Retirement used to mean long, work-free days spent on the golf course or the beach. Not anymore.
Today’s retirees face a unique set of financial challenges, including how to achieve financial stability in a low-yield environment, in an age in which greater life expectancy slowly drains one’s finances. Retirees are also more likely to be less dependent than their parents on fixed pensions, and more reliant on less secure 401(k)s, which are vulnerable to the whims of the stock market.
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A man who reaches age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until 84, according to the Social Security Administration. One of every four 65-year-olds will live past age 90.
In addition to living longer, today’s older Americans are healthier. Between 1983 and 2007, the share of adults ages 55 to 64 considered to be in fair or poor health declined from 25 to 19 percent and for those ages 75 to 74 from 33 to 22 percent, according to data from the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy.
Such conditions are sending many retirees back to the workplace. A recent study by Merrill Lynch found that from 2006 to 2011, the number of workers age 55 and older increased by more than 4 million, while every other age group lost jobs. By 2018, 24 percent of the American workforce will be older than age 55, up from 18 percent in 2008 – making them the largest cohort of workers in the labor pool.
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The employment outlook for today's retirees is bright: Roughly 48 percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder.com in February said they plan to hire workers age 50-plus this year.
Still, for many employers, older workers aren’t desirable. “Don’t kid yourself: Age discrimination exists,” says Nancy Collamer a career coach in Old Greenwich, Conn. and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement.
Lance Jackson agrees. After several years of retirement, the 60-year-old designer at the Orange County Register in California says it took him 14 months to land a full-time job. “I have found that ageism is rampant in human resources,” Jackson says. “There is certainly part-time work, [but] that is not gainful employment.”
A number of retirees use senior-friendly job sites like Seniors4Hire.org, RetiredBrains.com, and TheSeniorSource.org to narrow their search. To find grade-A employment after retirement, however, you’ll need a bulletproof resume, savvy interview skills, and a way to demonstrate that your age doesn’t limit your worth. Follow these tips to find a successful encore career.
Nail Your LinkedIn Page. A robust LinkedIn profile gains visibility and shows prospective employers that you understand the importance of an online presence, says career coach Collamer. Rule no. 1 is simple: Never use the word ‘retired.’ Under your most recent experience, include volunteer work and any other activities to show you’re still engaged and active.
Many seasoned job seekers make the mistake of only listing one or two positions in an effort to appear younger to prospective employers, says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. Scratch that. “As a mature employee, your experience and longevity in the workplace is what differentiates you from younger job seekers,” she says.
Ask former colleagues for recommendations, gently suggesting they help counter ‘older worker’ stereotypes, advises Williams. It’s beneficial, for example, if a former coworker says you have timely ideas. If possible, get a recommendation from a millennial or Gen-Y worker. “Having a younger colleague sing your praises will also showcase your connection to a younger generation,” Williams says.
Be quick to make at least 50 connections. If you only have a few, Williams says potential employers might think you created a LinkedIn profile just for the sake of joining.
Tune In to Today’s Trends. Hiring managers want to know a prospective employee is current in terms of where his or her field is headed. You can get a sense of what the hot-button issues are by attending industry conferences, says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Plus, you get face time with potential employers.
If job listings ask for skills you don’t have, take a class at local community college or online via a massive open online course (MOOC). Community colleges are also a great source for career-related events.
Refresh Your Resume. Focus on the top third of your resume. That’s prime real estate, says Dawn Bugni, a former job recruiter and professional resume writer in Wilmington, N.C. It’s where you capture, or lose, a hiring manager’s attention, and it typically takes only 5 to 10 seconds for an employer to make up his mind.
A common slip-up among older job seekers is leading with education. “Education is important, but the fact that someone got a bachelor’s in liberal arts 40 years ago means almost nothing,” Bugni says, with the exception of mentioning a Ph.D. if the job requires one.
Bugni recommends starting with a short summary highlighting your primary skills. Then, as a general rule of thumb: Mirror the structure of the job posting.
Use Finesse. Once you’re in the door, you need a strong interview to snag the position. This far into your professional career, you know a thing or two about presenting yourself to a prospective employer. Just don’t let your age — or financial situation — get in the way.
“Coming off as someone who needs to go back to work doesn’t put you in a flattering light,” Collamer says. Instead, when asked why you’re reentering the labor force, frame a positive response, such as you want a new challenge and miss being in the workplace. “Those are valid reasons, and that’s what employers like to hear,” Collamer says.