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Americans Must Work After Age 50 If Not Independently Wealthy

Updated on February 23, 2014
We can choose from many careers and a large number of us will work in two or three different careers.
We can choose from many careers and a large number of us will work in two or three different careers. | Source

Live Longer - Work Longer

In some nations, workers retire at age 50 or 55, but this is not generally true of America outside of some government positions and the wealthy.

While some individuals ask whether it is practical to begin a new line of education or a new career after the age of 50, the fact is that the American people in general may have no choice but to do so. This article will discuss workforce and healthcare trends among Baby Boomers and compare them briefly with those of the Millennials.

In short, since Boomers and Millennials are living longer on average than the Greatest Generation, they will likely need to work for a longer number of years overall and plan more thoroughly for adequate healthcare in their later years. The Millennials can watch what happens to the Boomers and realize that there will likely have at least 3 careers in their lives (some will require return to a vocational school or college) and live past the age of 80, without enough healthcare unless certain measures are taken.

The fact is that NURSING is a booming occupation and will continue to be so through the year 2100 and lots of nurses are retiring in 2008. Many men and women over the age of 50 are going to school to become certified in a 1-year or 2-year or 4-year program of nursing. Other occupations and their training programs are seeing the entry of older workers as well.

Companies That Reduce the Wages Of Seniors

One non-union construction company in Central Ohio reduces the hourly wage of each person age 50 and older by 2% every year, until State Minimum Wage is reached (it is higher than Federal Minimum Wage). Then the older individual is laid off and not rescheduled or, more often, terminated from employment in this at-will employment state.

A well known butchering and meat packing facility in town has reinstated injured workers at increasingly lower wages on each reinstatement, until certified Total Disability for SSDI has been reached by the workers. Sometimes, they die before that can collect SSDI. Many of these individuals have been workers aged 40 to 60 and a large number of them are Baby Boomers.

Non-Union Construction Workers Earn Less Yearly in Some Places


Fast Food Nation; Injured Workers Have Reduced Wages

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
Read about workers injured i the butchering ad meat packing houses of America in this book. Some of them were my patients and never became well again.

Reform and Reformation

American Welfare Reform and Workforce Development at the federal level, on down to the smallest unincorporated area in the US during the 1990s, reached down into Kindergarten and began teaching the children that everyone must work.

This was a reform measure to prevent future generations form applying for welfare and other subsidized benefits. Under the Reagan Administration, all subsidized medical and income benefits became more closely attached in order for cost-saving scrutiny, with the result that many individuals were removed from the Social Security Disability Income and related rolls and relieved of their income.

Further, it became almost impossible for individuals under the age of 55 years (at least in my state) to qualify for SSI/SSDI, but some younger folks aged 21 received full disability income for the condition of drug addiction.

Even after the age of 55, many qualifying individuals were forced to hire an attorney to fight for Workers Compensation, Social Security Disability, and other benefits and pay the attorney one-third of the lump sum back pay received. These folks are often called in by the government for yearly re-evaluation in order to determine if a lower level of benefits are more appropriate. People in Ohio have been removed from benefits because they were still physically capable of having sexual relations with a spouse.

Many people feel that the system there is a “search and remove” strategy applied in order to reduce costs.

It is more difficult to learn when you are in chronic severe pain.
It is more difficult to learn when you are in chronic severe pain. | Source

Education Requirements

Education requirements became bound to receiving benefits from SSI/SSDI, public assistance/welfare and even Worker’s Compensation benefits. If one was a high school drop out, one could not receive this brand of income unless enrolled in GED classes and making documented progress with documented good attendance. In this case, the plight of the 50+ high-school or middle-school drop out adult in the 1990s that was down sized was largely to 1) start a new education and 2) agree to accept new employment. In the late 2000’s this had extended to the general working class of people at all levels of America. Unless independently wealthy or supported financially by another person, people must 1) work, 2) often switch careers when down sized or companies close, or 3) go “back to school” for additional training to be able to work again for many more years, as discussed below. As of the year 2000, American workers experience an average of 3 separate careers in a lifetime.

Underemployed or unemployed Americans in the 1990s could benefit from training assistance dollars offered by the Private Industry Council across the nation. Numerous workers of all ages 18 - 60 returned to the classroom for additional certification and diplomas with which to return to work during these years. In the 2000s, these programs were absorbed by the county Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), listed under the government listings in the local telephone directory. Special training programs and job matching assistance for workers over age 50 and over age 55 are in place.

Changes in Health and Medicine Related to Work

In the 1980s, the American Psychiatric Associations manual of conditions (DSM-III) ruled that changing jobs more than one every 3 years was a manifestation of a personality disorder. In the years of the rise of the Industry and IT professions in to he 21st century, this is no longer the case; people switch jobs and careers often in America, in general. Therefore, it is not impractical or “weird” to start a new education or career at age 50+.  In fact, I have known people 70 years old that returned to school and then successfully entered and maintained careers. One woman at a Central Ohio insurance company worked until the age of 80.

People age “50+” in 2008, specifically the Baby Boom Generation, were born from 1945 – 1964. In 2008, they were approximately to 44 - 63 years old.  The oldest of this cohort was able to retire at age 62 in 2007 with partial Social Security benefits; able to receive full benefits at age 65 if they waited and worked to that age. However, in 2008 America, the age of full retirement benefits under SS has already advanced to 67. The government plan in the 1990s, which I was privy to through university and medical channels as well as the National Institutes of Health and other federal government agencies, was to gradually increase the age of full retirement benefits to age 75 years. In 2008, America had only 8 years to go. For myself, working until 75 is not problem at all, but for others, it is impossible.

At the same time, there has been a movement in the US legislative branch to push for eliminating health care benefits for Americans age 75+. In 2008, it became standard practice to refrain form administering certain medical tests to individuals aged 75 and over, and some of this restraint is logical and sensible. In fact, because medical tests are often high-cost, some testing is unnecessary and used to some degree by some practitioners in order to increase the “average sales” of a medical visit. Common sense must prevail.   

An investigative reporter found that she could not survive o Federal Minimum Wage, even with only the barest necessities purchased. Employers feel that minimum wage jobs are starter jobs that workers should "be promoted out of" into higher paying work.

The Special Case of Baby Boomers

A misconception of this generation as a whole - held by a portion of Americans and globally as well - is that the Baby Boom Generation was/is a group of people that became Hippies that worked against America, sold out to the Establishment to become Yuppies (young urban professionals) and then proceeded to indulge in Conspicuous Consumption until they died stupid, fat, and wasteful.

The fact is that blacks and women of this cohort born from 1945 – 1960 (most of the Generation, actually) were largely the targets of vile discrimination and denied jobs and educational opportunities, especially in the Midwest and South. Women/blacks that were intelligent (“too smart”) were often the most discriminated against. In 2008, there is a large segment of women ages 50+ that have been laid off work or downsized, and cannot find any type of employment, no matter how effectively they apply and interview, no matter how many hours they put into it, and no matter how high their qualifications (“overqualified”). They (1000s of them) are barely consuming ANYTHING, let alone conspicuously consuming in the manner of the Semi-Homemade cook on Food Network that throws tons of food and plastic baggies away to the landfill, or of a male chef that tells audiences that $8.99 a pound is not too much to pay for meat in 2008.

The women of which I speak do not qualify for any subsidized benefits whatsoever, because they have no children under age 18 at home and suffer no disabilities. They can, however, receive 3 days worth of free food monthly from local food banks, if the food banks have any food (many ran out frequently in 2006 - 2008). I have checked this by visiting the appropriate offices in a selection of cities in Michigan and Ohio and interviewing staff. I also followed two childless unemployed individuals through the system – one unmarried woman aged 24 and one married and permanently injured, aged 57. The former was turned down for all help, even Workforce Training.

The latter, whose husband was injured and works part-time, received $130 in food stamps for one month and was asked to return the money after she had purchased the food – she and her husband did not have it. The government later recovered it from her husband’s meager wages, without warning. This couple continues to seek educational and employment possibilities. Unfortunately, with a refinancing of their home ate age 60, they cannot make the mortgage payments if they retire.

The horror stories for the over-50 population and those of all ages lacking healthcare in America are legion. Read Fast Food Nation and Nickel and Dimed to learn more about that.

America’s Millennial Generation (b. 1980 – 2000) may suffer the same brand of indignities and injustices as the Boomers, unless government and society in America are radically changed. The Millennials are about the same size cohort as the Boomers amd can look forward to a lifespan of 80-85+ years on average, but if they must work to age 75 and lose all possibility of healthcare at that age (even if they pay for it themselves), what kind of life will that be?

Starting a business of one’s own and/or beginning sound financial investing that provides enough income for travel outside the US for healthcare in older age may be the best option.


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    • rebekahELLE profile image


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      excellent article, thanks so much for providing such comprehensive info. it certainly requires us to think and act decisively.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      MagicStarER - Thanks very much for commenting and adding information for us.

      The plight of the Baby Boomers has been troubling, as you say, and also because so many Boomers were abused at home growing up, then by others in their adult lives.

      Yes, it is all a mess. Ralph's idea is very effective, imo.

    • MagicStarER profile image


      11 years ago from Western Kentucky

      This was a very interesting and realistic accounting of the dilemma facing "baby-boomers" in the US. This comment especially was right on: "The women of which I speak do not qualify for any subsidized benefits whatsoever, because they have no children under age 18 at home and suffer no disabilities. They can, however, receive 3 days worth of free food monthly from local food banks, if the food banks have any food"

      I would like to add that there is no provision in the US for aid for single adults with no minor children who are not legally blind, nor declared by the SS Admin as disabled. The only thing you can get is food stamps. But no health care and no economic help whatsoever. If you are truly disabled, it may take you 4 to 6 years to get a disability check, and yes you will have to hire a lawyer and fight them for years. Add to that, that you will no longer receive full back pay from the date you file for disability. They now limit your back pay to only one year. And you do not get it all at once.

      Baby boomers have a special dilemma, in that they were raised to believe that the man went out and earned the living but the woman stayed home and raised the kids. But in actuality, when they became of age, women were required, after Women's Lib, to go out and get jobs, too, and this was a very big conflict for women back then, and traumatized families - you can see this in the increase in problems of the kids that grew up without a stay at home mother.

      It's all messed up, isn't it?

      I like Ralph's idea of tapered retirement. Our health does not give out all at once, why should our working days? Health tends to decline gradually as you grow older, as a rule, so maybe you should retire gradually, too, and work as you are able? Makes sense to me!

      This was a great article, Patty, thanks for sharing! :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Ralph - Thanks for adding a lot of history and good points to this discussion, You've taught me much about Michigan in your comments that I previously did not realize. Your idea of phased retirement seems pretty good to me as well. This disucssion and hub will hoepfully get a lot of people thinking and acting on this important issue. I see myself working forever at things I enjoy.

      I do think there is going to be a time when the majority of Millennials are not old enough or finished with their education or back from Iraq yet to work to be able to support retired Boomers with SS contributions. That time may be now or soon and I don't know how many years it will cover.

      fishskinfreak2008 - I think you're pretty observant.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      12 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Most Americans should work after age 50 in the interest of their mental and physical health. The concept of retirement is a relatively new one, historically speaking, and not yet well developed. There is no magic retirement age which is right for everyone. Tapering off or phased retirement may be better for many people rather than stopping after reaching a retirment age defined by law or the terms of a pension plan or employer policy. Moreover, the best retirement age varies from individual to individual depending on mental and physical health, financial situation, dependents, hobbies or other activities and the like. Working tends to enhance feelings of self-worth, and l interactions in the work group fulfills many people's need for social satisfaction. If this need is not fulfilled in some other way in retirement unhappiness and even depression can result.

      And perhaps, most important issue is that a growing number of older people will be supported to a relatively smaller percentage of people in the work force. This is leading to a funding crisis for Medicare and other entitlement programs for the elderly. Since people are living longer, healthier lives it's not unreasonable to expect them to correspondingly extend their working lives.

    • fishskinfreak2008 profile image


      12 years ago from Fremont CA

      Very true. I'm seeing the impact and I'm not even 30.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      12 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Nice Hub!

      I entered the corporate world in 1960 and can personally verify that blacks and women were discriminated against in employment and education during that period.

      There were exactly two blacks in my 1957 class of 2,000 at Cornell University, one girl and one boy, Bo Roberson who was a star running back on the football team. When I started at General Motors' corporate headquarters in 1960 there was not one minority secretary, accountant, supervisor, engineer and not a single black salaried employee. The women were all secretaries except for a couple of librarians. In the hourly work force the blacks were all laborers. There was not a single black or woman electrician or other skilled tradesman. And Polish-American women from Hamtramck pretty much had a monopoly on the janitorial jobs. Until 1967 few minorities and zero women had been admitted to the UAW-GM skilled trades apprentice program. I remember the first woman apprentice because I took the call from the AC Spark Plug Division in Flint inquiring whether it would be okay if they accepted a woman applicant as a toolmaker apprentice. When they told me that she maxed out the entrance exam, without checking with my bosses, I told them to admit her to the apprentice program. i didn't check with anybody because I wasn't sure of what the answer would be. As it turned out I got nothing but praise for my decision. I had hesitated because of hearing time after time hearing GM executives hypocriticall citing the Corporation's "longstanding policy of non-discrimination in employment." There was such a policy, but until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nobody paid any attention to it. It might have been more accurately termed General Motors longstanding PRACTICE of discrimination!

      At Michigan's largest department store, J.L. Hudson, blacks were hired to work only in the warehouse and stock rooms. There was not a single black cashier or clerk or in any other position visible to shoppers.

      The situation was much the same in Michigan hospitals--no black nurses or medical technicians.

      It was only after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that the situation began to change.

      Detroit Edison, the company chaired by the great Walker Cisler, required applicants for laborers jobs to pass reading and math tests in order to screen out minorities. The company got slapped with a big fine and back pay as a result of an historic lawsuit in which the claimants were represented pro bono by then Professor William B. Gould IV. of Wayne State University Law School. Gould went on to become a professor of labor law at Stanford and Chairman of the NLRB in the Clinton administration. The landmark decision established the principle that employment selection tests must be validated as testing for factors related to the jobs for which the applicants are being hired.

      Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. Good job Patty, as usual!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for the comments. Its best to teach the children to plan ahead. I quess we have to stay aware our whole lives, but planning ahead from our awareness can reuslt in happier lives.

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      12 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Thanks for clearing up the misnomer that all Baby Boomers are materialistic consumption addicts. I relate to the "women reference", as would most of my friends. And as the world crumbles around them, most worry first about the fate of their children.

    • rodney southern profile image

      rodney southern 

      12 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      Great info. Excellent job on this.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks Stacie - 50 is really pretty young these days, if we live to be nearly 80!

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      12 years ago

      thanks for answering my request. It is a very well written and informative hub!


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