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As Long as We Remember...

May 17, 2004

Change in Life Plans Number 99

Alan Imhoff

Since my former employer gave me an option to retire six years ago (Change in Life Plan Number 95), I have had an opportunity not afforded to many people in today's world. To retire with full benefits at age 51 after 32 years of working for one company is something most of my friends and acquaintances find hard to believe.

What is even more remarkable is that the one year I had planned (Change in Life Plan Number 96) to decompress after a strenuous last eight years with the company has been stretched out to almost five additional years. If it were not for the fact that my portion of medical benefits for retirees has grown from no contribution initially to over 10% off the top of my fixed monthly income I might still be able to stretch it out for yet another year.

But along comes college years for the kids, a 40-year-old house that needs major repairs. Oh, yes, we cannot forget increased property taxes, income taxes, trash fees, fire & rescue taxes, a significant rise in gasoline costs at the pump, etc. So, the part-time teaching position (Change in Life Plan Number 97) at a local college that supplied a little extra money now is not enough.

Now, having achieved another milestone, the official age 55 for AARP (Change in Life Plan Number 98), I must now contemplate Change in Life Plan Number 99 and get back into the workforce with a full time job.

Like many who would like to retire but cannot and, more importantly, like most "young" retirees, the bliss of retirement is short-lived. I recognize my situation was unusual, but in the end the result is still the same, I must get back into the job market to make ends meet.

What has been interesting since I began this quest several months ago is a bias against someone who has retired and is looking for employment. It is hard to understand why - when you meet all the qualifications posted in the job requirements - you are told you are "overqualified" because of your experience, or what is even more interesting, the job for which you applied "we cannot pay a salary commensurate for your.."

It is not just my experience when seeking a new position; I have experienced similar phrasing in the hiring of individuals for two non-profits where I sit on their board of directors.

What is it about being "overqualified?" Is that just a euphemism for "your too old" in order to avoid an EEO complaint? And when you are not chosen because the folks hiring "think" you will be underpaid because of your experience, is that the polite way of saying we are hiring someone cheaper?

Oftentimes many retired individuals want to try a new field of endeavor and are willing to bring their knowledge of the workplace and life experiences to bear in a position that indeed is below what they use to make. But it seems all too frequently they become greeters at Wal-Mart, or swing shift associates at fast food restaurants.

I know I earned my retirement and would like nothing better than to continue volunteering in the community, teaching part-time at the college, throw in an occasional consulting job and just have the opportunity to share what I have learned and experienced with as many individuals or organizations as possible.

There are a growing number of us here in Frederick County who share those same thoughts and desires. Do not presume that if we want to come back into the workforce that we are "overqualified," that's what life experiences are all about and we do have a collective history that can help avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

Do not automatically weed us out because we may have earned more before; instead think about how inexpensive our knowledge is costing you. We have learned that there are things in life more important than a big salary.

What I would really like to do is skip Change in Life Plan Number 99 and move on to Number 100, whatever that may be.

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