Job Loss & Career Reboot Later in Life

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bklement's picture
bklement
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 26 2009
Posts: 108
Job Loss & Career Reboot Later in Life

The collision of a slowing economy with an aging workforce recently hit very close to home for me.

My father had worked at the same company for the last 37 years until the facility was shuttered this last February. He started working in a machine room of a paper mill when he turned 22 years old.  The mill paid well enough that my mother was able to stay home and raise myself and my five siblings. About a year ago the corporate headquarters of the paper mill announced that they were looking for a buyer for the mill and if one was not found soon they would close it down. A little over a month after that announcement they decided they were going to close the mill and by February it was done.

At 59 years old, with his entire professional career spent at one company, my father was now out of work. The mill closing cost 1,200 people their jobs either directly like the mill employees, or indirectly like the truck drivers and loggers. A large window and door manufacturing plant in the area also closed its doors the same month costing another 1,000 jobs. In the course of a month the area’s unemployment rate jumped by an additional 5%.  My father started looking for a new job but any openings received a flood of applicants and were quickly filled - usually by younger workers, and at lower wages and benefits.

After several months of looking for a job my parents sat down to try to decide what to do. They went and spoke with a financial planner who informed them that they would need additional income over what they had saved in their 401k and pension.  My father came to a realization that most companies aren’t interested in hiring 59 year old workers with limited experience. My mother found a part time job that paid minimum wage and does not include health insurance.  The cheapest health insurance they could find was $1,300 a month which was quite a bit more than the part time job paid for the month.

My parents ended up concluding that the only stable job they could get was one that they would create themselves. So taking their woodworking hobbies they decided to start their own small business: www.woodensnowart.com. At this early stage, it's a pretty simple affair - so far they offer just two lines of products: wood carvings and wooden snowflake ornaments. But they're in process of figuring out what the market wants, and how they can best match their skills to meet it (and asking their son for free web development and marketing assistance, which I'm quickly stumbling to learn)

I share this story to put a human face on the repercussions of the economic dysfunction we discuss daily on this site. And to highlight the increased scrappiness and self-reliance it's going to require of society to address them.

I'm interested to hear if others have similar tales to tell. And if so, are there learnings or success stories that I might be able to take back to my folks? 

They can use all the support they can get. As will millions more aging boomers finding 'retirement' to be an elusive dream.

Ben

RJE's picture
RJE
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
bklement, tough to hear and

bklement, tough to hear and sorrowful.

As a family unit have you discussed living arrangements that would put you folks all back under the same roof? As you are aware that as life moves along for us baby boomer types that medical costs are our single greatest expense. So pooling the family unit is to represent community that we all wish to nurture. My point is that your parents must have medical insurance, deserve less stresses not more, and the benefit to your family unit would be enhanced. In pooling, the risk of your personal finances should one of your parents get sick be minimized as I assume you would feel responsible enough to help your parent (s) out, and this could only drain your cash as well. The situation then could be unbearable to all of you. My suggestion if you haven't made this family unit whole is to consider doing this, and adjust as it truly is the best way forward. In addition, new businesses are seldom successful so the reality of the situation can only become more stressful, and drain savings that otherwise could have been put to better use.

I wish you all well and with deepest respect I hope you folks can work this out.

Respectfully Given

BOB

jasonw's picture
jasonw
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Joined: Sep 17 2011
Posts: 1024
Marketing / Sales resource

bklement - thank you for sharing your family's difficult time with us.  It is very valuable for the community here to gets lots of different perspectives to the challenges we face. 

One resource you might look at utilizing for marketing and selling the woodcrafts at is Etsy. http://www.etsy.com/.  It is a great place to find and sell handcrafted products such as the ones your parents are making.  And with the holiday season coming up - the more places these items are available at, the better chances of moving product and achieving success. 

Best of luck,

Jason

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 4 2012
Posts: 574
thank you for sharing

bklement, thank you for sharing this, and as with Bob, I wish you well and hope you can work this out. Your story is no doubt being duplicated all over the place, here in North America and abroad. It is tragic, and reinforces why the message of building resilience and strong relationships are so important - those are the things that will sustain you and your family.

It also reinforces a point that one of the guest financial advisers made in previous podcast, that being it is so important to keep investing in yourself even as you get older. I do not say this with any disrespect at all to your dad or your family. We often think of investing in purely financial terms. I have to think that investing in yourself should be a companion to our monetary portfolios, and that we can and should think of ourselves as "assets" bcause that is what we are!

Good luck to your dad and mom with their venture. I hope they do well.

thatchmo's picture
thatchmo
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 14 2008
Posts: 462
good goin'

Hey Ben.

I congratulate your folks, who are my age, in using OUR parents, and THEIRS, solution- Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.  I must be gettin' old to use such archaic phraseology....My initial thought is that with ebay, amazon, etc. I guess it is still possible to market effectively home produced local crafts. Maybe even easier as many folks are looking to buy less Chinese junk and more American stuff.  However, I might suggest, if necessary, that available discressionary income to purchase "crafts" will probably be coming to an end for many folks.  Hence I would suggest that your folks keep searching for a product to produce that is appropiate to the new economy- what even that may be.  But I'm guessing it won't be wooden snowflakes.  But I'm wishing them the best for the upcoming holiday sales season!  And thanks for sharing your story.  I appreciate it.  Aloha, Steve.

bklement's picture
bklement
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 26 2009
Posts: 108
Thank you for the responses. 

Thank you for the responses.  I have put an auction up on Ebay and I am looking at Amazon and Etsy (both seem like great options, thanks).

One of the problems with consolidating households is that right now myself and my siblings live a fair ways away from my parents.  They have their house paid off and the market has become so depressed in their area because of the closings that it may not make sense to sell yet, but it may in the future.

My parents are looking for other products to produce but they haven't had any other viable ideas as of yet.

 

RJE's picture
RJE
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
bklement, I haven't really

bklement, I haven't really had you off my mind since your posting. Fact is I went and shot my 45 with my son's today, took them out for brunch and we had a nice serious talk about just your situation. We all agreed as we kissed good bye that all for one and one for all is just the way it will be. I have always just assumed this but words are better expressed to get that confirmation and understanding. The fact that you are so far apart from one another's leaves things in a worrying state. I honestly understand your concerns and feel the love you have for your parents. I will only say that I wish you all well and will raise words on your behalf. Good Luck

Respectfully Given

BOB

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
scrappy comback

bklment, I hear you. And consider this plus to your parents' small business solution: if they are selling things online they can move as a couple but your folks' "store" stays in the same place. Just like my writing work.

Our family had to consolidate a bit when my ex in FL got ill and his business (contractor for real estate flips) folded. My son worked for his dad. When I needed a hip relacement, a year and a half ago my eldest son moved from Florida's Space Coast to SC, to help me and because our economy was in better shape. He got a part-ime job with an auto parts chain, and just passed an ASE exam today. He plans on going to a local technical school for diesel tech. And he's getting married and moving out in January.

Meanwhile, my employment situation was pretty much like your dad's, except I did it to myself. In 2009, at the age of 54 I quit a very high paying construction engineering job in NYC to get married and move south. Bad timing, to say the least, and then my hip went on me. So I started my own engineering consulting business. I'm not making much, but there is NO commute (I work from home) and due to our taxable income being lowered by my husband paying "maintenance" (alimony) we get to keep it all. Unlike your dad, my spouse has a decent job that saves companies money - he handles about a half a mil in energy savings maintenance contracts for a Fortune 50 company and acts as a toubleshooter for the region. Fairly secure unless the S really hits the Fan.

But even with good health insurance coverage for a great company, things are changing. Our health insurance just got WAY more expensive. We now have a $3,000 family deductible. We are using both an FSA (flexible spending account) and an HSA (health savings account, from pretax dollars) to meet that deductible, but after we meet it they only pay 80%. The insurer wants us to shop around for less expensive options, and if we do the HSA carries over to next year. Example: I recently had pain in my foot that was probably a broken bone but did not show on an x-ray and they wanted me to get an MRI to confirm it. I said no, and they did a more old fashioned test that worked just fine.

I consider us to be in decent financial shape. Our house is paid off, and we are debt free. I also consider THIS to be my retirement. Seriously: compared to driving or taking a train into NYC and dealing with screaming construction superintendents, this is heaven. I'm working part time at my engineering, keeping house, gardening, writing, and editing - work I love and intend to do until I die. I expect things will get a lot tougher though, and soon, so I will have to stay healthy enough to be a help and not a burden to my family. I expect to work harder then than I am now.

Poet's picture
Poet
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1891
House Paid Off: Good Thing

Besides saving money, your parents did a good thing in having worked hard to pay off their house. A mortgage can be a huge huge expense that they don't have to worry about.

Poet

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