Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fiscal Crisis: Assessment for Retirees: Go back to work?

So, what does all of this fiscal crisis mean for retirees? Oh, please—we’ve heard about dwindling IRA’s and 401K’s for the past two weeks. I dread the opening tomorrow, because underneath the emergency credit flow rescue, the fundamentals are bad. We don’t have an anchor on how to maintain our standard of living in a sustainable manner. Yes, we need a Pickens Plan and a number of them. Yet, that, to many seniors, seems like the next generation’s problem. But those are “our” kids and grandkids. I do recall, as I write this, the best students when I substitute taught. They’re going to have to solve this problem. They’re going to remember calculus test problems when they have to solve real ones.

And there is another reason to worry. The banking system is in disarray because the whole system that tells banks how much they can safely lend has broken down. That system resides in artificial financial instruments that no one understood. What happens is that the real economy comes back to real value in the products and work of real people.

So, some seniors are faced with going back to work. Maybe I am. There is a perception that employers won’t want us, because we will “cost” too much. I can imagine a future of night shifts at 7/11’s, “paying my dues” again, bringing back the mood of the military draft.

The best chance for employment is some scenario that takes advantage of a particular “wisdom” that a senior has accumulated. One looks for opportunities where intellectual or job disciplines need to be combined in unusual ways, analytical jobs involving “connecting the dots” that sometimes only older people will have enough life experiences to be able to see.

One observation is that a lot of senior employment opportunities have involved selling things. Thankfully, perhaps, the pressure to go to work selling cheesy financial products or lifestyle amenities might go away as the economic crisis exposes the folly of the “always be closing” sales mentality. On the other hand, employment in areas requiring “intimate” contact with others – something many people find unwelcome in our individualistic world – is likely to increase because of eldercare demographics.

It's important to remember that the almost exponential increase in the demand for end-of-life care could become a major component of the next major economic shock and public policy challenge.

The worst thing that could happen for the economy Monday morning (tomorrow!) might be if every retiree sold all of his or her stocks out of fear. You could have a run on equities just like a run on the banks or money market funds. Then the market would tailspin into an immediate depression dwarfing the size of the federal bailout on Friday.

The Metro section of the Sunday Washington Post has a story by Pamela Constable, “Struggling Seniors: A Fiscal Lesson for the Ages: For Some, the Economic Turmoil Is a Grim Reminder of Past Crises. For Others, It Marks a New Fear. Across the Region and Across the Spectrum, Residents Are Adjusting to Changes in Their Fortunes, link here.

Ther AARP links for job-finding for retirees are here and especially ("2008 Best Employers For Workers Over 50") this.

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