In a half hour I am meeting a friend at a bagel shop. Her job with a company she’s been with for twenty years is in jeopardy. I’m sure I’ll hear again everything she’s already told me, but part of being a good friend is sitting through the anguish of another. I’m good at that.
I am going through my own turmoil but will try to keep my emotions in check and listen to her because I remember what it was like for us when my husband lost his job and had to scramble to find another. The job he currently has is the job he took then, in 2012, spur of the moment and just in time. It’s not by any means the perfect fit for him, but at nearly 55, he is happy to have employment. Even though the recession is behind us and things are looking up, men and women in their 50s still have the hardest time of anyone finding meaningful employment.
This is from a June 2012 Wall Street Journal article titled “For Middle-Aged Job Seekers, a Long Road Back”:
“As of May , the unemployment rate for people ages 45 to 64 was 6%, some 10 points lower than for people under 25. But the lower rate disguises the fact that when middle-aged people lose their jobs, it’s much harder for them to find a new one. Those between 45 and 64 take almost a year on average to find a job, more than two months longer than workers between 25 and 44.”
We’re supposed to be in the prime earning period of our lives in middle age, sending kids to college, beefing up the nest egg for the next chapter in our lives–retirement. But after the recession, employers got savvy about who to keep on and who to let go and they chose to save money by hiring the young, who are willing to make less money when starting out in their careers.
My friend is contemplating taking the severance package if it’s offered, and it should be, and then taking a part-time job to make ends meet and until she can pay off her condo. She’s also considering moving to a less-expensive part of the country, which, if you live in Southern California, is just about anywhere else.
In the meantime, my husband holds on to his job by a shoestring. If he were to be let go, and his little firm has a history of letting people go on a regular basis, we are not sure what we’ll do. He’s been looking for work for years. He came close a couple times, but nothing panned out. Once again, the firms are opting to hire the young and inexperienced to give them a reason to pay less. Ironically, the job my husband took is for someone with five years’ work experience, not the 25 he has, but he had to take that pay in order to be employed. It’s not our parents’ America anymore. And our kids will have it even worse, I’m afraid.
My work, unfortunately, has also petered out dramatically in the past year. As a freelancer, I’m hired as needed and not used whenever the work slows or stops. I have zero job security, and it stinks. I’ve lost a lot of work this past year and a lot of my income. One-third. And I look constantly for more work, but it’s all so piecemeal that even if I get something to keep me busy, it’s often short term and the pay is horrific. I just wrote some entries for a book and my paycheck when the book is published, probably in 2016, will be a meager $250! For about twenty hours of work.
Well, it’s about time to go meet my friend, listen to her woes, and provide support. If nothing else, we middle-aged have a lot of support because there are a lot of us in the same predicament. Unfortunately.