A frequent television ad features a handsome older couple who thought they had planned well for retirement but realized they needed another income source. They quickly discover (it’s a 30-second ad) that there’s value in their whole life insurance policy. Presto! Problem solved. Nice for them, but what about the real world?
Even before COVID-19, working beyond the Social Security retirement age was a rapidly growing trend. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that seniors are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce. The proportion of those over 65 working part- or full-time is projected to grow in the next decade to one-third from about 20 percent. The effects of coronavirus shutdowns likely will accelerate this trend.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on late-stage careers, portfolios and retirement plans. It affects our age group because we are physically, and oftentimes financially, more at risk. If you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic, or have determined your shrunken portfolio needs a paycheck boost, what are promising areas for work?
Despite the dire unemployment figures, there are areas of hope for seniors seeking employment. FlexJobs is one online job market whose focus is flexible and remote work. According to AARP, FlexJobs reported a 4 percent increase in remote job listings in the first month of pandemic restrictions. Many other online platforms cater specifically to the experience and assets of old workers.
Work at Home Vintage Experts (www.WAHVE.com) matches younger seniors seeking flexible and part-time work with insurance, human resources and accounting jobs. Silvernest operates a site (www.silvernest.com) enabling homeowning seniors with empty bedrooms to find reliable renters.
My favorite in pre-coronavirus times was CoolWorks, catering to outdoor enthusiasts. Their focus is on mostly seasonal, hands-on work in resorts, national parks, farms and ranches. Their home page announces, “Cool Works also encourages athletic retirees with a yen for adventure to think about these positions.”
AARP suggests a host of career opportunities that can be good matches for seniors. These include teachers, telehealth nurses, consultants, bookkeepers, virtual assistants, translators, writers, customer service reps, negotiators, claims investigators, speech pathologists, fundraising coordinators, school psychologists, sales reps and software engineers. A recent study by payroll experts at ADP found that roughly one-third of contract workers are older than 55.
One job, in particular, is suddenly in high demand. It’s one that most of us had never heard of until just a few months ago: contact tracer. Based on state populations and projected COVID-19 infection rates, experts estimate that between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers will be needed nationwide. They can earn up to $65,000 per year.
“It’s a fantastic job for people who have been furloughed,” stated Roger Shapiro, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It takes some training, but it’s not impossible to train almost anybody with reasonable social skills who can work off a script, begin a conversation with people, convey a few key messages and collect data.”
Contact-tracer hiring initiatives have been underway for months in some states. Check with your local and state health departments.
Do what you enjoy
With so many avenues to follow, where do you begin? It may not be cost-effective to decide that now is the time to train as a brain surgeon or a deep-sea diver. Nevertheless, there is a match for you somewhere between experiences you’ve garnered over the years and an urge to serve in a particular way.
More than any other age group, seniors are more likely to claim that the primary reason they’re working is to “do what I enjoy.” Follow your head and your heart, and you will find a way to fill your purse.
2020 senior-friendly companies
Another promising way to jump into the marketplace is to check out businesses that have demonstrated senior-friendly practices (see www.agefriendlyfoundation.org). Some companies you may have heard of include:
• Comcast Cable
• H&R Block Tax Services
• Home Helpers
• Internal Revenue Service
• Kelly Services, Inc.
• La Quinta Hotels
• Marriott Vacation Clubs
• Peace Corps
• Quest Diagnostics
• Right at Home
• Starbucks Coffee
• Synergy HomeCare
• The Home Depot
• Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
• Wells Fargo
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Karen Telleen-Lawton, a Certified Financial Planner®, enjoys being on the go: stand-up paddle-boarding, hiking, biking, gardening, and cooking. With her husband David she is a volunteer naturalist for Channel Island National Park and Marine Sanctuary, off Santa Barbara’s coast. Karen is the principal of Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory (www.DecisivePath.com) as well as an author and writer (CanyonVoices.com). Karen and David have two grown children, a son-in-law and two grandchildren with a third grandchild on the way.