Right now, COVID-19 shows no signs of abating. This has many implications for the country and the world, but it is especially unsettling for Boomers. We are vulnerable in two ways: First, we're more prone to get seriously ill or die from the virus. Second, we take the brunt of society's implicit blame.
This is a double whammy. Those of us who work in a traditional office setting may well be concerned if not terrified to return to our job. Perhaps we have been fortunate enough to have an employer who encouraged us to telecommute, but that can only last so long. Your employer, like most others, is probably hurting financially because of the shutdown of the economy. Who do you think will be the most likely employees to be laid off first? That's right, Boomers. Which age group will most likely have the toughest time finding another job? Right again, Boomers -- because in our society, discrimination on the basis of age runs rampant.
A recent article in The New York Times confirms the seriousness of the situation. Tricia Neuman, Medicare policy program director at Kaiser tells writer Mark Miller, "It's double jeopardy for older workers as businesses open up. If they return to work, they risk getting seriously ill due to Covid, but if they stay home, they may forfeit their earnings." As for retaining a job, Laurie McCann, an AARP foundation senior attorney, adds, "Older workers already faced much longer periods of unemployment than younger workers before the pandemic. I think that will be on steroids this time -- employers will be more reticent to hire older workers who may be more vulnerable to illness."
It goes without saying that state and federal laws are weak at best when it comes to protecting Boomers. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act is intended to protect workers who are 40 and older from being discriminated against by employers with 20 or more workers. Unfortunately, it is a difficult law to enforce, because the burden is on the employee to prove definitively that age discrimination was the reason for a layoff, not being reinstated at a job, or not being hired for a new position.
Health insurance is a big problem for Boomer workers as well. If you're under 65 and lose your full-time job, you will also lose the all-important benefit of health insurance provided by your employer. Your next job is likely to be part-time or temporary, so it won't offer health insurance as a benefit. To put it bluntly, you're screwed until you turn 65 and can apply for Medicare.
On the financial side, retirement savings are taking a hit, as they did in the 2008-2009 recession. If you need income from work and you can't get work, you may have to dip into savings and/or draw Social Security earlier than you thought. This is one reason it is so important to work with a financial adviser.
Hopefully, you've put enough away for "a rainy day," because it sure is pouring at the moment. You'll need to keep that financial umbrella open over your head a while longer.
HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.