For many decades there has been a pattern of aging that has prevailed. After progressing through whatever education they are capable of, the individual then tends to find a job, most often finds a mate, starts a family and moves on through life toward retirement. There are many variations on this, perhaps more so recently, but the tendency toward this pattern remains largely in effect. The problem is that this model requires more income as the individual moves through it. Families grow. Children grow up and require more possessions. The possessions are more costly. Education becomes a large expense. Then bigger homes may be needed, multiple vehicles, weddings, grandchildren, planning for retirement, etc.
This would not be a problem were it not for the possibility of topping out in the work market. If one stays loyally in a job and advances through gained competency and promotion, it must be recognized that there is less room toward the top of the pyramid, and that there are diminishing returns from gained competency. Also, some competency is based on formal training in newer techniques and technology. An older individual can continue education, but family pressures often limit this. Younger graduates always have newer knowledge, usually greater energy, and work cheaper.
So increasing income is difficult as one ages. Sometimes just maintaining income can be difficult. When a business suffers a setback, and has to cut its staff, laying off the high earners is a reasonable approach to cutting costs while keeping the greatest number of workers. Then, when older workers no longer have a job, they are competing with younger, more recently educated people in the market. Twenty-five years ago, having quit my job in the east to move to the southwest, I encountered the 40+ club phenomenon. There were many very competent people who were out of work, quite often not due to any personal deficiency. If they took a lower level job, than that they were capable of, it consumed much of the time they needed to find a more appropriate job. They had a hard time getting any kind of work, not just in their own specialty. It was as if their plea was, ”I’ve managed large operations and budgets effectively, surely you can trust me to sweep your floor.” It was sad. It was pitiful. It’s really difficult to get a suitable job, or often any job, when unemployed in middle age.
I was fortunate. After about 20 months looking for work, I was hired to work for the Air Force in Colorado Springs. I was happy. I got to stay high and dry in the Rocky Mountain west.
So what is my point? I don’t know a solution, but it seems that this is a very prevalent situation and problem. I don’t think the consequences should be meted out just by chance, and the victims be swept to the side as unfortunate casualties. It does not seem that a law could be passed to cure this. But as a society we completely ignore it, even though most of us are threatened by this phenomenon at some point. It seems to me that we have a deep talent pool available. Somehow it should be managed to get the best value from that talent and ensure that we don’t have to provide a premature safety net for the unfortunate victims. As I noted above, I don’t know how to do this. Please think about it. At some time it may affect you.