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Trenton Tmes, Saturday, November 06, 2010, 9:54 PM
Younger workers can be thankful that they probably will have time to get their savings back in order before they retire. For many older Americans, though, the financial collapse in the fall of 2008 and the havoc it wreaked on 401(k) nest eggs came just as they were nearing retirement, forcing them to rethink their strategies.
Many people have had to come out of retirement and jump back into a job market that is dramatically different from the way it was when they started their careers.
Locally, the Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) is working to address the needs of older job-seekers through its Engaged Retirement & Encore Career Center.
The program, started three years ago, was designed to get seniors involved in volunteerism and nonprofit organizations after they retired.
The idea of an “encore career” is nothing new. Born in 1998 from a California-based nonprofit group, Civic Ventures, the idea of a second or “encore” career after retirement was originally advanced by those who wanted to keep older people engaged and active in their communities.
“We’ve had a few different reinventions, and the most recent is about what we call the ‘Encore Career,’ which seems to be taking hold as the term for people finding another stage of work after what their primary work was,” said David Bank, vice president of Civic Ventures.
Many people today need to work longer, for financial reasons, Bank said. That’s true whether they were laid off or their career just ran its course, he said.
“Then came the fall of 2008, and the market was collapsing and we’re sitting around saying, ‘People aren’t going to retire if they don’t have to because their portfolios are now half of what they were before,” said Carol King, director of PSRC’s Engaged Retirement & Encore Career Center.
The center offers workshops aimed at helping retirees identify passions and interests that they can parlay into volunteer or career opportunities. The center has scheduled a series of workshops — next scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17 — that offer job search strategies for older workers.
Common challenges for older job-seekers include familiarity with technology and overcoming ageism when they interview with potential employers, King said.
“You read about ageism — the concept that the worker is obsolete, stuck in their ways, over the hill,” she said. “Most of this is not true. Older workers are more stable and steady, they have a better work ethic and they’re going to stay with you if they’re treated well.”
She said older workers should try to leverage the skills they already have and find ways to apply them in new contexts.
“We talk about the importance of volunteering, the need to expand and develop your skills into new skills,” she said. “If you want to move into another job, there’s a way to do it.”
“It’s extremely difficult when you’re in that (55 and over) age bracket and you’ve lost your job to find another one, especially to find one at the level you had before,” said King.
King, 72, should know. She’s been there.
After working in the hospitality industry for many years, and earning her doctorate in the subject from New York University, King was teaching at Temple University in 2004 when the budget for her program was eliminated. She was two months away from eligibility for Social Security.
While joblessness remains a major problem in the sluggishly recovering economy, the unemployment rate for those over 65 hovers near record highs: 6.2 percent last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For those who are 55 and over, the number is even worse: 7.2 percent.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the jobless rate for older American has doubled since December 2007.
“Whether they’ve been laid off, had a family emergency, or simply can’t survive on their retirement income, many older people desperately need to find a job or return to work,” said Sandra Nathan, senior vice president of economic security for NCOA.
While King took up teaching a handful of classes at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton to help fill the gap financially, she also decided to seek full-time employment. It was a choice less motivated by money and more by a desire to keep busy, she said.
“It was very quickly evident to me that sitting home by myself with unstructured time was deadly, and I knew very soon thereafter that that plan was not going to work for me,” she said. “I needed to get out and be with people, I needed to have structure.”
After volunteering at PSRC, she was eventually able to turn that experience into a paid position. She said it was a model that many older job-seekers could emulate.
“I must have had half-a-dozen jobs, little jobs, and they all came not through my professional background but through skills I had picked up as a volunteer or through contacts I had made about a volunteer,” she said.
For more information about Engaged Retirement & Encore Career Center programs or the upcoming workshops, contact Carol King at (609) 924-7108.
Contact Matt Fair at email@example.com or at (609) 989-5707.
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