Workers Over 50 - A Career Guide

 

Finding Employment After 50

by Connie Blaine

Finding employment after the age of 50 can be challenging. Prejudice against older workers can still be a factor in the market and workers over 50 should be prepared to convince prospective employers that they aren't too old to learn new things and they have the energy to work as hard as people in their 20s.

Companies are looking for workers who can easily adapt to change, have current skills, learn new things and are technology savvy.

Here are some tips to help you get that job:

 

Jobs for Older Workers

by Carrie Mayne

Do you find yourself past the big 5-0 and diving into that pool we call the labor force? If so, you may want to think a little differently about your job search than you did when you were 20-something. What you want out of your work life is probably very different than it was a few decades ago. Your skills and abilities have probably changed as well. And let's face it, even though there are laws against age discrimination, most people over 50 find it more difficult to obtain a job. One thing that will surely make things easier for you is to be strategic when you choose the career fields you pursue. Picking the right occupations can help you quickly find a job that will fit your unique career goals. Here are some suggestions for picking just the right job:

Evaluate your transferable skills.

Over your life you've acquired many useful skills, whether it was in a previous career or through other life experiences. You'd be surprised to see how skills can transfer across occupations. The Department of Workforce Services (DWS) offers an online tool that can help you discover jobs you may already be qualified for. Find it at: http://jobs.utah.gov/jsp/wi/utalmis/reemplHome.do.

Training

There are many training programs available where, in just a short amount of time, you'll be taught to perform a job you may not currently be qualified to do. And oftentimes there are programs available to help you with training expenses. Contact your local DWS office for more information.

Part-time work

If you're willing and able to work part-time instead of full-time, you'll definitely expand the number and types of jobs available to you. For some occupations, part-time work is the norm.

And what may be the most important suggestion is to target jobs that tend to be older-worker friendly. There are some occupations where employers see an advantage to employing the more seasoned worker over the younger, less experienced folks. Here is a list of some jobs that can fit this description:

One final note of caution: predators are out there targeting older workers searching for employment. You should never have to pay to obtain a job, nor should you have to give bank account or credit card information. Some “pay to play” job opportunities are just bogus scams to take your money.  Research the employer thoroughly to ensure they are a legitimate company that really is looking to hire before you start building a relationship with them.

 

Information Overload? Separating Myth from Reality…

By Lecia Parks Langston, Economist

Myth: Employers don't like to hire people over 50.
Reality: Many people in their sixties, seventies and even eighties are still working.

Myth: Older workers are less flexible and adaptable.
Reality: Older workers are just as adaptable once they understand the reason for changes. They are more likely to ask “why?” because they have seen processes abandoned in mid-stream.

Myth: Older workers face health issues.
Reality: Older workers have better attendance records than younger workers.

Myth: Older workers can't meet the physical demands of the job.
Reality: Most jobs do not require great strength or heavy lifting.

Myth: You can't teach an old dog new tricks:
Reality: Studies show only a negligible loss of cognitive function in people under 70. They have better study attitudes and accumulated experience which lowers training costs. For example, the fastest growing group of internet users is people over 50.

Myth: Training older workers is a lost investment because they will not stay on the job for long.
Reality: The future work life of an employee over 50 usually exceeds the life of new technology for which the workers are trained. Plus, workers tend to stay in the labor force much longer now than they did in the past.

Myth: Older workers are not as productive as younger workers.
Reality: Overall productivity does not decline as a function of age. Productivity often actually rises due to greater worker accuracy, dependability and capacity to make better on-the-spot judgments. Older workers' production rates are steadier than other age groups.

Myth: Older workers are not as creative or innovative.
Reality: General intelligence levels are the same as those of younger workers. Roughly 80 percent of the most workable and worthwhile new production ideas are produced by employees over 40 years old.

Myth: Older workers cost more than hiring younger workers.
Reality: Replacing older workers is not cost-free. Aetna Insurance Company discovered that training, etc. added 93 percent to the first year's salary of new employees.

Myth: Benefit and accident costs are higher for older workers.
Reality: Total sick days per year of older workers are lower than other age groups because they have fewer acute illnesses and sporadic sick days. Insurance costs do rise gradually with age. However, they are offset by lower costs due to fewer dependents. Older workers take fewer risks in accident-prone situations and statistically have lower accident rates than other age groups.

 

The Secret of My Husband's Success - A true story of an older worker's triumph in the job market

By Lecia Parks Langston

This article gets really personal—because early in 2009, the recession hit home in a major way in my own family. Although I don't think of my spouse and myself as “older” (I feel about 23 inside my head), we certainly fall in the age group targeted by this publication.

If you are reading this article, you can probably relate to the dismay we felt when my husband's job of nearly 20 years became a casualty of the economic downturn. Brad is 54 years old and it's been a long time since he'd done any serious job searching. And, did I mention we're in the midst of the longest recession in recent memory? And, did I also mention we just happen to live in Washington County where the downturn has been particularly fierce? I have to admit, it's not an experience we've relished.

However, it has been a learning experience. And, by proxy, I've discovered firsthand that the advice in this publication does indeed work. While many people in his position are still struggling with unemployment, Brad's been on the job for six months and is making money in a thorny economy.

Attitude, Attitude, Attitude

Why has Brad succeeded when so many are still jobless? I've decided that a positive attitude equaled success for Brad. I know it sounds cliché, but it's true. He was confident that he could find a new job that he liked doing. (He tells me he's enjoyed every job he's ever had including hot tar roofing—go figure.) He was confident that he would be hired despite his grey hair. He believed he had marketable skills. Some of this confidence was inherent in his nature, some of it he learned along the way. (His new boss recently told him that his confidence that he could do the job was a major factor in his hire.)

Along with the “good attitude,” here are the things that I believe Brad did right that resulted in his eventual employment.

Brad enrolled in a seminar that taught him how to look for work. Here he learned about resume writing, networking, interviewing, etc. Here he also discovered and focused on his marketable skills. Brad found out he had many talents and abilities. He also determined exactly what he wanted from his new job. This seminar happened to be through our church affiliation. However, many job search workshops are available—including through the Department of Workforce Services.

Brad was very flexible. After his lay-off, we considered many options including training for a new career, moving to an area where his skills were more in demand, etc. Brad didn't stay stuck thinking he could only do what he'd always done. He was willing to change careers and try something entirely new.

Brad built upon his years of experience and community connections. In his current position, my husband's long years of community service and personal relations have helped him to be far more successful than his younger colleagues. By virtue of your age and experience, you truly do have an edge over younger workers in many, many jobs.

Brad had good technical skills. My husband's prior occupation was technically oriented, so he had great computer skills. Even though his current job is not highly technical, it was important that he could e-mail, do Internet job searches, submit an electronic resume, etc. to get hired. If you don't have these skills, they can be learned. They are very important in today's job market!

Brad was not afraid to learn. In establishing his new career, Brad had to pass several licensing exams. Could this “ old guy” learn and remember? You bet. He discovered age is no barrier to learning. While his retention wasn't quite as good as in his 20s, because of his determination and work ethic, Brad was able to pass his exams much easier than most of the “young Turks” in his training group. Yes, you too can learn new skills!

Brad has worked hard. His work ethic, not only in looking for a job but also in establishing a new career, has proved exemplary and has helped him succeed.

I'm very proud of my husband. In the midst of this employment setback, his father suffered a major stroke, which required a huge amount of Brad's time and energy. Eventually, his father passed away. Yet, Brad never wallowed in self-pity over his employment situation. He got out and did what needed to be done to find a new job.

Brad is working hard at a new career and he's just been elected as a city councilman for our small, southern Utah town. We've been able to pay all our bills and even extra on our mortgage. We aren't quite back to where we were income-wise and living with uncertainty has definitely been stressful. However, some of my husband's positive attitude has rubbed off on me and I am confident we'll end up in an even better financial position than before. Hurrah for age and experience!

 

Resources on the Internet for Older Workers

   

Older Workers: Re-imagining Retirement

By Linda Marling Church

By now we have all heard, ad nauseum, that older workers can no longer retire and have been forced back into or to stay in the workforce because they are all broke and don't have any choice but to work. For some, that is true. For others, who have chosen to stay in or re-enter the workforce for a variety of reasons, it is not true. 

In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, it was found that 54 percent of workers age 65 and older say they work because they want to, 27 percent because they want and need to, and 17 percent because they have to. Surprised? In that same study, it was found that 54 percent of workers 65 and older were “completely satisfied” with their jobs compared with 29 percent of workers ages 16 to 64. That satisfaction may come from the fact that they are working by choice, not necessity. 

Myths exist in the workplace that it costs more to employ an older worker, that they are technologically inept, and that they are less adaptable to change—all of which have been repudiated more than once by demographic studies. These beliefs are responsible for the term “golden handshake” or forced retirement that many older workers have been subjected to. 
 
Who said that we work to 65 and then retire and start riding around in a golf cart in Boca Raton or Apache Junction, eating dinner at four in the afternoon and going to bed at eight? For some, this is the second American dream. For others, it's Hell on earth. The Pew study found that 57 percent of retirees were very satisfied with their retirement, 27 percent were fairly satisfied, 32 percent had to retire for health or other reasons, 9% said they were forced into retirement by their employers.The key to satisfaction at any age is to be doing what you choose to do whether it is to retire or to work or a combination.

People ages 55 and older currently account for 18.7 percent of the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That is the highest share held by the group since the BLS started reporting labor force data in 1948. Conversely, workers ages 16 to 24 currently account for 14.0 percent of the labor force, their lowest share since 1948. The BLS projects that 92.8 percent of the growth of the U.S. labor force from 2006 to 2016 will be workers ages 55 and older. The share of the labor force that is 55 and older will increase to 22.7 percent in 2016. At the same time, the shares of the other major age groups will decline. 

Younger workers are staying out of the workplace to get a degree (73 percent of the public deem a degree the means for getting ahead.) Older workers are staying in the workplace, delaying their retirement because of the recession or by choice.

It's a given that many older workers are choosing to stay employed. What are some reasons? To feel like a useful person, help improve society, something to do, be with other people, to live independently, stay physically and mentally active, and to learn something new, were some of the comments given to researchers who asked older workers why they were still in the workforce. 

One older worker, who had been retired for five years and working on her golf handicap, took a job because she was bored with “playing” and wanted to feel productive again. She found a flexible, part-time job in a new field, far removed from the retail business she had started thirty years prior. She found that with a part-time job she could be productive and still work on her golf game.  

Another, who had been given the golden handshake by his employer, started as a volunteer at a local senior citizen center, and quickly became the paid director. He particularly liked helping his peers to see their retirement in a new way by starting classes that taught them about computers, travel and volunteer opportunities. 

At age 88, after twenty years on the job, beginning at an age when most people have retired, one older worker began preparing twenty-four meals every day for area seniors. 

Maybe older workers today are leery of that old adage “you retire, you die.” Working, staying mentally and physically active, and involved may not make us live any longer, but they can make the remaining hours and days more fulfilling.

For more information:

 

Cover Letters

An impressive cover letter is a good way for older workers to convince employers to interview them for the jobs they want. What is a cover letter? It is basically a marketing tool for you. Your resume contains factual information about your skills and accomplishments, while your cover letter is an opportunity to sell yourself to the employer.

It is a short letter (no more than one page) written to a specific person about a specific job that contains three parts:

First paragraph: Explain why you are writing and mention the job you want. Do not start with the sentence “I am writing about the position…” Learn something about the company that you can write about in this paragraph or if you have been referred to the company, mention the person's name.

Second paragraph: Sell yourself and show off your writing skills. Write about all of the skills, knowledge and abilities you have that will benefit the company/organization. Do not write about what they can do for you. Focus on your accomplishments and performance that are related to the job you are applying for, not the number of years you have worked or a long history of your experience. This is an opportunity to use current industry jargon and to mention your up-to-date technical skills. Use key words from the posted job description. Don't rewrite your resume, since it will accompany this letter, but you can refer to it.

Third paragraph:  Write that you are very interested in the job and would like to work for the company. Indicate what the next steps will be. Do not write, “You can contact me at…” rather, request an interview and let them know when you will contact them. Include your contact information.

Some Don'ts:

Make sure someone you trust edits your cover letter for content, grammar, and tone before you send it. Your cover letter should communicate your energy and ability to meet the employer's needs. Spelling, grammar and punctuation should be perfect. 

If you are emailing your cover letter, make sure that all three paragraphs fit on the screen so the employer doesn't have to scroll.

A cover letter is a great way to sell yourself and an excellent cover letter can get you the interview.

 

The Resume is Evolving

Times are changing and so are the ways people write and submit resumes to employers. Gone are the days of the simple resume rules that everyone followed: write a one-to-two page resume in chronological format, print it on nice paper and send it to many employers.

If you research resumes, you will find that some experts still recommend the two-page resume, but there seem to be new ways of writing and submitting resumes as many people compete for jobs during this economic downturn and they use technology to assist them. Two pieces of valuable advice for modern resumes seem to be:

You can find resume writing tips and examples of resumes on the Internet by using a search engine like Google and typing in the word “resume.” There are also many books on resume writing. Rather than simply taking off a few lines at the bottom of your resume and adding a few job duties to the top, it is worthwhile for you to do some research and develop a resume that will get results.

Here are some additional tips for people with a long work history:

Resume experts encourage a mix of the chronological or functional resume format or a functional format. The chronological resume is the more standard format and hiring managers are used to seeing it. It lists the jobs you have had starting with the most current. Functional resumes can be used if you are changing careers, have gaps in your work history or want to emphasize overall skills rather than work history. This type of resume emphasizes your skills by listing groups of skills first, followed by your work history.

It is important to have an electronic resume. This is a version of your resume that is not formatted. You should take out all bold, italics, centering, etc. If you are submitting your resume on-line make sure you use key words because the employer may have a system that scans resumes for these words. You will find the key words in the job announcement. Key words are usually industry jargon or job requirements commonly associated with that job. This type of resume is usually sent in an email or cut and pasted on-line.

As you write your resume, look to the future rather than dwelling on the past. You don't want the tone of your resume to be a list of things you have done for other employers. Write it in a way that communicates what you can do for the employer that is lucky enough to hire you. Once you have written a resume that reflects all of your amazing skills and accomplishments, you will no longer be yawning, but feeling quite proud and confident.

Tips for submitting your resume:

 

Just the Facts. . .

Population

Demographic Characteristics

Income and Poverty

Other

 

The Job Interview

If you get a job interview this generally means you are qualified to do the job. The hiring manager wants to confirm your qualifications and make sure you are a good fit for the job and the company. If you haven't interviewed for jobs recently, you will want to make sure you take time to prepare for the interview.

First, it is important for you to make a connection with the people who are interviewing you. Second, frame your responses to the questions in ways that show hiring you will benefit the organization. You can accomplish this by researching the company before the interview and practicing your responses to questions.

Interviews can be stressful. Keep in mind that interviewers are trying to impress you just as you are trying to impress them. View the interview as an opportunity for both parties to gather information to determine if it is a good match. Listen carefully to the questions and make sure you answer them directly.

For older workers, the interview is a great opportunity to dispel stereotypes and myths. Demonstrate that you are positive, energetic, dedicated, and that you will contribute to the success of the company. Show that you are technically savvy by incorporating your computer skills into your answers and show that you are energetic by talking about physical activities you pursue. Emphasize that you are flexible and open to learning new things.

There is a good chance interviewers will be younger than you are. Do not talk down to them or say that you won't need any training for the job. You have an opportunity to show that you can be respectful and work well with younger people, including a supervisor who is younger than you are. Do not have the attitude that since you are older you know more than your younger peers. You want to show that you can work well with all ages and that everyone can learn from one another and respect each other. 

Preparing for an Interview:

Interviews are fairly predictable, so practice. Have a friend give you questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” The more you practice the better your interview will go. Also practice answers for questions such as “Do you think you're overqualified?” Even if the interviewer doesn't ask this question, you may want to address it if you think it might be an issue. For example, you could say, “I am very excited about the opportunity to work in this job and to continue learning while I utilize my current skills and abilities.” Talk about how you like to learn new things, a new skill you have learned recently, your strong work ethic, and the range of skills and knowledge you bring to the job.

 

Staying Flexible

By Lecia Parks Langston, Economist

Almost any list of job-seeking tips for seniors includes a section on “keeping your skills current and remaining flexible.” With rapid increases in technology, today's workplace requires workers who are willing to learn and change with the job. To stay employable, older workers must be continually updating their skill set. Finally, in a tough labor market, flexibility and trainability are increasingly important.

Some Tips

Take advantage of available training opportunities. If you are already employed, make sure to get that competitive edge by taking any training your employer offers. Be the first to learn the updated software package. Don't hang on to the old technologies.

Examine and determine your own skill-set needs. Before you can update your skill set, you need to know what skills are in demand. Find out the cutting edge skills for your occupation and learn them.

Be sure to boost your software skills. Jobs ranging from clerical work to retail sales now require some expertise with computers—particularly a working knowledge of the Microsoft Windows environment. Search out the “in-demand” software skills. You may find related tutorials offered by area community colleges, your local library, embedded in the software or on the Web. "If people don't have these skills, they're shooting themselves in the foot," says career counselor Linsey Levine of CareerCounsel.

Conquer your fear. Don't be afraid to take a class at the local community college or through continuing education programs. More and more older students are upgrading their skills. Chances are you won't be the only “older” student in the class.

Know at least the computer basics:

Enlist others in getting started. Find a reverse mentor—a younger person who can guide you in updating your skills. When it comes to computers and software, your children, grandchildren or friends can be a great resource. If you aren't sure how up-to-date your skills are, you might want to visit a temporary employment agency and take their tests.

Search out resources for training. There are an amazing number of resources for upgrading your skills—particularly your computer skills. Often training is free or close to it. Libraries, senior centers, learning centers, adult or continuing education programs, community colleges and online tutorials can all help you upgrade your skills. A library is often the best starting point, as libraries typically have computers available for patrons' use and may even offer brief computer classes (or know of the best local options).

Once you take training, be sure to practice. Any skill not put to use will deteriorate and evaporate if it isn't used. Plus, the best way to learn a software package is to actually use it in several projects. You'll forget what you've learned if you don't use it!

Be sure to market your new skills.  New skills will aid you only if you let people know you have them. You might want to think about two things: experience and work samples. Volunteer work can help increase your skill levels. When you update your skills as technology advances, it shows that you are someone who loves learning. It will give employers the impression that you are resilient and adaptable.

Make sure your resume and the way you send it reflect your skills. If you can't e-mail your resume, it signals that you may not be wired to the Internet or comfortable using e-mail. It also indicates you don't understand that recruiters need resumes that are in data form so they can search the text. Many employers only accept electronic resumes. You can obtain a free e-mail account from your Internet service provider or other websites such as hotmail (www.hotmail.com) and google (www.google.com; click on “Mail”).

 

Returning to Work After Retirement

by Carrie Mayne and Lecia Parks Langston

So, you've retired. But, you need extra cash or you want a productive way to keep busy. Maybe you want to stay mentally active or just like working. Returning to work is certainly an alternative. What are some things you want to consider? Reviewing the pros and cons may help.

What Do You Want to Do?

When returning to work after retirement, don't be afraid to dream or try something new.

Although the recession may make it harder to find a job, the economy will improve.  Plus, as the baby boomer generation starts to retire, businesses will once again worry about the void they will create.

The value of older workers is becoming more appreciated.  According to AARP, industries that are actively recruiting older workers include healthcare, retail and customer service, and education.

Finally, use all the resources outlined in this publication to find yourself the job you want.

Pros

Cons

Resources:

 

Senior Community Service Employment Program

by Charlotte Kuhn, Senior Employment Program Manager, Salt Lake County Aging Services

By making a difference, you can have a difference made in you. The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is one way to reach for what many think unreachable—i ndependence, economic self-sufficiency and increased opportunity.

SCSEP is a program of the U.S. Department of Labor and is authorized through the Older Americans Act. It grants income-eligible older Americans the opportunity to provide important and worthwhile community service while developing and enhancing job skills needed for the 21st century workforce. Thousands of older workers across our country participate in quality on-the-job training or classroom instruction, learning valuable transferable skills to give them the needed training to compete and secure competitive employment. At the same time, multitudes of non-profit or government agencies benefit from the services these older workers provide.

How does this program work? If you are age 55 or older, unemployed and your income is no more than 125% of the federal poverty rate (you must check to see if you qualify), have poor employment prospects, and are legal to work in the United States, you are eligible to participate in this program. You can find out what organization provides the SCSEP program in your area by contacting your local Workforce Services office, your local area agency on aging, or by going to www.utahagingservices.org.

Once you are deemed eligible for participation, your provider will conduct assessments and interviews with you to determine the direction your program should go. An Individualized Employment Plan will be developed. You will be placed in a host agency (a non-profit or government agency) to provide service while working on your individualized training plan. You will work an average of 20 hours per week and will earn the prevailing wage while you do so. Sometimes, you may be placed in school for a short time if it is determined that a specific course or courses will benefit your individualized training.

While you are participating in this training, you are learning not only specific job skills, but you will be learning how to re-enter the job market, how to market yourself, and how to interview and land that job. The SCSEP program is time-limited with the ultimate goal of placing you in an unsubsidized job.

You may rotate host agencies throughout your tenure to further upgrade and enhance your skills. Program participants are placed in a wide variety of community service positions including day care centers, senior centers, governmental agencies, schools, hospitals, libraries, and landscaping centers. Other training may include: classroom, lectures, seminars, individual instruction, and training through other employment and training programs or community colleges.

The SCSEP program is a bridge spanning what many experience as an employment opportunity chasm. By enhancing the services to our communities while learning valuable job skills, over 90,000 people will be served this year nationwide. Thousands and thousands of these people will go on to gain their independence and economic self-sufficiency by securing higher paid unsubsidized jobs.

 

More Gold In Your Golden Years

By Mickie Douglas, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Although the Gold Rush has been over for more than a hundred years, people today are still looking for ways to put more gold into their  “golden years”.  Some of the ways to find more gold don't involve picks or pans or prospecting luck.  Did you know that if you work beyond your full retirement age before beginning to draw your Social Security benefits, the amount of your monthly benefit check will increase?

For example, if you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66.  This means that if you start receiving benefits at age 66, you will get 100 percent of your monthly benefit.  However, if you delay receiving retirement benefits until after your full retirement age, your monthly benefit continues to increase.  For example, the yearly rate of increase in Social Security retirement benefits for anyone born after 1943 is 8 percent.  This 8 percent increase compares favorably with current average interest earnings rates on traditional savings accounts.

Of course, the total benefit increase you would receive would depend on the number of months you delay the start of your retirement benefits:  at age 67, you would get 108 percent of the monthly retirement benefit because you delayed getting benefits for 12 months; and at age 70, you would get 132 percent of the monthly benefit amount because you delayed getting benefits for 48 months.

When you reach age 70, your monthly benefit stops increasing, even if you continue to delay receiving benefits.   Once you reach full retirement age, your income does not affect your Social Security benefits.  So, in other words, there is no additional advantage to putting off benefits once you've reached age 70.

It is also important to remember that each additional year you work adds another year of earnings to your Social Security record.  Higher lifetime earnings may mean higher benefits when you retire.

If you are considering postponing retirement, Social Security has a new online calculator called the Retirement Estimator that can quickly give you an idea of how much extra money you could expect by working beyond your full retirement age.  Just visit Social Security's website at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator/

 

Funding Educational Pursuits in the Midst of a Career Change

By Scott Brown

The decision to enter higher education is an exciting time.  You are about to embark on a journey that can transform both your personal and work life forever. 

Unlike traditional student populations, adults in transition have already established an occupational and financial identity (often with children), full-time work, and dependent parents in the mix. As a result, adults in transition have unique needs and opportunities when it comes to furthering their educational pursuits.

Tuition Reimbursement

One consideration when seeking financial assistance is tuition reimbursement from your employer.

Ask your employer:

Grants, Scholarships, and Student Loans

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/  (or visit your school's financial aid office) as early in the calendar year (preferably February) as possible to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and student loans. Contact the school's financial aid office for information on applying for assistance.  Make sure you have your paperwork accurately completed and processed on time. The staff in the school's admissions and financial aid office is there to help you, so contact them if you have questions or don't understand a form or the process. For more information contact the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority at 1-877-336-7378.

Grants are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. You can get application forms from the school's financial aid office. In general, scholarships and grants are gift aid. This is the best kind of aid because you don't have to repay it.

Check out all of the possible sources of scholarships and grants in your local community and state, such as schools, colleges, religious and civic organizations. When you apply for federal financial aid programs, your eligibility for federal grants will be considered.

Scholarships often are awarded for merit in academics, athletics, or a particular field of study. Scholarships also may be awarded based on ethnic background, religious affiliation, and special interests. Learn more by visiting www.utahmentor.org.

Loans are sources of financial aid that must be repaid.

Government-sponsored educational loans (visit www.uheaa.org) have many advantages if you need to borrow to pay for your education. They are better than traditional consumer loans because they usually offer lower interest rates and extended repayment terms, require no collateral, and help students and parents with the costs of education.

Federally sponsored loan programs include the following:

To obtain more information or to apply on these programs, contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend.

Consider researching and applying for assistantships, internships, or fellowships at the college to gain experience related to your field of study while getting paid. These are a great way to network with colleagues within your field to line up a job after you earn your degree.

Credit Standing and Private Loans

Check your credit rating. The site annualcreditreport.com allows you to download your credit report annually at no cost.  It's important to note that PLUS loans may be turned down to borrowers who have troubled credit.

Many lending companies offer loans designed for adults in transition. They are called “private” or “alternative” loans and usually have higher interest rates and repayment terms based on your credit rating.  Borrow wisely and avoid debt when possible, but remember the bottom line is: Investing in an education is an investment in your future.

 

Navigating the Health Insurance Jungle

By Michael Hanni and John Krantz

Health insurance has become one of the most complicated issues facing Americans today. It is seemingly impossible to make sense of the multitude of plans available and laws regulating them. This is especially true for older Americans who must be extra careful in managing their health insurance. Not only are their health costs rising, but their access to insurance can be tenuous—particularly if they are considering retiring before the age of 65. While this situation can be painfully frustrating, it is possible to understand the health insurance options open for early retirees and find one's way through the jungle.

Why is retiring before the age of 65 such a daunting leap of faith when it comes to health insurance? Well, the easy part of the answer is that at age 65, individuals are eligible for insurance through the federally run Medicare program. However, before that point the number of insurance options available to potential retirees are relatively few and most are quite expensive. So, what can you do if you're younger than 65 and already have retirement confetti in your hair? Well, we don't have all the answers, but here are a few things you might want to consider in your quest for coverage.

An unlikely source… going back to work.

Perhaps the simplest path to continuing health insurance—and the irony of this isn't lost on any of us—is to get a job. Employer-provided insurance is often the easiest way to acquire health care coverage. This is especially true for individuals who cannot obtain insurance on their own because of pre-existing conditions. Thus, some early retirees find themselves re-entering the labor force to maintain coverage. Maybe a part-time position that allows you to access some kind of group plan is in your future.

Private insurance policies: not always an option.

Another possible route to bridge your post-retirement/pre-Medicare years is to purchase individual health insurance. While this option does allow for the most flexibility—g iven you can get the insurance company to issue you a policy—it can also be the most expensive. Because of that, it is important to determine just how much per month you would be able to spend on your health insurance. Likewise, it is critical to know exactly what the insurance will cover and what kind of co-payments you should expect. Also, does this policy cover prescription drugs? That answer alone could make or break your decision. For many individuals, the cost of prescription drugs alone is prohibitive.

Continuing coverage with most recent employer.

You may be able to continue your coverage with your current employer—or union, religious organization—after you retire. For example, some employers allow retirees to remain on the rolls of their group policy, but instead of subsidizing premiums the retiree must cover the entire amount. If this option is available to you it may be the most attractive avenue for continuing coverage.

Unfortunately, not all organizations offer this route, so to buy yourself some time, you may want to temporarily continue your coverage through the COBRA provisions of your current policy—ask your HR or benefits officer for more information. This allows you to continue your current policy, for up to 36 months, in some cases, if you meet some fairly easy requirements.

Last resort? Medicaid.

You could also find yourself in a rather desperate position where you can't get private coverage for whatever reason, you've exhausted your COBRA coverage, and can't find work or are unable to work. What then? There is a last resort safety net—very last resort, mind you—and you may already know about it: Medicaid. This often-heard-of though not-as-well-understood program provides some medical services to the most desperately in-need individuals in society. If you are an early retiree (without children at home) and find yourself without coverage and your income and asset levels have become severely limited you may qualify for primary care and some prescription coverage through Medicaid. If your income is greater than the limits set by the program it may still be possible to receive Medicaid benefits, given you meet all the other requirements and you are deemed “medically needy.” If you think you may need to explore this option, you will have to meet with a caseworker to iron out the details.

Facing the realities of our day and age.

Needless to say, the picture for health insurance coverage for an early retiree can appear rather bleak. As the healthcare industry in our country currently operates, individuals who are 50-plus, and aren't working, face some serious barriers to coverage. While there are options available, if you are serious about retiring early you better start planning not only for making your pension or 401k beefy enough, but also lining up some health insurance that will carry you through to age 65. It is possible, you just need to do a lot of extra legwork.

Healthcare Reform

At the time of this article's writing, Congress was still in the process of negotiating the details of a healthcare reform bill. It is too early at this point to say precisely what the bill may entail, assuming it passes it all. However, several tentative proposals currently under consideration specifically address early retirees.  Under the proposed plan, the government would offer financial assistance to employers that provide health insurance to early retirees. For those early retirees without access to health insurance through their previous employers, a proposed Health Insurance Exchange creates a marketplace for selecting affordable insurance plans, which may include a public option. While the ultimate content of the current healthcare reform bill is still uncertain, healthcare reform could provide more options for early retirees in the future.

Resources

 

Your Rights Under the Age Discrimination In Employment Act (“ADEA”)

by Heather Morrison, Director, Utah Anti-discrimination & Labor Commission

As an employee over the age of 40, you have rights that your younger co-workers do not have. Do you know what those rights are, and more importantly, how to protect them?

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The ADEA protects you from discrimination if you are 40 or over and work for an employer with 20 or more employees. This law promotes employment based on ability, not age. It prohibits an employer from using age as the basis for hiring, firing, training, benefits or other employment decisions. 

The ADEA also makes it illegal to harass an employee because of her age, or to retaliate against an employee who complains about age discrimination.

Unfortunately, older employers can sometimes face a variety of stereotypes. Some employers assume older workers are not energetic enough, or are unable to understand modern technology, unwilling to adapt to new procedures or suffer from an overall decline in skills. Other examples of age discrimination include:

How to Protect Your Rights

If you have been the victim of age discrimination, you should file a Charge of Discrimination with the Utah Antidiscrimination & Labor Division (“UALD”). The process is free and you do not need a lawyer.

Requirements:

How do I file a complaint?

What Happens Next?

At any point in the UALD process:

Contact UALD:

160 East 300 South, 3rd Floor
P O Box 146630
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6630
Phone: (801) 530-6801
In-state Toll Free (800) 222-1238
discrimination@utah.gov

 

UtahFutures.org

Are you thinking of entering the workforce for the first time in many years? Are you tired of your job and believe you need a change? Have you lost your job and think you might want to do something different? Do you want to be involved in the career development process with your child?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it would be worth your time to check out UtahFutures.org. This system has information and activities that can help you with all aspects of career and education development including self-assessments, information about jobs in demand, how to write a resume, and how to apply for financial assistance for school.

Your first step would be to go to the website, www.utahfutures.org, and decide whether you want to register and create an account or just visit. If you want to create an account, simply click on the Utah Citizen icon and follow the easy instructions. Creating an account will give you access to more assessments and allow you to save information.

It is helpful to take the assessments at the bottom left side of the page. You can take them and just observe your results, or if you have created a portfolio, you can save the results.

There are different types of assessments. A good one to check out is the skills assessment. It will help you understand your current skill set and how it might apply to other jobs. You may be surprised to see that your skills are transferable to many types of jobs you haven't thought about in the past!

The section called Job Search will assist you with finding a job. You can find information from how to choose an occupation to tips on interviewing to leaving your job gracefully. If you create an account, the system will help you create a resume that you can save in your portfolio.

The occupation information at the top of the left hand side of the page will give you information about specific jobs such as Utah wages and outlook information, information about the education and skills required, licensing information, and much more. It will give you a pretty clear picture of what is required for specific jobs.

The Employer Locator, on the lower right side, allows you to search for employers across the U.S. that are most likely to hire for specific occupations. It provides the employer's name, address, telephone number, and size.

Another important section focuses on getting financial assistance and scholarships. You can find local and national information that will help you figure out how to pay for any training or education you will need.

If you are interested in assisting your child, you can access the portfolio he/she created at school. Your child can take assessments, look at the Reality Check feature (how much will his/her desired lifestyle cost?), and investigate different occupations with you.

Utahfutures.org is there to help Utah citizens plan and manage their careers from grade school to retirement.