Why Over-50s Could Benefit From This New Employment Landscape

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on August 19, 2020 in Make Money

Two recent research reports from opposing sides of the Atlantic caught my attention last week. They both pretty much make the same point: That older workers face a daunting future—at least in the traditional work-a-day world.

But here at The Savvy Retiree, we don’t play in that sandbox. We look for our opportunities elsewhere. And the thing is, those opportunities exist everywhere these days, regardless of the misperceptions I see foisted onto readers by the mainstream media. 

I look at my colleagues in the U.S., Portugal, France, Central America, and elsewhere and I see Gen Xers and baby boomers happily pursuing a living and a lifestyle outside traditional channels. A lot of writers in the mass media, however, spill barrels of ink—or waste the equivalent in electronic bits and bytes online—writing about this lifestyle as though those of us succeeding at it are the equivalent of that one-in-a-million, high school jock who was lucky enough to make it to the pros. And that’s just not the case.

But first, those two research reports…

From the U.S., a Harris Poll from late July found that 54% of older Americans fear they’ll soon lose their job because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Nearly half expect their finances to suffer—just at a time in life where they’re hoping to bolster their nest egg.

Over in the U.K., meanwhile, new research reports that one in every four workers over the age of 50 has lost a job as a result of the coronavirus. Forecasts from a British governmental watchdog agency conclude that a quarter million of those people might never see another traditional paycheck, meaning they are permanently out of work.

Though I’ve not seen statistics from other countries, I feel pretty certain that they’d tell a similar story of radically reshaped labor markets that are unkind to all workers, but especially those who are in the latter innings of a career.

Coronavirus has, in short, proven to be an absolutely devastating microbe when it comes to employment. Its long-term effects, however, will likely prove even more far-reaching than the immediacy of these last few months of unprecedented unemployment.

But I don’t say that in a negative context. Though the immediate ramifications have been painful—namely, job losses, income losses, and loss of self-worth for many—those far-reaching impacts could, ultimately, be positive for us over-50 workers.

As I mentioned above, I have colleagues and friends all over the place who are working and living on their own terms because they have found opportunities online or carved out niches for themselves in corners of the economy where their skills are in demand.

Yes, as a planet we are absolutely headed for a brave new world of employment. And some who are accustomed to the old ways of working, are going to rage against the new dawn. But for those accepting of change, this new dawn will, finally, bring us a meritorious world, an age-less world, a world where seniority (never the indicator of quality) takes a backseat to skill.

Recently, I mentioned that I’ve begun earning a bit of scratch editing, proofreading, formatting, and providing analysis of other writer’s scripts and screenplays through an online freelance website. My five-star rating on that site has precisely nothing to do with my age, and precisely everything to do with my skill set providing clients with what they demand and expect.

That’s the hallmark of tomorrow—ability over age.

Provide clients or companies with the products or services they want, and you have lifetime employment opportunities, regardless of your location on the spectrum of life.

Again, yes—that landscape looks totally different than the nine-to-five world that workers have known for the last century. But that doesn’t mean the landscape is toxic. Corporate America stopped caring about workers long ago. They axed pension plans. They’ve cut back on healthcare coverage (particularly for retired workers) and/or jacked up premiums workers must pay. They care not about loyalty anymore and willingly slough off long-tenured and dedicated employees just to make attention-deficit addled Wall Street happy for a quarter or two.

But in this new age…I can find health coverage on my own that’s better and cheaper than what I was paying under a corporate plan. I can set aside my own dollars to funnel into retirement accounts, and while I might not collect an employer match, my healthcare savings and my ability to freelance (or my ability to reduce my costs by living in more affordable cities) means I can make up for some or all of that missing match.

And as for loyalty? Well, no one is more loyal to me than me. I will never fire myself. I will never downsize myself. I will never make myself redundant. I wake up every day and I can decide: Do I earn a bit of income today…or is this a day I want to relax or play or whatever? I can make that decision and, so long as I remain productive, never risk a phone call from an angry boss threatening to end my career.

So I come back to those two trans-Atlantic studies. They are, indeed, sad and truthful news for over-50 workers.

Then again, from the right mindset, they are an invitation to something better.

By Jeff D. Opdyke