What retirement? Americans will have to work longer, we've been warned. Fewer companies guarantee pensions.
With more old people to maintain, Congress is weighing plans to limit Social Security and Medicare, raising qualifying ages, and curbing benefit increases. "Our big entitlements are going to have reform so they are there for the next generation," as Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania warned recently.
So keep working. But where? For a lot of managers and salespeople, already used to having to switch jobs and projects every few years, opportunity slows with age, leaving the future foggy.
"I did not realize myself until I reentered the job market" how tough it is for older business people, says a man we'll call Irish Bill, who lives in northern Delaware County. Bill, who is 62, asked that I keep his last name off his story because he's still tangled in confidentiality agreements. "I have over forty years' experience in construction financial management, construction management, and commercial real estate management and development," Bill told me.
"About a year ago, I concluded an engagement, as a consultant, with a large financial institution that had almost $200 million in bad construction and development loans. They brought me in to finish and sell this distressed portfolio." The project took four years. He moved the properties, then "took a little time off, and decided that instead of trying to resume my consulting practice, I would explore employment situations where I might be able to use my vast experience to assist a younger operation that might value it."
But when Bill went looking for his next stop, he realized he'd crossed an invisible line -- of age, time, some indefinable barrier that locked his career into the past.
"Boy, were my eyes opened," he told me.
First, he went to an executive recruiter, who "informed me he was not in a position to try and help me. When I asked why, he informed me that placing someone over 50 was extremely difficult, but someone over 60 was almost impossible. In fact, he informed me that, should he present me, he would probably lose that client and most likely his job."
Next, he tried a professional-staffing firm to fill a construction-management opening. Based on his resume, he recalled that the staff told him "I was the best candidate, with unbelievable experience and a great fit."
Bill was encouraged, despite the low pay offered. But the clients "felt that that I was overqualified. They were afraid of me finding another opportunity and leaving in the middle of the project. I offered to sign a contract which would alleviate those concerns." No reply.