Older workers have a target on their back. They often make more money, which is the sole focus of companies that want to improve “productivity” through salary cuts. For many older workers, job loss is very difficult because age discrimination exists. However, for the lucky few, being older can be a great advantage.
I have three clients who recently decided to retire. Each worked for a company that was going through rapid change. Their opinions were listened to – and ignored. Companies they cared about were not the same place anymore. Rather than play the game and hope to last a few more years, each of these people wase able to retire with full benefits. Given tax laws enacted in the 1980s, they can continue to work full/part-time as they wish.
Who is the loser in this scenario? The employer who let loyal workers take their dedication and knowledge into retirement. Many corporations and some smaller companies have lost sight of all but short term, bottom line thinking. Beyond measurable contributions, dedicated employees bring the intangible qualities that are hard to measure. They know how the company works and how problems were solved in the past. They put in the extra hours because they are committed to the company, not a paycheck. I expect to see more older workers following this pattern in coming years. Once they are eligible for retirement benefits, the tables will turn. The big bad boss won’t be so big or so bad.
In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Sandra Guy tells the story of a young man who chose to take part-time jobs over the past four years. He did this to write a book. Now he’s found that he’s not able to save or put money aside for retirement. Sadly, this story does not stop with people who have chosen part-time work. Many Americans are stuck in part-time jobs that offer no chance to save for proverbial rainy day.
Even many full-time employees have faced several years of small raises or no raises at all. One of my clients is married to a corporate lawyer. Her husband has not had a raise in 5 years. His company stopped contributing to 401K savings. This example shows that even accomplished professionals are facing an ever tightening noose of insecurity.
What will we do? Too many people are asking that question.