Older Folks In The Work Force


Do you work to live or do you live to work? I know, you’re thinking that is really a good question. Let me ask it again. Do you work to live or do you live to work? If it is true that nearly half of Americans over the age of 50 have $25,000 or less stashed away for retirement, staying in the workforce longer obviously isn’t optional. Folks will stay because they must stay. They don’t have a choice. Even Wal-Mart doesn’t have the capacity to employee enough “greeters” to keep the baby boomer generation in groceries and pay their light bills. To say that the situation is grim is an understatement.

You know there are some enterprises where a youthful workforce is anticipated and expected. In recent months I’ve been surprised by the number of obviously older people who are now behind the counter at What-A-Burger and Wendy’s. The same is true for people sacking groceries. Older folks can be found in those venues as well. All those jobs used to be reserved for high school students.

I spent three years as a soda jerk at Otto’s Ice Cream in Odessa during my high school years. Of course, it was only a part-time job, but I enjoyed the time immensely. It gave me the opportunity to have my own money. It’s a nice concept. I remember carefully saving my first few paychecks to purchase a stereo. At the rate of $.50 and hour, it took a while, but I got the record player I wanted.

Purchasing power is addictive. Obviously it works best if you’re spending a stack of cash rather than producing a plastic credit card. The plastic credit card will come back to bite you. During my growing up years my dad taught me the importance of saving for a rainy day and under very few circumstances was it ever okay to borrow money. They were good life lessons to learn.

I guess collectively as a category of older people (baby boomers), most of us experienced a significant loss of investment income in 2008 & 2009 when the market tanked. Eventually the market corrected and we recovered or at least thought we did. Investment income is still a better plan than hiding cash under the mattress. Isn’t there a Biblical parable about a servant who buried what he’d been given and figuratively came up short because he didn’t let his resources work for him?

I say this tongue-in-cheek, but it is a true statement. In recent years, the General has often made the observation that money is worth more today than it will be tomorrow. That leads to the logical conclusion of why not spend it now? She makes a good point. Inflation and spiraling costs lend some level of credence to her observation. Of course, her idea of spending it is “nickel and dime” stuff at Williams Sonoma. My ideas would lead me to a car dealer or furniture store. I prefer the higher dollar ticket items. Consequently, it’s better that I don’t go shopping.

Of course, I’m still in the workforce. For how long, who knows? I keep telling my boss, at least ten more years. On a bad day, I reduce it to nine and a half. In recent weeks, I’ve given some thought to being a little more flexible. But who is to say? It is really a tough decision.

Rather than going cold turkey and walking out the door, why not plan an extended vacation and take some time away? It seems like a good plan, but that is a lot simpler said than done. Several years ago I told a colleague, “If you can be gone for two months without someone filling your job, then we really don’t need you.” Obviously there was an element of truth in my proclamation. He took two months off work and when he returned he resigned.

In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that President Reagan was 69 years old when he began serving in the Oval Office. What an incredible undertaking! I am not yet that old, but I am dangerously close. Give me a few more days and it’s all over but the shouting. Somehow it energizes me to learn that President Reagan was older than I when he embarked on what proved to be 8 consecutive years as President of the United States. Talk about a stressful occupation. Not only did he serve his country well, he is remembered as being an exceptional leader.

The next-to-oldest President was inaugurated on March 4, 1841. William Henry Harrison may no longer hold the title as the oldest President, but he still has the distinction of having the longest inaugural speech on record. Simply put, “President Harrison was not a man of few words”. Let me put it in perspective for you. His inaugural address was approximately the length of nine of my blogs merged into a single document. Can you imagine? I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking: “Give me liberty or give me death, but please don’t give me that”.

Some said the speech literally killed him or at least was responsible for his demise. It was uncharacteristically cold and rainy that day. Yet, President Harrison followed his resolve to utter every last word he’d written down. He had no intent to abbreviate his content or hurry through the delivery. Two hours later, he was done. Thirty-one days later, he was more than done. He was dead.

Was it the weather that lowered his resistance or was it his disregard for the need to wear a coat and hat? After all, the weather was inclement. President Harrison succumbed to pneumonia exactly one month to the day from when he started office. He may have had the longest inaugural address, but he is also recognized as the shortest tenured President in U.S. history. Someone expressed it like this: “No President has ever said more or done less.”

Following his death, his widow, Anna Harrison, became the first presidential widow to receive a pension from Congress. She was awarded a one-time payment of $25,000. Interestingly, that is the same amount I referenced earlier when I suggested almost half of those over the age of 50 today have less than $25,000. If only it would go as far as it did in 1841, our circumstances wouldn’t be nearly as bleak.

All My Best!






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