On the Clock

Reality Check for Over 50 Job Seekers

OntheClockOne of the truly disheartening things for Boomers is finding yourself out of a job for a long time and looking for another one. The sad truth is that, even with expertise and experience, Boomers are largely discriminated against by American companies. Their short-sighted view is that Boomers cost too much; they can hire younger, less experienced workers at lower wages. Some subtle and some not-so-subtle age discrimination is levied against over 50 job seekers and there is little that can be done about it.

So what productive action can you take if you're over 50, you want a job, and you've been out of work for some time? Career counselor Marc Miller has some good advice.

Marc says anyone over 50 who has been unemployed for over six months should seriously consider becoming self-employed. He points out that we are rapidly moving toward a "contractor based economy." Depending on your skills and interests, you are likely to find some type of work that you can do on a contract basis. Considering contract, temporary, or part-time work makes sense and will be easier to find, in Marc's view.

Another good suggestion of Marc's is to volunteer when you are unemployed for a long time. He says volunteering can be valuable in a number of ways, including:

  • Build your self esteem
  • Build on your brand image
  • Create a portfolio of your life work
  • Improve your marketable skills.

Marc shares several other sound ideas in his article, which you can read here: 

The Longer Arc of Working

OntheClock ID-10088137It seems to be an unavoidable topic of aging these days: More people over the age of 65 continue to work. Whether it is full-time or part-time, the arc of working life for many Boomers is lengthening. Statistical research from numerous sources suggests that as much as one-third of the over-65 age group could be working in the next five years.

A recent article by John Hanc in The New York Times reports on some of the reasons older workers continue to work. In it, Hanc discusses Boomers who are 79, 75, 71, and 72, all of whom are still working and enjoying it.

Working longer works for any number of reasons. Jacquelyn B. James, co-director of the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, tells Hanc, "This is one of the most educated generations in history. A lot of the jobs people are continuing in are fields in which you use the mind, not the body." She adds, "By the time you're in your 60s and 70s, you've probably worked yourself into something you enjoy doing. Others have been able to let go of things that they don't like about their job."

Michael D. Hurd, director of the RAND Corporation Center for the Study of Aging, thinks work is beneficial for older people. He tells Hanc, "You're forced to interact with people and forced to engage your brain. It's also good in terms of people's financial fitness. Just one year's salary keeps you from drawing down on your savings, and may even allow you to add to your savings."

An encouraging factor for older workers is a changing workplace. There are more part-time positions available, and there are more "gigs" -- work engagements that are essentially project-based. These types of work opportunities may involve being an independent contractor. The downside may be lack of benefits, but the upside is often a flexible work schedule and self-employment.

Boomers have been credited with generational change, and they have certainly changed the attitude toward retirement. Employers are slowly catching up to the "Booming" phenomenon of Boomers who want to work past the traditional retirement age of 65. The more Boomers who work into their later years, the more we are likely to reshape the way Americans think about work. Hopefully, this will also lead to a reduction in discrimination against older workers. 

Image: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Help for Older Job Seekers

OntheClockHere are two great resources for any Boomer who is looking for work this year:

  1. MyLifestyleCareer.com

    This website/blog is run by Nancy Collamer, a speaker, coach and author who specializes in answering the question, "What's next?" for Boomers. Available on this site is a wealth of information, including a great compendium of articles entitled "My Top 16 Second-Act Career Posts of 2016."

  2. RetiredBrains.com

    This website directly targets retirees seeking employment. The site includes sections concerning work from home, part-time employment, starting a business, and more. Also available is information about retirement planning, retiring abroad, retirement locations, etc.

Another useful website is http://9livesforwomen.com/ Geared especially to women, this site offers 9 focused blogs, including one entitled "Fending Off Retirement." The website also connects to The Flexwork for Women Alliance. The alliance lists national and regional firms whose mission is to help women find flexible work.

In addition, a very interesting article that recently appeared on CNN Money lists the top 100 jobs in America on the basis of "big growth, great pay and satisfying work." While this article describes these jobs as full-time careers, it would be valuable for retirees to scan the list and determine (1) if you have a skill set that matches any of the jobs and (2) how you could apply your skills to potentially working part-time in any of these careers. Keep in mind that employers who are looking for full-time workers in specific areas may be more than willing to consider part-time workers who have experience and the appropriate skill set.

How to Leave Your Full-time Job and Keep Your Job Part-time

OntheClockAre employers finally waking up to the fact that a Boomer employee's retirement can benefit both the employee and employer? There are signs that some companies have figured out how to make the transition from full-time work to part-time work a win-win for Boomers.

Writing for The New York Times, Christopher Farrell calls the phenomenon "boomerang retirees: people who exit gracefully after their career at a company, then return shortly afterward to work there part time." Farrell cites a number of examples of employers who are welcoming back retired employees on a part-time basis. He points out that only about 8 percent of companies surveyed in 2015 offered part-time work programs for retired former employees, but Farrell writes more companies are discovering the benefits of part-time working retirees.

One such program, sponsored by Atlantic Health Systems of New Jersey, invites retired employees to return to work part-time for a maximum of 1,000 hours per year. Farrell writes, "The company’s Alumni Club — formerly known as the 1,000 Hour Club — was established in 2006, and about 300 Atlantic Health retirees are currently on the company’s payroll in various capacities. 'They’re engaged employees; they’re productive,' said Lesley Meyer, Atlantic Systems’ manager of corporate human resources. 'They’re a stable talent pool.' "

Here's the good news: Human resources professionals think these types of programs are likely to expand. Writes Farrell, "Older workers are the largest collection of talent on payroll, a deep well of skill to tap at a time when management routinely complains about skill shortages. The talents of recent retirees are well known to managers, while former employees are comfortable with an organization’s culture."

Let's hope the trend continues. Read Christopher Farrell's complete article here: 

Gradual Retirement is the New Reality

OntheClockThere is a definite yet gradual shift among employers with regard to older workers, and it is to accommodate the notion of gradual retirement. The Wharton School addresses the subject in an excellent article entitled "The Case for Phased Retirement." According to the article, phased retirement, bridge jobs, "un-retirement," and retirees who go on to second or even third careers are concepts that are increasingly popular with Boomers, and employers are starting to take notice.

One employer, the Federal government, is gradually introducing the idea of phased retirement across its many agencies. One of the reasons is practical: A third of the U.S. government workforce will be eligible for retirement by September 2017.

Wharton reports:

"Under prior law, workers who were eligible for retirement but wanted to continue part-time had little economic incentive to do so, since retirement benefits would often be equal to or greater than their salary would be for part-time employment, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The government’s phased retirement program, whose regulations were approved in 2014, allows workers to retire from part of their employment while continuing in another part of the job and continuing to earn additional retirement benefits proportionate to the new level of employment. In exchange, some workers are required to spend 20% of their time mentoring new generations of workers."

Unfortunately, that model hasn't yet been embraced by most companies. A recent survey indicated that only ten percent or less of companies offered any kind of informal or formal phased retirement programs. It's not as if Boomers don't want the programs. According to Wharton, "Various surveys of older workers show that between 60% and 80% would be interested in staying in the workforce on a more limited schedule beyond formal retirement.The advantages for employers are manifold: transfer of skills and institutional knowledge to younger workers, the ability to replace workers with less pressure to find the right candidate immediately and lower turnover costs. "

The bottom line is that Boomers have to make their needs known to employers and potential employers, and organizations who employ Boomers have to recognize that the rewards of gradual retirement go both ways. Some companies will be more progressive than others when it comes to phased retirement programs. Wharton professor Olivia S. Mitchell sees it this way: “Evidence seems to show most employers don’t offer phased retirement because they haven’t been forced to do it yet.”

Is Your Best Retirement Option Part-time Work?

OntheClockMore and more, Boomers who leave full-time employment want to continue to be productive in some way. It isn't just a desire to keep busy and engaged -- it is also driven by a need to supplement the income from retirement plans and Social Security.

A very attractive option for Boomers could be part-time work. Working part-time offers more flexibility, social interaction, and income that may provide a modest cushion. While it seems that most part-time work for Boomers is in the low-paying retail and hospitality industries, there are some areas in which part-time pay is significantly higher.

Alison Doyle, a job search expert for About.com, offers a helpful list of the "top 10 best paid part-time jobs." Some of the jobs, such as accountant and computer programmer, may require additional specialized education. Others, such as management analyst, may allow professionals to apply their expertise from previous positions. Other jobs, such as delivery truck driver and materials mover, could involve minimal training.

Find the list here: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/best-jobs/ss/Top-10-Part-Time-Jobs.htm

Resources for Boomers Looking for Work

OntheClockIt's no surprise that Boomers want to or need to work -- but as I've written in this blog before, finding work at 50-plus can be a challenge.

The following is a good list of a variety of resources that could be just what you need to point you in the right direction, as well as understand the implications of work over 50. This list is provided courtesy of Lisa Gonzalez at Eldercorps (http://elderscorps.org/).

Re-Entering the Workforce - Marketable Skills After 50

An Aging Workforce: New Opportunities for Older Executives

5 Part-Time Jobs for Retirees

The Senior's Guide to Becoming a Real Estate Agent in Their Golden Years

Recruitment and Retention of Older Workers: Considerations for Employers

Aging and Mental Health: Workplace Considerations

Spotlight on Seniors: 10 Ways Employers Can Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance for Senior Employees

And here's one more idea. If you think you might want to start your own business with your spouse, check this out:



The Baby Boomer Employee/Employer Disconnect

OntheClockOne of the issues I have explored in a number of posts is the disconnect between Boomer employees and employers when it comes to continued employment. Boomers who want to work past the previously accepted retirement age of 65 either face mandatory retirement or what they perceive as age discrimination. Those Boomers who would like to phase into part-time work may also find a lack of receptivity on the part of their employers.

One study suggests that at least some employers may be a bit more enlightened than others. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies has been conducting a retirement survey of workers for sixteen years. The 15th Annual Survey report (December 2014) focused on perceptions of Baby Boomer workers and their employers. Over 1,800 Boomers and over 750 companies, both small and large, were surveyed.

According to the survey report, 65% of Boomer workers plan to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire at all. In addition, 68% see themselves phasing into retirement; they plan to either continue working but reduce their hours on the job, or work in a less demanding position. Only 21% plan to fully retire and stop working, while 12 percent are "not sure."

Employers claim to be far more supportive of Boomer workers than Boomers themselves may perceive. According to the survey report, "Eighty-eight percent of employers agree that they are supportive of their employees working past age 65 and delaying retirement, including 49 percent that 'strongly agree' and 39 percent that 'somewhat agree.' However, phasing out of full-time work is a different story: "Only 48 percent of employers have practices in place to enable shifting from full-time to part-time and even fewer (37 percent) allow taking on new positions that are less stressful or demanding."

Clearly, employers are generally sending a mixed message to Boomers; while employers are apparently happy to have Boomers continue on a full-time basis, less than half of employers facilitate a transition from full-time to part-time. Bottom line: There is still a disconnect between Boomer employees and employers, leaving millions of Boomer workers to sort things out on their own.

You can download the full survey report below.

Download TransamericaRetirementStudy-15

Where Older Workers Get Squeezed in the Job Market

OntheClockTime and again, I've discussed the reality that Boomers want to or need to continue to work into their Sixties and Seventies. But a particularly interesting problem is the one faced by Boomers who have spent their lives working at jobs considered "middle-skill" occupations, including office administration, professional sales, production and repair, operators and fabricators, and skilled administration, protective and personal services. These occupations, which account for over 40 percent of all jobs, have been in long-term decline, making it especially challenging for middle-skill Boomers to maintain employment.

A recent report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College looked at employment outcomes specifically for older workers first observed in middle-skill jobs. If they leave a middle-skill job, are they able to find jobs in another skill level, or are they forced out of employment prematurely? What are the circumstances surrounding these transitions, and how are the workers’ earnings affected?

The heart of the problem for these workers is the following, according to the report: 

"Older workers may be particularly vulnerable to polarization; the labor market for prime-aged workers was slanted more toward middle-skill occupations when these workers were younger, and it might be difficult to increase their skills up to the high level, while low-skill jobs might involve physical labor that older, middle-skilled workers are unable or unwilling to perform." In addition, "many older workers who are forced out of middle-skill jobs and unable to find high-skill jobs may retire early, join the growing ranks of the long-term unemployed or disabled, or otherwise drop out of the labor force."

So it seems where older Americans get squeezed is if they are middle-skilled workers.

There is some good news in the report, however; older workers have generally not been hurt more than any other group, largely because older workers often prefer part-time employment, for which even low-skilled positions are acceptable. The study concludes:

"Middle-skilled workers may require unemployment benefits and other income-support programs and job training to ensure that the decline in their employment opportunities does not have long-lasting consequences, but that safety net is no more necessary for older workers."

You can download a copy of the full report below.

Download Older Middle Skilled Workers Report

Insight into Post Retirement Careers

OntheClock"Retirement" is a word that may have to be retired. The notion of "retirement" is so different from just a generation ago. Americans are living longer, but a significant number are looking forward to woefully underfunded later years. Some Boomers are still recovering from the 2008 financial debacle. Most don't think Social Security will be adequate. As a result, it's almost a given that many Boomers will be working at least part-time instead of fully retiring.

A 2015 AARP study of "post retirement careers" sheds some light on the situation. According to the study, almost half of respondents (45 percent) see "retirement age" as between 65 and 69. More than a third of them (37 percent) expect to work for pay after retiring from their current career.

For those who expect to work post retirement, close to half (44 percent) will do so in a new field, while 23 percent say they will stay in the same field; 33 percent are undecided. Most respondents (73 percent) will seek part-time employment -- only 25 percent of males and 21 percent of females expect to be fully retired. As for having a boss or being the boss, 57 percent of respondents anticipate working for someone else instead of being a contractor or starting their own business.

Boomers are notorious for redefining just about everything -- and retirement is no different. To review the complete AARP Post Retirement Career Study, click on the link below.

Download AARP Career Study