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Older Workers and Entrepreneurs are Defying the Odds

Updated on November 4, 2015

According to a study by Federal Reserve economists, among Americans who had been out of work a half-year or more in March 2013, there were just 28 percent who were back working full time for at least three months by June 2014. And that's not even counting those over 60, who still face a definite workplace bias.

Bob Rohrig was almost 61 when he was laid off, but he was determined to get back to work. And in June 2014, he was able to return to work in the same industry (Rohrig was an account manager for the printing and direct mail company, Data Mail). But it took three years and four months of hard work to find work (his industry was-and still is-in decline; Connecticut's unemployment rate is over 9 percent). The vast majority of people like him were-and many still are-out of work more than a year later or only able to find part-time or temporary jobs.

Rohrig's new position pays far less than the $70,000-$80,000 he was earning previously (but there's no bitterness; he says he knew beforehand that he would not be able to earn his former amount). And "I didn't limit myself to printing and mail industries."

46 percent of all people who had been unemployed since 2009 had to take a pay cut when they were able to return to work, according to a survey published by Rutgers in September 2014 (and further data showed that the older you are, the bigger the pay cut).

Why the age bias? According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, "A sharp downturn gives employers cover to engage in age discrimination." Also, in a report from the Congressional Budget Office in which interviews were conducted with workplace professionals, many employers avoided older workers because they believe that they'll raise the cost of the company's health insurance and because they had higher wages in past jobs than younger candidates. Rohrig is very certain his age was a big part of his long unemployment: "They can't say it, but you just know."

Rohrig, in his new position since April 2014, intends to work until 70 so he can build some retirement savings: "I love going to work every day. Not only going to work, but the job itself."

TellaBoomer TeleCare Services

TellaBoomer TeleCare Services specializes in "smart homes" for the elderly; it was launched in 2011 by Mark Britton, in response to his mother's in-home accident (she recovered).

A designer of media rooms, estate lighting and other home tech systems, the 53-year-old Britton began researching the senior home care field (finding and checking out various products and services, such as tracking devices and items that can automatically turn off stoves and ovens).

Amazingly, Britton's age has been a hindrance regarding funding; investors are used to allocating big bucks to the 20-something crowd, but are baffled when dealing with a business run by an early 50s person that helps late 70 and 80-somethings. Time is on Britton's side, however: "They'll eventually come around. There are just too many 50-plus entrepreneurs to ignore."

Additional Info

The U.S. Small Business Administration has information, loans and grants for entrepreneurs of all ages. Go to for more details.

Safe Risk Taking

Conventional wisdom concerning entrepreneurship is to bet it all, go for broke, be a huge risk taker.

You should not; there's a fine balance between taking an extreme risk and removing one. According to Linda Rottenberg (Co-founder and CEO of Endeavor, the world's leading entrepreneur mentoring company, one of America's top business leaders/innovators and author of Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags), there are two key steps to taking risks without risking it all; First, give yourself permission to be a contrarian (a person who tends to "go against the grain") and Second, once you accept a certain amount of risk, your main task is to minimize that risk (for example, don't quit your day job right away, be sure to have enough money saved to support yourself-and your family-for at least a year, consider crowdfunding).

Sources: "Older laid-off worker beats odds, finds job"-The Hartford Courant (TNS)-The (Sunday) Vindicator, Oct. 25, 2015 and "Worth The Risk-Staying in Touch with Tech" segment and "Open For Business" segment by Joe Kita-Parade, Nov. 2, 2014 and "Views-An Entrepreneur Should Never Be a Daredevil" by Linda Rottenberg-Parade, Nov. 2, 2014


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