Dick Maynard Column November 05, 2008

Welcome to geezer hell: the workplace

Back to the grindstone. With the Dow falling faster than the Cubs at season’s end, many retirees are experiencing first-rate panic when peeking at the family portfolio. This is the nest egg, until about two months ago. That was not only going to be sufficient till the ultimate power nap but also leave a little left over for the kids.

So after dealing with “What happened?”, many geezers have concluded it might be time to get off the couch and return to a working life, at least part time.

Surprise, just as the family savings is not what it used to be, neither is the “help wanted” market.

This is particularly true in positions of interest to the over-60 set, jobs requiring no heavy lifting.

The stiff competition today, even for part-time jobs, comes from those recently furloughed, people going through an involuntary “career change” due to an economy gone south. According to current gallows humor, “How do you get the attention of a mortgage broker? Hey bartender!” When your career of choice suddenly vanishes, even the younger set recognizes “Welcome to Wal-Mart” as an employment opportunity.

Then there’s the “how honest should a geezer be” question when filling out job applications. A retired friend, recently exiled to the couch by recovery from shoulder surgery, decided to alleviate the boredom, plus get out of the house, by finding work.

Assuming one could steer with a bum shoulder, he answered a rental car company ad seeking drivers. The application for employment asked, “What was the salary at your previous position?”

Well, he earned heavy-duty bread at his last job a decade ago. But they didn’t ask when, only a dollar figure. So he filled in the truthful number.  The next question seemed off the wall. “Have you finished sowing your wild oats?” Well, he reasoned, even at age 60-plus, hope springs eternal so he answered, “No.” The rental car company never called back. Seemingly they weren’t interested in what, on paper, appeared to be an aging, high income, self-professed playboy.

For geezer guidance in returning to the steady paycheck rat race, one can turn to the Internet. Just last week CareerBuilder.com, published a self-help epistle entitled “The Top 10 Part-Time Jobs.”

Some help. Top part-time jobs numbering one through eight displayed picayune requirements precluding my participation. Like a college degree (teacher or pharmacist), getting lightheaded at the sight of blood (nurse) or thinking the solution to any mental or emotional problem is “hey dude, cowboy up” (clinical and school psychologist).

Security guard? Too dangerous. Truck driver? Bad food and gone too long. But at No. 9 was the perfect part-time job: speech therapist. Did I qualify? Absolutely not. But my wife, the one who promised to love, honor and make sure my enunciation was better than Barbara Walters, has almost 25 years experience as a speech pathologist.

It was difficult containing my excitement detailing how we should worry not about the family 401(k) hitting the skids. She could go back to work. The price for her return to the workaday world seemed a bit high. Something about over my dead body.

That seemed harsh. Do you think she forgot about the job being part-time?


Dick Maynard can be reached via e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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