programs, goods and services designed for the older generation. We Boomers may miss out on the big changes of the coming demographic revolution, but we are beginning to see glimmers of hope and encouraging examples that our own society is acknowledging an aging population.

One glimmer of hope is in the American job market. While a great deal of ageism still openly exists, the high number of jobs available is forcing American employers to reconsider their hiring practices. For example, AARP and McDonald's just announced a collaboration in which McDonald's will post all of its U.S. job openings on the AARP Job Board, and it will pledge to value the contributions of older workers. Why? Because McDonald's is trying to fill some 250,000 summer jobs available.

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 11.09.20 AMAnother promising movement is in the food industry. Beyond Meat, which offers plant-based meat substitutes and positions itself as "the future of protein," recently filed an IPO. The company is offering hamburger and sausage plant alternatives that could help reduce meat consumption, something Boomers especially need to do as they age. In addition, one of the Beyond Meat founders has introduced a new non-dairy, plant-based milk called Perennial, which is "smartly crafted for body and brain over 50." Other non-dairy products that indirectly target seniors who want to or need to reduce dairy consumption include varieties of oat, almond and soy milk.

Will other employers follow the lead of McDonald's? Like Perennial, will other companies recognize the potential of creating products and services specifically for an aging population? Let's hope we will see a rapid acceleration of this kind of activity so today's Boomers can benefit from it.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Deciding What to Do Next

Musings Screen Shot 2019-05-16 at 11.23.50 AMWhether you call it retirement, "rewiring," or your "second act," if you're over 65, you may be thinking, "What's next?" This is a particularly vexing question as it relates to a long career centered on a particular industry or discipline, but it is just as profound when you consider potential life choices. Your second act may not be just about what you do with your time -- it may also involve where you do it and with whom.

That's why I think it makes a lot of sense to start thinking about life's next stage even before you get there. My colleague Nancy Collamer, a "second act" coach, has some great advice to help you navigate new territory. She advises the following:

  1. Complete a self-assessment.
  2. Use a decision-making tool.
  3. Talk to people.
  4. Write things down. Take walks. Repeat.
  5. Try things out.

This is smart counsel, delivered in a logical sequence. The self-assessment will help you identify "what you want, what you do well and what you find meaningful." A decision-making tool will guide you in determining which of the options available you should pursue. Talking to advisors and friends comes next, because "they will challenge your assumptions, support your decisions and connect you with key resources or people that could prove invaluable when making your final analysis." Then you should put it in writing -- think about what you wrote down -- and refine it. According to Collamer, "it’s amazing how the act of writing brings a level of clarity to the decision making process that is impossible to achieve by keeping your thoughts in your head." Finally, just do it -- "you’ll never make up your mind about a career move until you start trying things out in small ways," writes Collamer.

Nancy Collamer offers additional guidance, as well as links to helpful resources in her article. Read it here: https://www.mylifestylecareer.com/how-to-choose-a-perfect-second-act-career/

Image: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


The Fight Against Ageism

Musings Woman-208723_1920I've written a number of blog posts about ageism and its impact on Boomers. Ageism happens in both obvious and subtle ways. The older you get, the more you may notice that you feel either overlooked by society or even invisible in their eyes. You are not being paranoid. The messages and signals that surround you are incontrovertible.

  • Younger people may be dismissive.
  • Retail store clerks may call you "honey" or "dear."
  • People demonstrate impatience and frustration if you seem to have trouble hearing or understanding them.
  • Finding clothes to fit your older body is challenging.
  • Advertising on television is largely geared to the young, and those ads that include "gray hairs" are inevitably pitching drugs for serious ailments.
  • Your employer thinks nothing of letting you go because of your age, despite your years of service, experience and expertise.

According to an article in Business Insider, three million older workers can't find high-paying jobs because of ageism.

These kinds of indignities are suffered on a daily basis by those over the not-so-old age of 65. It's ageism, and it's discriminatory.

We need more people, organizations, and politicians fighting against ageism. I've mentioned an organization called Respectful Exits in the past. Respectful Exits works with employers to change the view of older employees by instituting a "Longevity Agenda." AARP offers a special section on its website called "Working at 50+" that has information for older workers.

You should definitely check out a new ageism clearinghouse started by Ashton Applewhite, an anti-ageism activist. It's called Old School and it is a free ageism resource center with tools, books, blogs, podcasts and more.

Boomers are some 74 million strong. The more we all speak out against ageism, the more our society will begin to respect us. Everyone gets older -- and ageism will happen to all of them someday if we don't stop it now!

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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Working Because We Have To

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If you're over the age of 65 and still working, you are in good company. As reported by Bloomberg, in February 2019, the participation rate of 65-plus workers in the labor force has reached 20 percent for the first time in 57 years. Paradoxically, the Boomers who are most likely to be working are more educated, better off, and healthier, while less educated, working-class Boomers are struggling to remain employed. Those individuals with less than a college education participate in the labor force at a rate of about 10 percent.

Working after the traditional retirement age is becoming the norm for more and more Boomers. While a good percentage of Boomers want to work, many have to work for economic reasons. It is estimated that even the maximum Social Security monthly payment, which a Boomer can draw beginning at age 70, will only replace at most half of one's pre-retirement income. It's a generally accepted fact that, after Boomers stop working altogether, they need about 80 percent of their pre-retirement income to live, according to the Bloomberg report. As I've written in the past, the retirement savings accumulated by most Boomers puts them in a precarious position, especially given the reality that Boomers are living much longer than previous generations. Because of the 2008 recession, Boomers may have lost a significant portion of their retirement portfolio and it has taken years for their savings to recover.

Thankfully, work options do exist for Boomers, even if they are vulnerable in their current positions. A robust economy means far more jobs are available, although a large percentage is, admittedly, in lower paying positions. Still, full-time, part-time, and self-employment opportunities are available. "Gigs," or contract jobs, are also plentiful, and many of them enable Boomers to work from home on a flexible schedule if desired.

As Boomers are well aware, life is all about compromise. If you have to work and you're over 65, you can probably get a job. You just might have to lower your expectations.

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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Is "Early Retirement" a Myth?

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Early retirement -- generally defined as retiring from the traditional workplace before the retirement age of 65 -- is an idyllic-sounding notion. For most Boomers, it is also next to impossible. Sure, you'll read about those senior executives or business owners who have managed to amass enough wealth in their forties, fifties or early sixties to contemplate leaving the workplace behind. It happens -- but rarely.

Still, is early retirement a myth? Well, not necessarily. Part of it depends on exactly how you define "retirement." It may not mean stopping work altogether, but instead changing your way or working, or even your perception of work. You could, in fact, retire early from one career and start an entirely new career. Or you could find a creative way to retire early from your current job and patch together a variety of stimulating opportunities that still provide a reasonable income. The fact is, retiring early may be a realistic goal for you -- but one that cannot be achieved without a really good handle on your financial situation.

Writing for The Balance, Rebecca Lake identifies "six signs" that are legitimate indicators you may very well be in a position to retire early. They are:

  1. You're Debt Free
  2. You've Estimated Your Retirement Needs
  3. You've Saved for Retirement in Multiple Pots
  4. You've Covered Your Insurance Gaps
  5. Your Children Don't Rely on You Financially
  6. You're in a Retirement Frame of Mind

Read Rebecca's article for some valuable insight into each of these signs. You may not see all of them in your own situation, but each is worthy of some careful thought before leaping into the potential abyss of retirement.

Fortunately, I saw enough of these signs to consider early retirement. My wife and I were both marketing professionals. I owned a direct marketing agency. We decided to retire from our careers in our late fifties. We combined early retirement with a relocation from the expensive Northeast to the less expensive South. At the same time our daughter went to college -- we saved for that during our working years.

When we relocated, we decided to start a small service business together, ran it for seven years, and then sold it. It kept us busy and generated an income that was supplemented by retirement savings. Starting to draw Social Security at full retirement age helped us financially, as did going onto Medicare at age 65. Now, I'm a part-time writer, and my wife volunteers and is a caretaker for her mother. We never viewed "retirement" in the traditional sense -- to us, it was more about going through phases of life. Some would certainly define what we did as retiring early, while others might say we just transitioned into doing something different.

Retiring early may or may not be for you -- but it's really about how each of us defines the concept of early retirement.

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Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Why Variety is the Spice of Retirement

OnaWhimOne of the reasons I call this blog "Happily Rewired" instead of "Happily Retired" is because of my firm belief that, for many Boomers, retirement is a time of "rewirement." You see it in Boomers who leave their careers to do something entirely different. For some, it means remaining employed, but making a career shift into a brand new line of work. For others, rewirement involves starting a business of their own. Still others leave the traditional work world behind in favor of volunteering. And then there are those adventurous types who sell their homes, buy an RV, and roam around the country.

What do you really want to do for the rest of your life? The answer to that question may have strings attached. You may, for example, need to continue to earn an income for several years to come. But more and more Boomers who are at least moderately financially secure are rewiring instead of retiring. They're doing that by stretching their personal boundaries, trying new things, and perhaps by living a life of variety. The rewired Boomer may pursue a patchwork of opportunities that combines part-time work (earned income), volunteering (psychic reward), educational courses (enrichment), and leisure activities (personal enjoyment). At the same time, the rewired Boomer is ever more conscious of diet, exercise, and living a healthy life.

Writing for The Balance, Dana Anspach details seven things Boomers could potentially do in retirement:

  1. Learn something new
  2. Volunteer
  3. Teach
  4. Connect with family
  5. Travel
  6. Work, but on your terms
  7. Rekindle an old hobby

Check out the article for more about each.

It's easy to see how the rewired Boomer could combine several of the things on this list to stay active, engaged and live a full life.

Variety is said to be the spice of life. Is variety also the spice of retirement? Maybe you should find out for yourself.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


The Looming Retirement Crisis

MusingsNowadays, it's much easier to imagine retirement than it is to actually retire. You've probably seen the sobering statistics about Boomers who have no choice but to continue to work for years beyond the traditional retirement age. Many Boomers have not saved enough to comfortably support themselves into their 80s or even 90s. Life expectancy is increasing, even as vehicles for retirement savings have either dried up or remained stagnant.

A recent survey by Lexington Law indicated that 24 percent of seniors said their biggest regret was not saving and investing sooner. The other most common regret is taking on too much credit card debt. A separate poll by the firm revealed two shocking statistics: 70 percent of respondents did not know the age at which Social Security benefits begin, and less than half know how much of their earnings they should be contributing to retirement savings.

In the past, pensions were a legitimate source of retirement savings. In 1998, for example, an estimated 60 percent of employees were covered by company pension plans. Today, pension plans barely exist. Instead, Boomers have had to self-fund retirement savings, and they do receive help from their employers through matching contributions to 401(k) plans. Thankfully, the majority of companies do offer some type of defined benefit retirement plan such as a 401(k), but it is the employee who shoulders the bulk of the financial responsibility.

Typically, the other main source of retirement income is attributed to Social Security. The money you put into Social Security over your employed years does come back to you in some form, of course. Most financial experts agree, however, that it is best to hold off on collecting as long as possible, certainly until your full retirement age (which varies based on your birth year), if not until age 70, when you collect the maximum amount. Some Boomers are sorely disappointed when they realize that Social Security payments are not nearly what they need to live on in retirement.

With no pensions, modest 401(k)s or other retirement savings plans, and Social Security that barely keeps up with living expenses, there is a looming retirement crisis in our country. Boomers who have not by now set aside sufficient retirement funds will be thrown head first into this crisis when they stop earning income. There is a glimmer of hope that the job market will continue to be favorable toward Boomers, at least on a part-time basis, but there is no long-term guarantee that jobs will be available to aging Americans. This may be one reason a fairly high percentage of Boomers start their own businesses or find freelance work rather than compete in the traditional job market.

The oldest Boomers are already approaching their mid-70s. How financially secure are they? The youngest Boomers will be 60 in just five years. Do they have a financial plan for retirement? These are challenging questions to ponder. 

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


The Failure of Knowledge Transfer in American Business

MusingsIf the headline of this post sounds ominous, it is meant to be just that. It's a sad fact that American business in general is failing at the transfer of knowledge from its departing employees. Writing for Next Avenue, Richard Eisenberg puts the situation into perspective: "4 million boomers a year leave the workforce and boomers comprise 31 percent of workers; 56 percent of retiring boomers are in leadership positions. That’s a lot of knowledge to go pfffft."

A survey of workers between the ages of 54 and 72, conducted by The Harris Poll for recruiting firm Express Employment Professionals, tells a dreary story. The majority of boomer workers (57 percent) "say they have shared half or less of the knowledge needed to perform their job responsibilities with those who will assume those responsibilities after they retire," even though 81 percent of boomer workers "are overwhelmingly willing to mentor the next generation." In addition, "only 44 percent say their company has an adequate successor in place for when they retire, and 30 percent feel their companies may lose key client relationships if they retire." While employers might greatly benefit from retaining boomer workers on a part-time basis, "only 20 percent of working boomers say their employer offers 'semi-retirement' options."

Bill Stoller, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, told Richard Eisenberg, “Such a poor transfer of knowledge was surprising to us. You’ve got to have a process in place to have someone follow in the footsteps of someone retiring. It doesn’t appear companies are thinking about that.” Paul Rupert, founder of Respectful Exits, added, “What is described as the systematic failure of companies to mine their pre-retirees for critical knowledge and intellectual property is part of a general failure to appreciate the value of who and what is walking out the door of today’s knowledge-based employers.”

Results from another survey conducted by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies indicated that "only 4 percent of retirees said their employers encouraged employees to participate in succession planning, training and mentoring," according to Eisenberg.

Many American companies are literally throwing out valuable knowledge when boomer employees retire. In fairness, not all businesses are so short-sighted; a handful of them have knowledge transfer programs of some sort, such as phased retirement or mentoring. Still, the vast majority of firms simply don't have a mechanism for retiring employees to impart what they know to the employees who replace them.

Why? Is this part of the age discrimination that we all know impacts boomers? Would employers just like to have boomers exit as quickly and quietly as possible? Are they really so obtuse as to not realize that retiring boomers have a wealth of knowledge that would help facilitate a transition to a successor?

Whatever the reasons, it really makes no sense to discard intellectual capital that a company invested in over many years.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?