Age Discrimination Pushes Baby Boomers to Become Encore Entrepreneurs

Open for BusinessEarlier this month I blogged about the growing number of Baby Boomers who are exiting one career to start something totally new.  While many of these Boomers do so because they are seeking a more rewarding way to spend their final decade or two in the workforce, others are making the leap out of sheer necessity.

Despite the Age Discrimination Act, once an older worker is unemployed, he remains jobless for longer periods than his younger counterparts. In 2012-2013, the average duration of unemployment for older people was 53 weeks, compared with 19 weeks for teenagers.

In a PBS Newshour broadcast, Economist Alicia Munnell commented that employers worry about the older applicants’  “ability to learn new things, about their physical stamina and basically how long are they going to stay.”

This would explain why those who do find work  often take jobs which pay far less than the salaries they were earning before. In the face of unemployment and underemployment, a growing number of Americans over age fifty are showing  resilience by starting businesses of their own.  In fact,  people aged  55 to 64 started nearly a quarter of all new businesses in the US in 2012.

If you or someone you’re close to is thinking about starting a business, The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) “has a number of resources and tools to help encore entrepreneurs effectively prepare for starting and running a small business, including business planning, mentoring and financial assistance.” It also works with numerous local partners throughout the country “to counsel, mentor, and train small businesses.”  Enter your zip code to connect with an SBA Office and local resources in your area.  In addition, the  SBA  offers a free online course for entrepreneurs age fifty and older.

Hungry for more? The Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons   (AARP) is currently hosting an online Encore Entrepreneurship Webinar Series. Or check out the video-series The Khan Academy has put together in which successful entrepreneurs share personal lessons and insights.

You can find a descriptive list of additional  resources, on my earlier post  about Baby Boomers shifting gears and starting whole new careers.

As Tim Devaney and Tom Stein put it in their Forbes.com article Encore Entrepreneurs: Big Dreams for Small Business Owners, “Fifty is not the new 40. It’s not even the new 30. For an increasing number of Americans, 50 is the new 20, a time to decide what they want to do with the rest of their life.”

Are you one of those people?

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Europeans Exporting Aging Parents to Thailand

While Millennials take pride in demanding and achieving a Work-Life Balance, an increasing number of Generation Xers and Baby Boomers are experiencing Work-Life Overload as they join the ranks of the  Sandwich Generation. This term was coined to describe adults who are, at once,  responsible for both their children and their aging parents.

As Economics Reporter  Tavia Grant recently put it, “They call it the sandwich generation, but the reality for many is crushed, flattened panini.”

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2050, the number of people who make it past their 80th birthday is expected to almost quadruple to 395 million – the age after which one in six people are estimated to have developed dementia.

With parents  living longer than ever before and adult children moving back home in droves, more and more workers in their forties and fifties are finding themselves in this often economically and emotionally costly situation, especially if the aging parent is suffering from dementia. According to Pew Research, “Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.”

Enter Switzerland. Some Swiss citizens are dealing with this issue by sending their aging parents in assisted living centers in Thailand,  Other overloaded workers across the European Union are now following suit. Some of them, especially those with full-time jobs, simply cannot provide the care parents suffering from advance Alzheimer’s Disease require and cannot afford to place them in really nice Assisted Living Centers or Nursing Homes in Europe or in the U.K.. These people have found that they are able to place their parents in much better facilities in Thailand.

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The most glaring downside to this is that the  children of these seniors rarely get to visit them. The Europeans justify this by noting that the parents they have relocated to Thailand have already reached the point that they no longer recognize their grown children when they visit them.

Another major consideration is the question of how these children can possibly monitor their parents’ long distance living environments to ensure that they are being well treated and not neglected or abused.

And one can only wonder what the people of Thailand,  a culture which values its elders and in which multi-generational households are the norm, make  of this trend.

The Gap Year – It’s Not Just for College Kids Anymore: Mid-Lifers Get in on the Act

This year the last of the baby boomers (Americans born between 1946 and 1964)  are turning fifty. Or would Baby Boomerangers be more apt? Unlike the majority of their parents who, armed with traditional pensions, were willing and able to disappear into the proverbial sunset upon retirement, many Baby Boomers, upon retiring from one profession, simply move  into another.

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In fact, as their life expectancy increases and traditional pensions become ever more rare, some baby boomers can’t afford to do otherwise.

A growing number of  Americans are opting for serial careers. They work in one field for twenty or thirty years and then leave it to start a business or to pursue a whole new profession. Before doing so, some take a  year off to explore their options or to get the education and training they need for what they call their second act  or encore career.

In its December 9, 2013 issue, The Wall Street Journal observed that, “More baby boomers are taking an extended leave from the working world. Their goal: to relax, re-energize and reflect upon what they want to do next – which often means heading down an entirely new and more fulfilling career path.”

As The Wall Street Journal suggests, it’s not always about the money. Some baby boomers can afford to retire, but cannot handle the thought of spending twenty years or more with no schedule to keep and  nothing productive to do.  Some of those who have already seen their children through college  and who have either paid off their homes or downsized to  less costly quarters, are trading in the high incomes they earn working long hours in high-pressure jobs for modest incomes doing something they love. At the same time, some of the people who have no need to supplement their retirement incomes are pursing volunteer work to give their lives fresh passion and purpose.

In its hard copy article, The Wall Street Journal provided a list of organizations that “can help those interested in taking a gap period to explore their next phase.” I’ve visited the listed organizations’ websites and am including links to and brief descriptions of the best ones below:

  •  Coming of Age helps people, age fifty and over, explore their futures and helps to connect them with opportunities, paid and unpaid, in their community.
  • Encore.org offers guidance, job leads, and networking  for individuals pursuing encore careers to provide purpose, passion, and a paycheck for their second act.
  •  Meet, Plan, Go! publishes a Career Break Newsletter and sponsors meet-ups for mid-lifers planning on taking a break.
  • The Transition Network “is an inclusive community of professional women, 50 and forward, whose changing life situations lead them to seek new connections, resources, and opportunities.”  It hosts chapter events and conferences.
  • Encore Fellowships offers paid fellowships  which “match skilled, experienced professionals with social-purpose organizations in high-impact assignments .”   Fellowships normally last six to twelve months.
  • If you live in or are able to relocate to  Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative makes it possible for a select group of individuals  ” to jump-start their next career” by exchanging  ideas with their peers and with faculty, mentoring students, leading study groups, sitting in on relevant courses, and participating in field immersion trips.
  • If you missed out on joining The Peace Corps when you were in your twenties, it’s not too late. Five-percent of recruits are now fifty or older.
  • ReServe connects professionals, age fifty-five and older, with non-profit organizations that  need their expertise. “Many use their experience with ReServe to launch new careers in the nonprofit sector.” The Wall Street Journal indicated that ReServe pays stipends to older professionals who work with non-profit and public agencies, but I did not see anything about a stipend on the organization’s website.

If you’re seriously thinking about taking a gap year, The Online Wall Street Journal  offers a “Blue Print for Taking a Break

Not sure you can afford to or even want to  Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out  (Timothy Leary’s 1967 mantra)  for six months to a year?  You don’t necessarily have to take a break in order to pursue an encore career. Learn new skills or secure additional credentials by taking  college classes in the evenings, on the weekends, or online, or start a business on the side from home as you prepare yourself to do something new. And network. Contacts are everything.

 Eat, Pray, Work.

The fat lady can’t sing until you relinquish the stage.