Thursday, April 2, 2020
April 2, 2020

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Weston: Older workers, be proactive


Many people plan to work past normal retirement age, by choice or necessity. But most aren’t taking the steps that could increase the odds they’ll be able to do so.

When asked what they’re doing to ensure they can continue working past 65, fewer than half of employees polled in the 2019 Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers say they’re trying to stay healthy. Similar numbers cited performing well in their current positions (43 percent) or keeping their job skills up to date (40 percent). More than 1 in 4 workers say they aren’t doing anything to ensure they remain employed longer.

Workers of the world, wake up. Bad health, layoffs and age discrimination sideline many people who expected to work longer. Surveys show that anywhere from 37 percent to 56 percent of retirees leave the job market earlier than planned. That can be catastrophic for your finances and your retirement.

You can do everything right and still not be guaranteed a long working life. If you want the best shot at working past 65 , it pays to be proactive.

Stay engaged

Workers 55 and older are more likely to be enthusiastic about, and committed to, their work than younger generations, according to a 2015 AARP poll. Older workers need to put that engagement on display.

“You don’t want to be viewed as the person who’s coasting to retirement,” says Laurie McCann, senior attorney for AARP Foundation. “So you want to remain productive, to volunteer, to basically be assertive.”

Being assertive doesn’t mean talking down to younger co-workers. Instead, McCann suggests volunteering for projects and age-diverse work teams with the attitude that you have something to contribute.

Keep learning

We’re living in a world where nearly half of all jobs are vulnerable to automation and many occupations of the future haven’t been invented yet.

So it may not be enough to be good at what you do. You’ll want to get good at what your company or industry needs next. Try asking your boss or human resources folks about what skills are currently hard for them to find. Stay up to date on your field’s technology, consider adding credentials and “be greedy” about new experiences, says Barbara Mistick , co-author of “Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace” and president of Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa.

Mistick says she attends at least one conference a year that’s outside her field just to meet new people and learn new things. She also creates a plan every year for her career growth, and urges others to do the same.

“Your professional development is your own responsibility,” she says.

Keep looking

Our social and professional circles can shrink as we age. If we want to stay engaged, we should keep diversifying our networks with people of various ages and in different industries, since our next jobs may be in entirely new fields, says Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

“(Networking) can help you meet new people, build professional relationships, inspire new ways of thinking and identify career opportunities,” Collinson says.

Mistick says it’s also important for older workers to have some kind of social media presence. She recommends picking one or two avenues — LinkedIn and Twitter, for example, or Instagram — and focusing your efforts there.

Even if you’re happy in your current job, you should pay attention to who’s hiring, what skills are in demand and the trends affecting your field so you’re not caught unprepared by change.