An older worker's
guide to getting a job
Who says 65 is the magic age to
With today's longer life expectancies, few can afford
to rest on their laurels -- or savings -- for 20 or more years.
Even if you can stash away enough cash, do you want to completely
leave the working world? Employment has rewards beyond the financial.
"Baby boomers have found the fountain of youth,"
says Susan P. Ascher, president and CEO of The Ascher Group, which
manages contract employees. "They have tons of energy, and
they're not going to be willing to quit. If they can play golf three
days a week and still be CEO, that's what they're going to want
Just ask Irving Strauss. The 82-year-old is president
of Strauss Corporate Communications, a New York City-based company
he founded when he was forced to retire at 62 from an investor-relations
"I had savings. We could have gotten along on
that, but I wanted something better," says Strauss. "I
wanted to go out and make another $100,000 a year, so I did."
Strauss' clients are small firms that value his experience,
perspective and wealth of contacts. When he wants to vacation, he
does. "I love what I do, and I can't imagine staying home and
dying on the vine," Strauss says.
Easing financial and insurance
Of course, not every retiree rejoins the work world merely
for creative fulfillment. Many stay on the job to take pressure
off retirement savings.
Columbus, Ohio, financial planner John E. Sestina
offers this illustration. You have a $250,000 nest egg at retirement,
invest it aggressively and it earns a 10-percent return for five
years. But instead of living on those earnings, you take a $25,000
job or a husband and wife each take part-time jobs paying $12,500
each. At the end of five years, your untouched nest egg will be
worth $402,000. If you then decide to never work another day, your
retirement will be more fiscally solid.
Then there's the benefit of employer-provided insurance.
Medicare doesn't kick in until you're 65. If you stop
working earlier, you and a spouse or other dependents probably will
have to find your own insurance. Bob Hurley, vice president of customer
care for eHealthInsurance, says there are lots of plans out there,
but even he acknowledges that employer-sponsored plans are often
richer and more affordable.
And the most expensive Medicare supplemental insurance
plan won't cover high drug costs; the pharmaceutical limit on the
most-extensive plan is $3,000 annually. If you have a chronic condition,
Sestina says a policy through an employer or one you pay directly
through your own incorporated business (and deduct from your earnings
as an expense), will give you much better benefits.
Hurley concurs. He says if you work for a company
with more than 20 people, the company's health plan will be the
primary payer of claims even if the company requires you to sign
up for Medicare. "For most people, that's a much better solution
than Medicare alone," Hurley says.
retirement also could boost your government pension. If you
file for Social Security at 62, the earliest you can, you'll get
a reduced benefit that will stay reduced for the rest of your life.
Waiting until full retirement (age 65 to 67, depending on your birth
year) raises the payment 20 percent to 30 percent.
Many people find it makes more sense to have a larger
payment during their older years when they are physically less able
to work, says Bruce Shobel, an actuary at New York Life Insurance
and chair of the Social
Insurance Committee of the American Academy of Actuaries.
Ready to work but fear post-retirement employment will chain
you to a desk for the rest of your golden years? Don't be.
Ascher, a specialist in workforce logistics, predicts
more jobs soon will be available for older workers. The numbers
support her: There are 77 million baby boomers and only 44 million
of the trailing GenXers.
"When all the dust settles and the economy starts
to grow again, we'll be facing the first-ever real labor shortage,"
she says. "By 2004 or 2005, companies will be desperate for
That, she believes, will put older workers, with their
histories of being good corporate employees, in positions to set
some of the rules. "Some will telecommute. Others will work
only part of the year. Some will work part of the week."
"The key to working after retirement is to grab
hold of what you wish you could do and just do it," says senior
A recent or a soon-to-be retiree should spend time
contemplating what he or she likes to do. A career coach can help,
but just talking to longtime business contacts and friends might
be just as effective. At this age, who you know is often more important
than what you know, says Mallory Tytel, president and CEO of ETP,
a behavioral health company in Connecticut.
Financial planner Sestina, author of Managing
to Be Wealthy, urges his clients to consider starting a
business. "We're not talking about General Motors," he
says, but small ventures where people have an opportunity to make
a little money doing what they like to do. It's also a way to shelter
from taxes some of the expenses associated with favorite pastimes.
"If you like photography, shoot a few wedding
pictures and write off that new camera. If you like to cook, give
a few cooking lessons and write off the job you do remodeling the
kitchen," he urges. Of course, your hobby
has to eventually produce some money or you'll hear from the
Internal Revenue Service.
Getting ready to go back in
But not everyone is cut out for the entrepreneurial life.
Cathy Fyock, an employment strategist and president
of Innovative Management Concepts in Louisville, Ky., suggests older
workers reconnect with previous employers. The company knows your
work and you know the business. Your services maybe welcome part-time
or on a project basis.
If you've retired far away from the old corporate
stomping ground, check out AARP's
annual list, usually published in a fall issue of its Modern
Maturity magazine, of the best companies for workers over 50.
Whether you're heading back to your old company or
looking for a job with a new employer, you'll need to be ready for
today's working world. Ascher, whose company places high-level temporary
workers, suggests you:
- Polish your computer skills.
Virtually every job demands at least
rudimentary computer knowledge. Within areas of expertise, knowledge
of proprietary software is also important. Ascher is frustrated
when she tries to place retired executives who have supervised
workers without mastering the programs on which businesses rely.
Management skills alone might have been enough in their previous
situation, but most post-retirement assignments will be more hands-on.
If you're going to work in your field post-retirement, she advises
you master the technology skills.
- Build a sophisticated resume. A post-retirement
resume is different than the one that landed you your first or
even your most recent job. Concentrate on what you can do, not
what you've done. If you're in doubt about what to include, get
- Be flexible. Give various opportunities
a try. If something doesn't work out, so what? Take a breather
and try something else. At this age, you have nothing to prove
and that's a blessing.
More than money
Finally, there's the compensation question. Retired workers
re-entering the workforce generally have more considerations that
just a salary amount.
For instance, if your retirement plan is based on
your income over the last few years of employment, and many are,
don't put yourself back on a payroll. Such a move can affect how
much pension money you get. Instead, negotiate an arrangement where
you're a self-employed contractor. Since you'll
be responsible for your tax payments, make sure you're paid
enough to compensate for the employer's share of Social Security
that you'll owe.
Fyock advises older workers to be upfront about their
compensation needs. "If you need health benefits more than
you need money, negotiate that," she says. "If you need
a flexible schedule, make that clear."
Jennie L. Phipps is a contributing
editor based in Michigan.