Working Past Retirement: Job Seekers Over Age 55

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2008-04-2916

The high-tech industry is mostly for younger people — it can be highly stressful since it requires that you be on your toes, learning new technologies so that you can escape the undesirable label of being a tech “dinosaur”.

But during my career as a software engineer, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few older people — those who are over the age of 60 as I recall, who have surprised me with their work ethic. I also mentioned in an earlier article that one of my older co-workers in his mid-60’s passed away rather unexpectedly late last year, causing me to reevaluate my priorities in life and work. I consider that event as one of those triggering my decision to “retire from corporate serfdom” in order to take control of my own work destiny. I ended up quitting my job.

I had only but admiration for my erstwhile colleague, as he was someone who took his job seriously and who thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing; I was impressed by his quality of work, productivity and dedication — the degree of which you’d be hard-pressed to find in many corporate offices.

Nevertheless, there are many more folks like him who plan to work way past their retirement age or who don’t intend to ever retire. It’s actually been reported that up to 68% of employees between the ages of 50 and 70 are in this boat.

You’re A Boomer, Why Continue To Work?

Why are older people still working? These are the people who either never stop working or decide to return to work after a respite of some length of time. There are various reasons:

Money is the most important reason.
The dot com bust has affected a lot of portfolios and can be blamed for causing a lot of older people to return to the workforce. The simple fact is that many people haven’t saved enough for their retirement or their investment portfolios were adversely affected by recent market activity. Not only that — people are living longer, so it’s tougher to accumulate assets that are deemed sufficient to cover the expenses incurred throughout longer lifetimes.

The higher cost of medical care is a concern.
Clearly, with increases in health care costs, there’s a stronger need for people to seek and maintain good medical coverage. I know a lot of people who work mainly for the health care benefits.

People want to feel productive and mentally active.
A lot of baby boomers remain employed or return to the workforce because they want to “have a reason to get up in the morning”. How many people have you heard of who become depressed as soon as they retire? A lot of workers love the routine of their job, the social interaction at work and the sense of fulfillment they get as contributors to a company’s cause.

Workplace Benefits For Older Workers Are Sweet!

Sure, we can’t deny that there’s some age discrimination at play especially when younger managers are doing the hiring. And frankly, there are just jobs that are not a good fit for senior citizens (though there are exceptions, certainly). However, many industries are experiencing labor shortages and have worked to fill their workforce with older people (just as they did with women way back when). In fact, many companies are doing things to encourage boomers to join their ranks. Just as employment perks have evolved to incorporate maternity leave and child care benefits to accommodate female workers, we are now seeing some changes in our work environment, brought about to address the requirements of older workers:

  • flexible schedules
  • shorter weeks and fewer hours
  • telecommuting
  • job sharing
  • retirement counseling for eligible workers
  • phased retirement to help workers ease their way into retirement
  • improved training for workers over 50
  • special mentorship and pairing of older people with younger employees
  • the addition of physical workplace accommodations (not unlike those for the disabled)

And there’s a lot to be said for older employees — they’re experienced and loyal, and their expertise is particularly valued in certain jobs. From CNN Money, this list of top jobs for those over 50 had some spot-on suggestions:

Top Jobs For The Over 50 Crowd

Job Description Median Pay Job Growth
Nonprofit Executive $63,500 27%
Patient Representative $41,800 22%
Celebrant/Religious Leader $48,300 12%
Financial Adviser $66,800 12%
Public School Teacher $47,500 14%
Appraiser (Residential Real Estate) $42,000 23%
College Professor $40,200 32%
Day Care Center Teacher $26,400 33%
IRA Specialist $38,700 14%
Labor Relations Manager $100,700 20%
Leasing Consultant $27,100 15%
Lobbyist $93,100 23%
Medical Records Coding Technician $38,800 29%
Pension Administrator $48,100 20%
Religious Educator $51,700 12%
Department Retail Sales Manager $32,900 4%
Retail Sales Staff $25,400 17%
Staff Nurse (RN) $59,800 29%
Tax Accountant II $59,500 22%
Tutor $25,100 14%

Seems like there are certain job positions that are well suited for the more mature crowd — I can see how jobs in health care, retail and education can benefit from both wisdom and patience, characteristics you normally find in spades amongst the older set.

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

andy April 29, 2008 at 11:48 am

Interesting article – What worries me is the motivation factor. When you are young you want to progress up the ladder and hopefully get well compensated along the way (to retire well hopefully). The is probably not the motivaton for a lot of older folks – what adverse impacts will this have on the organization and younger teams in it? On other hand, their experience is something to be leveraged. Further, the older you get the less you are willing to change – which is why the tech sector is dominated with younger people (unless you work with mainframes) – so older people there are more the exception than the rule. Am I being too ageist?

Michael Temple April 29, 2008 at 12:54 pm

I gave up corporate serfdom about 5 years ago and have never looked back. That has done two things for me. One is has made me A LOT happier being the captain of my own ship so to speak. Number two is that I am having so much fun I don’t ever see myself retiring in the traditional sense. I may decide to slow down so I can travel or do other stuff I find interesting, but retire completely, probably not in my cards. I love what I do and can’t imagine suddenly just walking away and sitting on a beach everyday until I check out.

John Hunter April 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Good post but I think “retirement age” is at least 65. True a significant number of people choose early retirement or have it forced on them. And if anything that age is going to increase – for the reasons you mention: failing to save money, health care costs and longer life expectancy.

I do believe providing much better part time options are good for society, and those in the 55-70+ range especially. Having the only real options being full time work and no work is not a good situation.

Jesse April 30, 2008 at 10:06 am

Ive always thought when I retired it would be a good time to do all of the things Ive wanted to do but didn’t have the time to do….but I also think I would get bored without something specific to be doing. I never really thought about it, but I think Id like to be a teacher when I retire. Something less stressful, maybe a non core class.

rhbee April 30, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Semi is the word these days. The economy is forcing us to play it as it lays. But that’s okay, ‘cuz I learned long ago that time is relative if you can just let go. Work how you like, where you like too and the rest falls in place like a starlet’s hair do. I know I sound silly and my thoughts willy nilly, but I been retired, semi, since Elvis was a kid. First job to last, and I hope way beyond, I’ll keep on retiring onto my final buck’s gone.

MarketingDeviant April 30, 2008 at 8:52 pm

It is mostly about money =|. I’m sure older folks will love to travel around the world or have fun playing with their friends and families. Also, a lot of older folks will love to take care of their grandsons and daughters when their parents are working. It is sad how people pass retirement have to keep working sometimes =|.

Anitra May 1, 2008 at 9:23 am

My father is in his mid-60s, and still working (or seeking work; his most recent job just downsized him). I know he could get by on his current retirement savings/pension(s), but he’d rather keep working and not dip into his savings until he needs to. I do think part of it is the need to be doing SOMETHING; even better if it’s something that uses his vast experience – he took an early retirement package from his “career” job at 59, but after a year of living the retired life, he was ready to pack up and move 350 miles for a new job in the same industry.

On a different note, I’m surprised to see “public school teacher” in the list of jobs for people over 50. At least in the Northeast, public school jobs are VERY hard to get into if you’re over 50, since they enforce a mandatory retirement age (between 55-65, depending on the area).

Save Money May 2, 2008 at 9:27 am

Moral of the story:
Prepare yourself before you retire, even if it means cutting some corners right now it’s worth having those last 20 years of your life as a relaxing breeze.

retirement strategy August 20, 2008 at 9:28 pm

I would kill to hire people age 55+. Most younger employees suck–they are immature, and work ethic sucks. Unfortunately, I get mostly peple age 20-35 replying to job postings. Not only do a lot of people need the retirement income from some work, but its more enjoyable to do somehting where you feel you make a contribution than obsessing on your own existence.

Steve S February 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm

As a society we have to come to terms with the fact that we have increased life expectancy and not only squandered the pensions of millions but that we have concurrently burdened our youth with crippling debt loads for education and child care.
That being the case perhaps we should eliminate even the idea of retirement? Allow people who want to and can afford to, to retire and provide everyone else a decent working environment in all jobs.
From what I’ve seen in the news lately both the Automakers and the Banks would greatly benefit from mature adults supervising their operations.

Kaye Swain January 31, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Very encouraging article! I’m hoping to stay busy, one way or another, as long as I’m around! According to studies, having much more fun helps our bodies and our brains, including, possibly, staving off Alzheimer’s Disease! :)

Crystal Andrus August 17, 2010 at 3:34 am

Excellent post!

In my point of view, learning new things is fun. it all depends upon the way you think. think positive, take desired actions and you’ll get good result.

I agree with you that most of the people work for money and at the same time they want to be productive and mentally active.

Thanks for sharing the informational stuff.

got2go December 15, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Now that people want to work past afe 55 there aren’t decent paying jobs for them. Ironic, isn’t it?

mk February 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Oh, Gosh, this is way late, but Andy, yes, you are being ageist. How about we just like to work! Anything else is a no-brainer. We have always worked! We contribute. We enjoy being with people.

u l j s perera May 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Please give me a job?

Leave a Comment