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Last week I shared my retirement plan. I targeted two arbitrary dates of my death (70 or 80) and worked my plan backwards. I briefly shared a couple of reasons I was planning on working longer and not really retiring until the very end.

This rotten economy we are still fighting through has exposed many of us to sleepless nights. More than one of my friends in their 50’s and 60’s lost their job and had to find new jobs. I am sure you read that millions lost the bulk of their savings, largely their retirement funds (stock market) and home equity. Who would have thought that burying your money in the backyard would have made you portfolio manager of the year!

I, too, certainly took my lumps in the great recession. I will share my family’s 2008 story someday…But at the very darkest moment for me, a peace fell over me when I realized that it was ok if I lost it all.  I would start again! I am not kidding. I was actually excited, not with the thought of losing everything but that I had the ability, the health, the attitude to start again.

One of my favorite poems is “If…” by Rudyard Kipling. Here is a great stanza from If:

“If you can make on heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss.”

I love that!  Risking everything on a game of chance: isn’t that what life is? We fight so hard to hang onto our possessions and often it’s like grabbing a wet bar of soap. The more we squeeze, the less control we have. But we risk…and lose…and start again…and never breathe a word about our loss!

That last part is huge. No complaining. No whining. No excuses.  Start again. The bread lines are full of people who have given up.

So I want to briefly discuss the current situation facing the baby boomers still in the work force and how they should prepare themselves to work as long as they want to/need to.

First, a few facts.

There is an interesting phenomenon occurring in the work place. As I write this, the proportion of people with jobs in their early 60’s has fallen, as a weak economy has limited hiring. But the proportion of people with jobs in the 65 to 69 age range has risen.

In other words, the people who have jobs are hanging onto them and are working longer than normal. And those over 60 who don’t have jobs are having a tough time getting hired. (Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Why aren’t our senior people getting hired? I don’t get it. So once you hit 60, does some cosmic force wipe out their skill sets, their memories and their experience?

Currently in the U.S. Senate, there are 4 senators in the 80’s, 23 are in their 70’s, 36 are in their 60’s, 29 are in their 50’s and 8 are in their 40’s. Median age: 63! Shoot, Frank Lautenberg, our oldest senator, was born in 1924! These folks are running our country!

I read a news article a number of years ago that members of the board of directors for Walt Disney were forced to retire at age 77.  Forced! Are you kidding me?  I love it. That is when I plan to retire. I am going to force myself to step down at age 77, if the Lord should so tarry. And I plan on giving myself a big plaque and a watch to commemorate my many years of not being a freeloader!

I believe that people 50 and over have to start re-thinking their end game strategies. To me, the people who say, “No way am I going to be working after I’m 65” are setting themselves up for disaster. Think positive but prepare for the worst. Look at Social Insecurity as a band aid, nothing more.

Here are 8 keys Oldies need to get the gold and get hired/ stay hired:

  1. Stay sharp…don’t get left behind. This is huge! Get current and stay current. I know you think your current job may last forever, and it might. But what if layoffs are looming…will you make the team? Or your company closes and you are out on the street looking. How hireable are yo?.  Now you get it!  Keep sharpening the ax.
  2. Stay fit. Two of the big keys to aging are “marbles and mobility.” Lose either one and life gets tougher. Your mind makes you money but your body carries your brain.
  3. Grooming. It’s ok to look your age, so go easy on the botox. But do get age spots removed, hair neatly kept, professional makeup for the ladies, fingers trimmed, shower regularly, clothes washed/dry cleaned.
  4. New clothes. If the last suit you bought was for the Eisenhower inaugural ball, it’s time to let loose of some of your moldy money and refresh your image. No polyester, please. And no discount houses.  You get what you pay for.
  5. Sell the Crown Victoria and buy BMW/Audi/ Lexus modern car. Used is ok but old American bombs scream desperation.
  6. Don’t let ‘em see you sweat…never communicate desperation.
  7. Never communicate boredom…do communicate you love what you are doing! People love to be around enthusiastic people.
  8. Be socially relevant. Stay up to date with current events/movies/politics.

Also, know the reasons employers have been known to shy away from hiring and or retaining senior workers. There is a great article in US News article by Emily Brandon that talks about this. Here are the top challenges:

  • Out of date skills
  • High salary expectations
  • Younger bosses: can you work for someone younger than you?
  • Expensive health benefits
  • Retirement expectations

“Employers are in a position to select from a bounty of highly skilled, well-educated, and most cost-effective applicants,” says Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of The WorkPlace, a workforce development firm in Bridgeport, Conn. “Without ongoing efforts to keep skills current during protracted periods of unemployment, the less marketable a person becomes.”

Finally, I leave you with one of my favorite stories. It’s in the Bible, where many answers are located. I hope this fires you up as much as it has me!

In Joshua Chapter 14, the Israelites just moved into the Promised Land and had fought many battles and they are now dividing up the land between the different tribes. A “senior citizen” named Caleb came before the leaders and made his request to be granted the right to go fight the last enemy of Israel.
“So here I am today, eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me….the Anakites are there and their cities are large and fortified but if the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out!”

85 years old and Caleb still looking for a good fight!  Wow!

Good luck in your battles! Stay sharp! Believe in yourself!

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