So, the retirement age has risen from 65 to 68. In an age when 40 is considered old by the upcoming generations, and the average workforce age for those in the growing industries (internet, online news etc) is just 35, what does that mean for those of us creeping up over the wrong side of 40 yet still in need of gainful (and increasingly higher salaried) employment?
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a woman at the bus stop (yes, I am aware that this doesn’t sound on the up and up) and we ended up discussing how hard it can be to find a job in the areas we practice. This woman (I’ll call her Jill, though that is not her name) mentioned how her sister had been in publishing for 25 years, yet when she was made redundant at 51, it became increasingly obvious that she was going to struggle to find a new job in this same industry. Where once experience was valued, it seems now the reverse is true. Of course, we have to give the younger generation a chance, but this does not mean they should automatically be stuck in positions of power that would have previously been held by people who could guide and train.
The last time I was unemployed (which isn’t that long ago) I noticed how much older than the majority of the candidates I was. I had more experience than a vast number of them, but ultimately it didn’t necessarily come down to who was the ‘better’ candidate; rather who’s degree was newer, fresher, who had spent more time on Instagram and Snapchat (for the record, I don’t even have Snapchat), and who had done what more recently. In a day when it appears employers can determine that you will become bored having a regular pay cheque and food on the table, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a lot of their decisions are also based on how you look, how old you are and where you went to school (though, being honest, the latter has always held a considerable amount of kudos in certain industries).
If experience has taught me anything, it’s that things can change at the drop of a hat. A job that was previously secure and definitely yours can soon become insecure and someone else’s.
I have now been made redundant three times. The first time was during a pretty bad recession, I was unemployed for six months, and applied for so many jobs that I was able to decorate two walls in my bedroom with the rejection letters (yes, once upon a time employers used to send out ‘thanks but no thanks’ letters on real paper when they didn’t want to interview you, oh how times have changed, and sometimes not for the better). Luckily, I managed to stay in the same industry and move, slowly, up the ladder (though my salary took a hefty knock). The second time it was so much easier, I was in my late 30s, had been working in publishing for 13 years, and had garnered a great deal of experience across the board. I found a new job in five months, though in the interim I was a freelance advisor to the company which had bought mine out. Three years later I was in the same boat again. This time the market was just overrun with amazing candidates, and I was at a loss. I applied for everything going, little realising it would destroy my savings, demoralise me to a point I hadn’t been previously, and push me to a level of depression I hadn’t been in for at least 10 years. Finding a job over 40 proved hard, VERY hard.
I have 25 years (yep, a quarter of a century) until I am old enough to retire, yet I know that the next time I am forced to search (rather than voluntarily doing so) for a job I will find it more difficult. The fact that people in their 40s are more reliable, less likely to need time off for maternity, paternity, sport’s day, school closures means nothing. It’s as though we are the generation that is slowly being pushed out to make room for the youngsters, without any forethought. I know that older generations were pushed aside for us, but for many of them there was also the luxury of early retirement (with state pension from 55 and the ability to claim on work pensions from 50), this is no longer something that the normal Jo(e) Bloggs can realistically do.
We are the generation between the baby boomers and the millennials, the ones who are lumped in with those who got relatively cushy pensions and early retirement, rather than the ones who can’t afford to buy a house and will probably end up working in B&Q once retired due to a shortfall in the pension fund.
Barring a massive lotto win (I can only wish), I will likely be getting up at 5am and trekking a nightmare commute to get to a job I tolerate if only to pay the bills and afford a scarce existence for some time to come. I am too young to retire but too old to get a mortgage, so I am stuck in some kind of fiscal limbo.
Just a few days ago I read a post on a forum about how 40 was too old. I am sitting here trying to figure out what I am ‘too old’ for exactly. Am I too old to contribute to the education funds of the generations after mine (to which I have not added)? Am I too old to help pay for the underfunded NHS? Am I too old to contribute towards new playzones, pre-school places and swimming pools? Am I too old to worry about paying my bills and rent? The answer to all of these is ‘No, I am not’. I am still expected to contribute (or pay for when they are personal) to all of these things, yet I am considered ‘too old’ to comment on things, to have an opinion, to start a new career, change paths or find excitement (even my mother is guilty of telling me that I am too old to like comic books and still have the occasional fantasy).
I guess I am at that age where I am to be considered ‘too old’ for the fun stuff, but ‘not old enough’ to stop paying in so other people have access to services which are increasingly catering for the younger generations. Just this year I was informed that our entire salary sacrifice scheme had gone towards funding extra benefits for those on maternity leave. Sorry, why the hell am I paying for someone else to take time off to have a baby?
As someone in a different generation than the so-called ‘youth of today’ I can honestly say I envy them not only their vitality, but also the skate parks, sandpits, and other places where they can have fun. Not that long ago they closed down our local pool and in its place erected one designed purely for the benefit of the children. Of course, a lot of the money came from Council Tax, but not once did they consider we didn’t all want a splash zone, wave pool and a teeny tiny swimming zone. As I said, you reach a point in your life where you have to fight to be noticed. Seems I have discovered when that just happens to be.