Boomer Birthdays Can Be Boom or Bust

The same can be said
for any generational group
at any time in our history.

April 1st seems like a good day
to write down these thoughts and
kick off a new Boomer Review feature …

Happy Birthday Again

This is a place to share thoughts about Birthdays …
Your Days … Looking Back … Looking Forward …
Taking Your Measure … Taking Your Next Step!

 Today is my sister’s birthday. When she was born her three older brothers thought she was a great April Fools Day prank.  We thought she would be another boy.

When our CPA dad made a visit to our school two weeks before the April 15 tax deadline, we thought he was playing a big April Fool’s Day joke.  I was convinced it was a prank when he told us we now had a sister.

She was No Joke

She went on to become a CPA, raise two great kids, and retire early to live and cruise on the water in warm places. I look forward to talking with her today about her birthday.

So … that’s the inspiration.

Here is the invitation …

If you would like to share your thoughts on these topics, please add your comments to postings that inspire you to respond AND submit guest blog material when you would like me to feature your thoughts.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tell me …

Are We Better or Bitter?

 Happy Birthday

Please enjoy the following guest blog from a very interesting friend. She, too, just had another birthday.

 

This is the inauguration …

 

Birthday Dinner

Last night I had the pleasure of being invited out to dinner by a couple I’ve been close with for 33 years now. The wife and I just had birthdays days apart.  We first met because the husband and I had been co-workers at a medical technology company in California when we were young and frisky and … not only did we share a strange NY sense of humor, a common interest in many books and lots of films, but his wife and I became close friends as well.

Today, 33 years later …

  • we are fortunate to be in the same city, Boston,
  • making many of the same jokes that others rarely understand,
  • have different jobs (and in my case am looking for one) and
  • wonder about our futures… something we never did back in California.

In the intervening years we worked hard to see each other several times a year if we lived in different parts of the country.

In the past three decades we all moved around a lot,

  • to Europe and back
  • from top to bottom and
  • side to side in the US.

My friend has ended up in academia where he is doing exceptionally well after finally accepting he is simply not cut out for corporate battles.  His wife, originally a speech pathologist, is happily teaching high school and college psychology.

As for me, I have had the happy circumstance of working with and for my friend at least six times in the past 30 years while at various employers. I consider him a mentor, a friend, confidante and prime critic.  Their now-grown children have become part of my pack of close friends and loved ones.

During our leisurely dinner we wondered at our past and our current state of affairs.  All three of us have had glorious highs and serious lows. At the moment, I am the one struggling through a low point.

Did I ever think that in Boomer middle age I would find myself divorced, childless, financially on the brink of disaster and without a job?  Never.  As recently as last year I had a full and busy consulting practice; didn’t have to think of taking a full-time job with a corporation until the unheard of happened.

A client who owed me six figures didn’t pay. 

I had to sue outside the US.  Won the case, but it cost me six figures in legal fees.  Other clients started paying slowly; in one case not at all.

I had to do something fast. 

And that thing was get a job where I didn’t have to wonder where the next paycheck was coming from.

Sure I had great experience, I had been a Director and a VP at big companies, had done consulting for more than ten years (not so good if you’re interested in going back to corporate land I found out).  And I had an unusual combination of skills that could make me marketable in a way that competitors would not be.  Or so I thought.

In a matter of months, I became what I call an “also ran.” 

A runner-up. 

Too much experience
… making the hiring manager nervous about their own job,
too old,
too this or
not enough that. 

What put me over the edge were the flaws that were perpetrated by hiring managers and HR departments. “We have to give precedence to internal employees.”  Or, more recently, on the day and at the hour of a pre-scheduled phone interview, “sorry but something just came up, we made an offer to someone last week and he accepted.”  That sure cheered me up. No one thought of calling ahead of time?  Today a recruiter called with a job offer in Switzerland, a serious offer.  And don’t think I won’t consider it.

Naturally friends who have never been out of work and who have always earned less money encourage me to apply to much lower level jobs not understanding I can’t get an interview for these.

Maybe as a barista at Starbucks but not in my field.

But back to last night’s dinner. 

Birthday Dinner Party

The fellow I’m friendly with said I had better get a job fast because he needs me as a contact for what he wants to do next.

I joked with him about not “retiring.”  He didn’t laugh. 

He and his wife who together make an excellent living had put two daughters through college and grad school and live in a rented a house. An expensive rented house.

They once owned a house … even built a custom one … but at one point they were paying for two homes…  and were cleaned out financially so they are back to renting.  They just will never have the amount necessary to buy a home again but aren’t sobbing about it.  Real estate is just not a good investment now anyway.  But they never expected it.  I on the other hand, unemployed and worried about every cent, own my home outright but naturally can’t sell it.  If I get a position out-of-town, I’ll rent it and hopefully eventually sell it though it does need work I can’t afford to do on it.

I now think of my home as a black hole I just pour money into.

My friend’s wife, who teaches, makes a measly amount of money considering she works six days a week and loves what she does.  But between expenses and helping grandchildren and just life, they haven’t had a real vacation for six years and now one of the daughters is getting married in a few months, just after graduating from her master’s program.  It doesn’t end.

I question if we are all lucky enough to work, will we all die at our desks, heads across our keyboards, saliva dripping on to our cell phones?  One thing for certain is that I know I will not enjoy the gracious living my 96-year-old father and his wife have at their adult community with lots of activities.  Being single, I don’t even know if I have the energy for a date.  I put myself on “hiatus” three years ago because I couldn’t work and have a social life and survive.  Now, I can’t put the energy into a job search and date.  And dating someone who is “retired” would just, well….piss me off.

Frankly I don’t ever want to retire. 

I just want to rearrange my priorities a bit.  My life has thrown me a few challenges.  A lousy marriage and worse divorce that cost me more than I ever imagined (and that’s just financially) and a professional situation that just blew up in my face.  Sure I’m creative and have lots of ideas.

 But I’m not entirely sure I want to continue doing what I have for the past thirty years. 

But who in their right mind would give me a job just because I’m clever?  If any of you know that person, send them my way before any more brain cells evaporate or I forget my address.

Will I get the job in Switzerland?  How about moving to another part of the country (I’m all for that)?  What about a local job that just cropped up on the radar again after nine months?  Is it ready to give birth once again?

No one understands why I’m out of work. 

Even I’m having trouble now.  No matter how awful or depressed I feel, I manage to drag up a perky presence on the phone, a good attitude and the ability to check those gazillions of job listings seven days a week.  Maybe I need a vacation.  Or a trip to the moon.  Or less criticism from my family who reminds me how well my YOUNGER sisters are doing (and then I remind them how each of them is being supported by a partner as well).

Is this part of getting older? 

Can we continue to blame it on the economy?  Is it me?  Should I have stayed married?  Never moved to Boston?  Been a schoolteacher like my mother suggested?  Maybe get a face lift (I don’t think I need one).

Does boomer bias exist? 

Please don’t tell me its age.  But maybe it is.  I haven’t heard it to my face and I’ve gotten plenty of interviews versus some of my other out of work friends.  But too many people I know are out of work after long careers and we’re all running out of money and have had to hit those retirement accounts.

Listen, group therapy isn’t going to help.  We all need the same thing and it has nothing to do with makeovers of the state of our minds.

We need jobs. 
And we need HR managers to take us seriously.

More importantly we require hiring managers not to be fearful that we will usurp them (though we can of course).  But we can behave and be grateful we’re working.  Its HR’s job to train uppity young hiring managers not to be scared of slightly older workers, but we all know about HR managers, don’t we?  We might teach them something and we have a longer list of good jokes to share and have accumulated a bit more patience.

And we’re not used up. 
Hey I don’t want to have this conversation!

I have a great resume.  I don’t want to talk about age.  I look at least ten years younger than I am and take care of myself but this whole process is starting to give me teenage acne and how can I explain that.

If all I have to look forward to is bagging groceries or checking out books at Barnes and Noble (and even they aren’t doing so hot) I’m in trouble.

Anybody have a job for me and my friends?

Some of us would like to retire while we can still remember where the car keys are and some of us would like to have enough money to eat.  The rest of us who are working would like our companies to stay honest so they don’t go out of business.  Is this asking a lot or did Woodstock just burn out too many of my brain cells???

Respectfully submitted, but still complaining,

PT

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