How to Get Your Revenge on Ageist Corporate America
Living well is the best revenge.
Uncle Google tells me that sentiment was first attributed to a 17th century English poet. Maybe that’s true. But it’s not important. I’ve hijacked it because it’s such an apropos intro into a topic that annoys me: ageism…which, in theory, doesn’t factor into the hiring and firing decisions in the U.S. There are laws.
Employment data shows that workers over 50 suffered the highest unemployment rate in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, while subsequent research now shows that those workers require twice as much time to find replacement jobs. While those only hint at systemic ageism, this speaks to it directly: “The Urban Institute looked at retirement data, and dug deeper and found that 50% of retirees were really pushed out of their jobs. It’s one of the major challenges for why so many older Americans are economically insecure.”
That quote comes from Mindy Feldbaum, vice president of workforce programs at AARP Foundation. I chatted with her recently for The Savvy Retiree December cover story on entrepreneurism among the over-50 set. They’re the fastest growing entrepreneurial cohort in the country, and better yet their chances of success are as much as three times greater than younger peers. (If you want to know more about that, check out the story in the December issue.)
I broach this notion of “revenge” today not from a point of bitterness, but rather as motivation. To be clear, I’m not using revenge in a hurtful way. No one was injured in the writing of this column. I mean it metaphorically—using ageism to fuel a better version of ourselves as we approach a new year.
As I noted above, the December cover story is on the entrepreneurial efforts of people 50 years old and above. They went in search of a better version of themselves and they found it. But don’t think of entrepreneurism in the purest sense of running off to design a better mousetrap, or starting a new restaurant, or throwing your life savings into a franchise. While all those options are certainly viable if that’s your interest, there are other ways to be entrepreneurial and live well in spite of the ageism that makes it hard to find a traditional job in the traditional workforce these days.
The answer is to think non-traditionally.
All the time I write about the reality of a world today that is overstuffed with income opportunities that have nothing to do with a nine-to-five cubicle job. But until you really start poking around that world, as I regularly do for my job, you don’t truly grasp the breadth of everything that exists nowadays that can generate an income from home.
Take, for instance, ACX.com, the audiobook creation unit of Amazon. You can sign up right now to become a narrator—the voice reading those books. The pay: $50 to $1,000 per finished hour, meaning that if an audiobook has a three-hour run-time, you get paid for those three hours, even if recording the book took you seven hours. Yes, you need a high-quality microphone and a quiet place to record. And you need a good speaking voice, but the range of dialects and accents and tonal traits and voice ages that authors are looking for is so broad that there’s likely something to match your sound. Plus, there are beaucoup online workshops to help you get started in this world, if it interests you.
Now, I’m not using this example to say that we should all run off and earn up to $1,000 per finished hour as audiobook narrators in 2021. Truth is, it’s not easy money; there’s real effort involved, a real commitment of time, and an investment upfront in terms of the equipment. Instead, I point to it because a website such as ACX underscores my broader theme—that we have such an abundance of income-earning opportunities today. All it takes is spending time researching what’s available, finding something that potentially interests you, and then giving it a go.
Frankly, it could be anything.
One of the folks I talked to for the cover story on entrepreneurs—a former marketing pooh-bah— started off designing etched-glass, Italian swing-top bottles and then moved into bamboo tealights and bamboo ties. Similarly, I can’t tell you how many people are earning several thousand dollars a month designing and selling T-shirts on a variety of sites that specialize in print-on-demand shirts, facemasks, and even shower curtains. I can’t tell you how many are earning hundreds or thousands of dollars per month writing press releases, teaching courses online, or managing personal affairs for other people too busy to manage them themselves.
I could write a column a day for the next year on 365 different ways to earn a buck, and I would still have more to write about.
So that’s the assignment as the last few weeks of 2020 pass: What are the opportunities you can find to get your revenge on an ageist Corporate America?
Even though I have vowed to scale back my freelance activities to those I can easily manage, I do kinda want to have a go at narrating a book. It just sounds cool to me. I’ve recorded various videos for my job over the years and for whatever reason I find it enjoyable. Might be cool to get paid—and potentially paid well—for that. Who knows? I’ll let you know how that goes as that effort progresses.
But what do you want to do? What sounds interesting to you? Turning a hobby into monthly cash-flow? Finding a freelance opportunity that allows you to exploit decades of skills you built up in the workforce?
Just spend an afternoon asking Uncle Google, and he’ll show you a world of income opportunities you didn’t even realize existed. You might just find something that ignites a new interest.
By Jeff D. Opdyke