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Forget retirement, find a job

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

Working longer seems like a simple way to stretch retirement resources, but a lot of people obviously find this an unacceptable retirement planning option. At least, it appears that way based on a very unscientific measurement: the number of posted comments and e-mails I get every time I suggest it.

Richard Johnson, senior fellow at the Urban Institute think tank, has spent a lot of time considering employment for older workers. He concludes that employers don't have much incentive to hire older workers because -- right or wrong -- they view them as costly:  unhealthy, demanding of high salaries and hard to train.

The exceptions are fields where it is difficult to find skilled people. "Hospitals are very willing to make concessions because they can't find enough nurses," he says.

The situation is similar in some engineering fields and at many energy-related companies, he says.

If you're an older worker who isn't in one of those businesses, but would like to keep working, he suggests considering a career switch. About 25 percent of people older than 50 successfully switch careers, he says, and are able to find suitable work.

He also points out that employers are increasingly committed to cutting the cost of benefits. Everything else being equal, a potential employee who doesn't require health insurance because he gets it elsewhere or qualifies for Medicare could prove to be a more attractive prospect than a younger person.

It's also important, he says, for an older job hunter to be able to demonstrate that his skill set is current. Between 1971 and 2006, the share of workers in jobs requiring reasoning, writing and decision-making increased from 25.7 percent to 34.8 percent. Johnson's research suggests that many employers are unconvinced that you can teach an old dog new tricks. So if you're looking for a job, be prepared to prove that you already have the chops and can hit the ground running.

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hey teach
January 09, 2011 at 9:54 am

A switch to teaching worked for me a couple of
years back in my mid 50s before the roof caved in.

I have the intellectual skills and I've been developing
the interpersonal ones.

I don't expect to retire any time soon or at all.
I hope I continue to enjoy the work.

Gray Wolf
January 08, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I guess I only read posts like this anymore for the amusement value. I have come to expect nothing more than unrealistic pablum and I any never disappointed 😉

January 08, 2011 at 3:35 am

I can find a teaching job easily, problem is computers, I worked 30 years and for the past 20 years, my work required use of computers 8 hours a day. I do not want to sit on computers at work for hours, anymore. I want a no brainer job with a lot of
physical play. Now that is "healthy" work.

January 07, 2011 at 6:55 pm

With the explosion of fresh and good looking college grads, the senior/elderly people can forget about "their resume". Frankly, experience left aside, the new bodies have all the cyber knowledge needed to keep up with the new jobs. No one would want to hire an old person. The sooner we accept that reality the better. It leaves us open for our creative side which may have been dormant for decades, as we can explore independent and individual possibilities. Now is our time to shine or cultivate the garden. Competition is out for good...and it's ok too.

Pondering It All
January 07, 2011 at 4:11 pm

On the other hand, there may be a lot of projects around home that you could undertake to improve your life. You don't have to update your resume and go on interviews to start growing all your own vegetables. With some of the new low-overhead marketing venues like eBay, you might be able to turn a craft hobby into a small business. Or you might want to offer your expertise on a consulting basis through a temp agency.

Or maybe a mix of all of these?

My point is that you don't have to be stuck in the old "career mode" job search, at a time in your life when employers are unlikely to see you as their best long-term choice.

January 07, 2011 at 3:16 pm

This whole country is screwed. We have given SO MANY good jobs away, that the current 14 million unemployed people would take about 10 years to make a dent in the unemployment percentage number, even if they could find some work. Good luck with that! Do you think we might get hired in China??

January 02, 2011 at 1:09 am

Dan--well said! What kind of thinking are they doing at that "think tank". How much brainpower did it come up with the solution that if you don't have enough money, you should work? I wonder if they have any more brainpower left to figure out how to make that happen!

Carol Bells
December 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm

It's important to demonstrate that my skill set is current? And how am I supposed to keep it current? I get a little temp work every couple of months at a pitiful pay rate; there is no money for taking courses, and my former profession didn't require much technical knowledge. I have the basics, but they aren't enough.

My entire career was about reasoning, writing, and decision-making, but no one seems to think my skills are transferable. And it's now been quite awhile since I've used them.

Yes, I need to keep working, but how to accomplish that is the problem, and general comments like the above are not really helpful. There's no money, and without money, I can't develop any new skills. I don't sleep at night worrying about this, but don't see any solutions.

Frank Ketcham
December 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Check out AARP's web site and it will offer up more stat's of the current trend not to higher old folks like us. Fact is I am attending college at 50 for a second degree and part time jobs are far and few and folks I was raised not to stand idle if you can"t find something to do grab a broom! Pay attention to who minds the stores these days and you will surely see a different culture at work! Merry Christmas Folks

Bob Dunk
December 06, 2010 at 1:30 pm

This article brings go mind the following quote, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is" (Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut)

In theory, working through your 60's or 70's is fine. However in practice, if you're unemeployed, finding work at that stage of life is statistically against you and probably a long shot at best.

As I've moved from my 40's to 50's and now 60's two things have happened.

1) Due to the world economy, mergers, acquisitions, outsourcing, offshoring, etc., the length of time my jobs seem to last, through no fault of my own, has been diminishing from a high of 20 years, now down to 2 or 3.

2) Each time I find myself looking for a new job, due to my age and experience level (both high) it is taking longer and longer to find the next job. My last search took over 18 months.

I am now, once again unemployed, this time due to a merger. So at 64 years old, looking at a 12 to 24 month job search - which is in itself a full time job - I probably won't find a job till I'm 65 or 66. Why should I bother spending 40 hours a week looking for work that I may or may not find when I could be pursuing activities I enjoy such as my photography hobby (I'm volunteering teaching photography to elemetary school students in poor school districts) and working with a start up company ( that helps "matrue workers" learn how to market themselves in today's job market?

My answer is that it makes more sense for me to follow my dreams rather than pursue an elusive paycheck. So, I guess I've made the decision to retire when "in theory" I could (should?) continue work.

I'm still keeping my resume posted in case something should come along and am following up on the few leads that come my way, but I'm not spending 40 hours a week at it and do not expect it to result in a paying job.