Remember the old Steven King movie Children of the Corn? The one where they got rid of the adults and people that were too old? Well guess what? Age discrimination in the workforce happens. Companies get rid of people that are deemed too old even though it is illegal to do so. And they get away with it too. IBM and other tech firms have been recently sued many times over for age discrimination. It happens at non-tech firms too.
It it real? Probably yes. Most of the time it really comes down to companies wanting to make more money not with someone’s hair color. Out with the older, more expensive workers and in with the cheaper, younger workers with fresh skills who are easier to bully/bamboozle into thinking that working until 9 pm every night is normal. Companies care about money and they want to be seen as hip places to work to attract cheaper millennials with new skills so gotta get rid of older types to do so. As a person who has seen the financial side of a reorg it’s really about hitting a dollar and headcount target thus relatively expensive heads with low/mediocre reviews are at most risk. Later they hire cheaper backfills when the workload is too heavy for the remaining folks.
Normally in the corporate world this starts in mid 50s and continues into the 60s. In some industries like technology one can be considered over the hill at 40! Ouch. That makes for a short career! Better live a FIRE life saving 50% of your income if that’s the case.
So what is one to do?
First of all don’t plan to work until you are 65 at a major corporation. Sure it can happen but don’t plan on it. I don’t see many folks over 60 in the big companies unless they are senior executives or contractors/temps.
- Live frugally. Save 20-35% of your after tax income as we discussed and invest it.
- Save 15-25% of your income for retirement on a pre-tax basis in 401Ks and IRAs.
- Don’t carry debt whether it be student loans or credit card bills
- Pay off your car as soon as possible and don’t buy more than you can afford
- Own your house and pay it off as soon as possible
- Get other sources of income on the side
- Don’t waste your money on big boy toys like boats, RVs, motorcycles and jet skis
If the axe does fall you want to be in good shape financially.
- Getting hired in your sixties or late 50s is going to be a lot harder.
- It will take longer to find a job
- You may have to work as a temp with no benefits thereby inhibiting your ability to save for retirement
- You may get hired but at a lower pay scale thereby crimping your ability to save
- You may have to switch to a lower paid career track.
- You may end up at a smaller org that pays less as it can’t afford to pay more
- You may end up in a series of gig jobs driving for Uber, picking up groceries, slinging hamburgers, working as a security guard or cashier. They aren’t going to hire 65 year olds for high paying manual labor jobs at the housing development construction site or the Toyota automobile assembly line as you may not be able to physically keep up.
My point is be ready now so your retirement is not derailed by an event like that. If the guy that gets laid off at 60 has his house paid for, tons saved for retirement and no debts well if he doesn’t get another high paying job it will be ok.
Contrast that with Mr. Old who rents or hasn’t paid off his house, has a car loan, limited retirement savings, credit card bills and little real savings. That man is forced to take any job he can get no matter how bad. “Do you want fries with that sir?”
Don’t end up like these folks…unless you want to and some people do like to work to keep busy. That’s totally ok and admirable. However you want it to be optional not something one is forced to do because one is broke.
Keep your skills fresh.
Learn the latest tricks, lingo, programming languages and methods in your field.
Don’t let your outdated skills age like you!
Don’t look old! What do you mean by that Mr. Cash Hoarder?!?
- Stay fit, not fat. Be lean, mean and battle ready. That’s what the gym is for and it makes you feel more energetic and look trim.
- If you have a full head of grey or white hair think about dyeing it the natural color it used to be. Women do this all the time. I think guys should do it too. Make sure a hair pro does this so it doesn’t look weird or orange.
- If you are a guy and bald then shave it all off. Grow a goatee while you are at it to look more bad ass.
- Don’t be joe comb over. You can also go with short hard man style hair like a crew cut.
- Don’t wear outdated clothes, shoes or glasses. No horn rims from the 80s or those Tootsie style glasses. No 70s gold metal frames unless you are like 25.
- Never talk about the good old days in the 1960s or 70s or 80s before email, cell phones, internet or whatever new thing. That just makes you seem old to the younger group at the office.
- Don’t spend a lot of time in the sun without sunscreen or a hat. If your face looks like a leather ottoman it will be hard for you to claim you are really 42.
- In other words look and act younger than your age but not too young. There’s no need to get into street style. Keep it classy as in like timeless preppy classy. Think Brooks Brothers, Polo etc.
Most of all one needs to get while the getting is good and save when you can. The future is not guaranteed to be like the past!
But I am only 40! I am not worried.
Right, but the time to save is now! In ten to fifteen years you may well be subject to age discrimination. You need “F you money” should things go south. Live frugally and save now. If things go well you can retire when you feel like it not when some boss looking at an Excel spreadsheet tells you it’s time to go.