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 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?


Total Compensation: Hot Lunches, Beer, and Cigarettes

Government sponsored alcoholism is now keeping the streets of Amsterdam clean and tidy.  Each morning at 9 a.m., alcoholics arrive at a Rainbow Group Center to begin work, removing litter from the streets and sidewalks, as well as from nearby Oosterpark. These workers ” take extended breaks for beer, cigarettes and a hot lunch, all provided free of charge,” before ending their workday at 3 p.m. So far local residents support the program. Since it began, “local police have received fewer reports of stabbings and muggings in the park.


Oosterpark, Amsterdam

While the Dutch government does not fund the entire program, it is the primary sponsor. Critiques may complain that the government is not only enabling but fueling alcoholism. Proponents counter that the program offers  meaning and purpose to its participants’ lives. They also point out the savings generated by fewer arrests exceeds the cost of  providing people with beer, cigarettes, and  food in exchange for their services.

What’s your take?  Will this strategy attract unemployed alcoholics to Amsterdam just as the country’s decriminalization of marijuana  has attracted pot users as a Dutch tourist industry? Or is it a creative, humane way to reduce both litter and panhandling in one fell swoop?

Unemployed Need Not Apply

A non-profit organization in our area is well known for its program to help unemployed individuals find work.  Imagine my surprise yesterday when I read a job posting from this organization for an Executive Coordinator. The posting ended with a statement that any applicants who had not been employed continuously for the past six months would not be considered for the position.

In other words, while this organization continues to solicit and receive funds from contributors to coach job seekers on how to best find work,  they themselves would not consider any of these job seekers, no matter how qualified, for employment.

This ad epitomizes a trend among employers around the country. They separate applicants into two categories: the Haves and the Have Nots. Those who currently have a job are considered for hire; those who do not are automatically excluded. One could make a case that having a job, any job no matter how menial, reflects a certain integrity and work ethic valued by prospective employers. However in an era when even the most menial jobs are difficult to come by, treating current employment as a prerequisite condemns the currently unemployed to become even more unemployable as the gap on their resumes continues to widen.