I often like to have conversations with older coworkers or with an elderly person on a hike or at the mall.
Once we get past the niceties of small talk, a common theme seems to come up — the topic of employment. My older friends ask me about my plans for the future and I ask them about how they got to their current position — as its useful for me to learn from people who have gone through similar situations as myself.
Usually, their conversations seem to drift to the lack of job security at their age. They worry about the threat of young people who are new to the workforce. These younger people seem to have a much easier time picking up new technologies.
This is especially worsened among people in information technology and computer science — but it can also affect those in fields such as finance, business, and pretty much any office job.
One friend, who is a senior software engineer said that his company was laying off many older employees and opting for lower-cost fresh college grads and immigrants from India.
Where they would have to pay my friend upwards of $100,000.00, they can pay a new college grad or immigrant $50,000.00. There is a slight learning curve, but after a few months, these cheaper workers are worth it.
A common theme among these older workers is that they have to constantly brush up on skills and have a constant fear of being replaced.
This fact had another one of my friends doubting the viability of computer science and other technology-based jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software development is set to grow 21% (BLS.gov). This is much faster than the average growth of about 8%.
But to many, this isn’t an accurate depiction of this career path. Many show fears that technology and automation will replace their jobs. Many more see immigrants and cheaper labor as ruining their career choice in software engineering.
In the United States, 56% of workers over 50 leave their jobs involuntarily (McLaren, LinkedIn Business).
According to a survey — State of Startups — conducted by First Round, 88.7% of people reported that older people face age discrimination in the technology field(State of Startups, First Round).
This can present an issue as most of these people are nearing retirement and will most likely need to be supported by social programs run by the government.
This burden will be placed on younger generations, which is another reason younger people should care about this.
So what should older workers do? What can younger workers do to prepare?
Expect to be laid off
You should prepare for the possibility of being laid off 15 years before the common age of retirement. Make adjustments in your finances to make sure you have enough saved away for this unforeseen circumstance. Contribute more to your retirement and live minimally. Don’t spend money on a yacht or a fancy car. Use that money wisely and invest.
Don’t let hope triumph over experience and lead you to think you will quickly find another job that pays as much. On the contrary, you should assume you will not. The AARP reports that, after being laid off [at an advanced age], “90 percent never earn as much again.” (Hulbert, Market Watch)
That being said, you must adjust and prepare for this reality. You may also have to end up working longer than expected. With longer life expectancies and the work culture inherent in the United States, many will continue to work well after what was considered normal a few decades ago.
Consider Your Career Path
Younger people may want to reconsider their career paths as well. They should ask themselves if their career is one where their value will decrease with age, or if it is experience-based. Job growth isn’t the only factor to consider in choosing a job.
The fact is that tech fields will always have smaller learning curves as generations are subjected to newer technologies whereas a job as a professor, for example, may place more value on experience.
Consider Having a Side Hustle
Another idea I would recommend is self-employment or side hustles. There is no doubt that the economy has changed in the past 50 years. Now, some people must rely on self-employment or side hustles in addition to their jobs to stay afloat.
If you are a software developer, try taking on side projects and side gigs. Chances are you will get paid much higher rates than at your job for specific projects.
The problem is that you don’t have access to clients — that’s why you work for a company in the first place. Try building a freelance business and gaining clients. This way, you’ll have something in place in case you lose your job.
This applies to every job and I highly advocate a side hustle in this job climate. People can get laid off at any moment and it is best to be prepared.
The only constant of life is that it is always changing — so don’t be unprepared.
Fads and new technologies have always been shaping the world and the life of the average worker — and will continue to do so.
Be wise and do as much as you can to prepare by investing, choosing your career path wisely, and having a side hustle to fall back on.
Unfortunately, the world will not stop for you, so you must keep adapting.
If you liked this, please follow The Personal Finance Guide, my guide on everything finance.