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Seniors In The Work Place

07/02/2011 3:10 PM

We are living longer, thanks to advances in medicine, nutrition and education. Once people reach retirement age, they start thinking about retirement. Some welcome it; others dread the idea. We are programmed to think retirement at age 65 is the normal way of life, but it is not nor should it be. Without quoting a lot of statistics about going downhill after retirement, it appears that a lot of seniors would like to continue working. Most companies don't encourage seniors to keep working. The few that do are among the most progressive companies around. Government and corporations regard those past retiremeny age as liabilities, when the opposite is true seniors are more likely to be assets. There is no substitute for experience. Once a senior leaves the work environment, the knowledge gained through experience is lost forever. I don't think we can afford to lose it; certainly not in today's competitive world

What is your take on this? How can we utilize the skills and knowledge that is now being lost hrough retirement? There are many factors involved such as how to sustain a much larger work force when jobs are being lost to other countries and the cost of maintaining that work force.

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#1

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/02/2011 3:57 PM

I think the answer could be part-time employment. My 'official' retirement date is still a number of years away, but I'm not looking forward to being permanently retired. I'm hoping I'll be able to work-out an arrangement to work part-time, perhaps 3 or 4 days a week; maybe working 6 hour days so I can avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours. I'd be willing to work at a reduced salary and with reduced benefits, perhaps paying more out-of-pocket for those benefits.

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#2

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/02/2011 5:25 PM

With current economic conditions and trends, many folks may have to work longer than they had hoped. Savvy companies could expand flex-time and work-at-home opportunities, to mutual advantage with this pool of talent and experience.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/02/2011 5:56 PM

Yep. Even contract work, where the talent and experience are tapped only when needed. This could actually be a pretty lucrative gig. A senior could farm his talent out across multiple companies.

Unfortunately, I don't think that companies necessarily want to see the senior talent go away. I think the decision is based on the inevitable health problems with older workers that will crop up, followed by the increased cost of insurance premiums to cover them.

This approach could provide plenty of money for seniors to pay their own premiums and alleviate the worry on the companies of having to cover them.

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#4

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/02/2011 9:26 PM

You, and the following posters write of companies as though the decisions are corporate; companies are made up of people, people who make the decisions at the local levels. It is often the case that a younger boss wants to have younger people who owe him their jobs, rather than dinosaurs, hired by previous generations of supervisors. To be fair, there is often a difficulty with communication, the older generation not being in on the subtleties of language growth, even the technical terms seem to change with the passage of time.

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#14
In reply to #4

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 7:31 AM

Hey please be respectable to old persons and do not use these words "It is often the case that a younger boss wants to have younger people who owe him their jobs, rather than dinosaurs, hired by previous generations of supervisors. To be fair, there is often a difficulty with communication, the older generation not being in on the subtleties of language growth, even the technical terms seem to change with the passage of time."

I think you are young and insulting to old people. It is vast experience that count not hasty decisions.

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#19
In reply to #14

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 10:47 AM

Old what is old? Please define it .Do you mean seniors? My dad was old when he was 90. My brother is 61 and young. Queen of UK is young at 84. Prince Philip is 90 and maybe now getting a little old. My car is old

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#39
In reply to #4

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/04/2011 2:12 PM

You call old dinosaurs, that would make the younger embryos.

There are the old who has a comfort zone, and does not want that comfort zone interrupted. Just like the younger thinks they can do it and can't.

Frankly, what happens is the older are at a premium wage, and that at least for a time is the deal maker/breaker. Things come around, and there will come a time where age does not matter, but if you can do the job.

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#5

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 1:39 AM

Although there are plenty of seniors that face discrimination throughout America's workforce, I've found it to be less of an issue in the field of Engineering; particularly in disciplines closely related to mechanical or structural fields. The technology in those fields is not advancing in the same way that it does in more "technical" fields such as electronics, software, etc.

So there could be a justifiable bias against seniors in hi-tech, if they don't keep up with the newest information. And let's face it, there are dozens of reasons that continually learning the "latest thing" is easier said than done.

Mechanically related disciplines, on the other hand... a 65 year old engineer is nothing but an asset in every way. There are some areas like metallurgy, for instance, or plastics, where new things are still being developed. But for the most part, we're still using very many of the exact methods and logic that the builders of the pyramids and Roman aqueducts used. 4 decades of experience in those types of things can only result in better and faster solutions for anybody that employs a senior. I've worked with plenty of "old dudes" in my field. Very few were in any danger of losing their jobs. I guess some of us are lucky, in that sense. Most career fields in the country don't have that small bit of extra security.

Although in any field, even mechanical engineering... there is the curmudgeon factor

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 1:42 AM

Ah, but curmudgeon can be done with style!

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 1:45 AM

I guess if you're gonna be a curmudgeon... be the best curmudgeon you can be!

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 2:13 AM

Are you by chance following the Newsletter Challenge on orbital slingshot effects?

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 3:09 AM

I looked at it earlier. Seems to have grown.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 3:18 AM

In one of my curmudgeonly efforts, over there I am hammering some zen character who seems not to have much zen (or even common sense).

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 3:22 AM

May the Farce be with him.

I think someone already answered that thread. The answer is 42.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 3:27 AM

That's one of the better answers, regrettably.

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#8

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 1:58 AM

Possibly spurious, but in the last Queensland floods, no current employee knew how to open the mitigation gates on a major dam. Hadn't been done in over 10 years.

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#15

Re: Seniors in the work place

07/03/2011 7:59 AM

Here is my post retirement experience. I retired 12 years back at the age 58, this retirement age here in India. For few years I did some trading business and liasioning job for my friends. At the age of 64 I decided to get retired from my activities due to pressure from family members. I can manage my expenses from my savings and pension funds. I have fixed my day to day routine of morning and evening walk on seafront, yoga exercises, reading books, newspapers, and surfing internet. I do not suffer from any ailment at the age of 71 due to grace of God.

My elder brother who is American national retired at age of 65 still continues to work as he can not sit idle at home and not able to fix his routine as I have done. He has taken up job which is paying him lower salary than he used to get at the time of retirement.

I agree that senior persons who have gained vast experience in their profession should not be just left to die. They need to be respected and can guide young persons in their day to day work. Corporates should workout scheme to utilise their services which will benefit to both parties. I have come across some small/medium size organisations who prefer retirees as they are avail at lower salaries and have vast experience.

More over it is state of your mind which controls your thinking. If you can change your thinking so as to understand that you have worked enough and now is time to relax and enjoy other aspects of life then retirement is not a problem for you but Joy of Living.

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#16

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 8:58 AM

The Irish government has now decreed that the mandatory retirement age shall be incrementally moved upwards to 68 before the year 2028.

Currently it is 65, judges 70, police 60, doctors 70.

As we are living longer I agree that there should be no upper age limit provided that a person is able , mentally and physically. My brother who is almost 61 just started a new business in medical devices and is doing good. he said God willing that he will probably retire at 70.

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#17

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 10:30 AM

I don't believe there is a single answer that fits all situations. Some people work at jobs they dislike and retirement is their top priority. I worked at a job I loved, but was annoyed by poor management decisions. Eleven years ago at 60, I retired and started my own business. I now agree with management decisions and make more money than I did at my old job. I would have been content to give my former employer the benefit of the 35 years of experience I received by working for them, but they didn't want to listen; in fact, they were anxious to replace me. I think each person needs to take the path that suits them best.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 10:43 AM

Well done welderman. It is indeed great to see somebody with such experience making it alone. Bet they will be annoyed to see you sucessful. Their loss. Well done. Ilke with somebody I know he was replaced with two for less production output.

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#42
In reply to #17

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/04/2011 5:10 PM

GA from me also welderman. Some people can't envision retirement...................others look forward to sitting on their a$$es and golfing once in a while...................neither answer is wrong..............do what you want.

For some, it's screwing off, for others, it's continuing to work. It's all good!

For those that lost their retirement savings in some bubble..............sorry. Nothing can replace research.

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#20

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 2:16 PM

Retire whenever you darn well feel like it.

I'm looking forward to retiring for the same reasons as welderman. Corporate decisions tend to be narrow minded and typically foolish, especially for the long term health of any given company. The current meme of ensuring the stock price doesn't go down is about as silly as it gets. This is probably a topic for another thread, but I've worked at three different corporations that closed branches in the name of "consolidation" that lost valuable talent and experience. The stockholders were happy (stock price went up) because of the talent, but strangely enough, expenses went up because it took longer to complete projects with less experienced employees. Payroll went up because they needed "warm bodies" to make the project move faster. In general productivity decreased due to this "consolidation" that, in fact, did nothing more than increase expenses. It left me and several other experienced (read old) engineers looking for work.

<rant off>

I'll agree, that the experience of older engineers is invaluable. That said, there are older engineers who have less of anything worthwhile to add to the modern workforce. I recall Al, an older mechanical engineer, who couldn't figure out 3D drafting and designed everything in two dimensions. Not being able to take advantage of 3D drafting to check interferences (one of the best features of 3D drafting) his design took extra time to iron out its problems. Al was not a bad engineer, he just couldn't keep up. There is a distinct fear in lower level management of getting an Al who becomes more of a burden. In these times of tight budgets, that can be a serious issue.

I like the idea of working part time after retiring. I plan on doing projects of my own, but if possible, I have no problems offering my experience to those who need it. Even now, as I'm still working mentorship is one of my favorite aspects of engineering.

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#21

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 3:10 PM

I feel sad when I go into a Walmart and see a senior working as a greeter. I'm sure that person has a lot more to offer to society than "how are you? and have a nice day".

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#24
In reply to #21

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 4:33 PM

My last visit to USA I noticed that a lot in supermarkets. Ok it is nice to earn a few quid but yes I felt the same and saw a lost opportunity in some of these people. One person whom I asked for directions told me that he was a retired air force technician who had worked on the older aircraft and that is a shame that he was now "out on grass". He was, I guessed about 63 or so. 10 good years left in that guy judging by his physique and his mental condition, if he wished to instruct or supervise.

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#22

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 3:20 PM

Many years ago, I worked in a Naval shipyard on the West Coast. An older aircraft carrier was in the yard and one of the largest jobs was to replace the flight deck which was a wood deck, 3" thick over steel. No one in the yard knew how to cut and fit wood as had been an acquired skill, but wasn't used for the past 20 years. A search of former employees many who were retired, turned up enough men, some in their 70's and were asked to return to work for this one job. The job got done and the ship lived to sail for five more years until a newly built ship could replace her. I believe the ship was a Lexington class carrier.

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#23

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 4:32 PM

I don't enjoy raining on anyone's parade but we need a dose of reality. (And which includes me who was booted out of corporate America 10 years ago at age 62). Here's reality:

1. Age brings important deficiencies in the body. Natural endurance goes down. We need more rest. We lose muscle strength and other "athletic abilities" This is important in some occupations other than engineering. Intensive personal training can reduce these effects; but for most of us there is a short distance to a point of diminishing returns on that road.

2. We develop short term memory loss problems. It hurts our ability to efficiently multitask and also learn new skills, especially computer skills which involve a lot of initial abstractions (this little picture does that and is in this little place on the screen; "You've got that, now; don't you?")

3. If we're men our testosterone levels go down. And so a level of competitiveness in us drops. Competition among peers usually increases overall productivity (though it can get out of hand and become destructive). Most managers recognize this, at least subconsciously.

4. As we age we are more likely to suffer from illnesses that take us off the job for protracted periods in order to recover.

5. In most cultures it is a norm to respect older people for their wisdom but also view them as a burden. When the latter outweighs the former real discrimination starts.

6. Younger managers often do not know how to handle and make use of the wisdom of their older workers. Competition for leadership arises between the two camps. The younger manager usually wins due to his authoritarian position.

7. Organized enterprise is about achieving and maximizing returns. Doesn't matter if it's a business, non-profit, government, army or a sheriff's posse. Every member has a cost and the return must exceed the cost or the enterprise is weakened. Returns are not always measured in dollars, tons of mineral or "kills". Such is "customer satisfaction" and other soft things.

8. Mid life often brings responsibilities outside of work that the young worker does not have. Such responsibilities are a drain on the worker's energy available for the job. A mindset that handles responsibilities is important for the manager or worker who must deal with complex problems. But the number of workers in an organization where this is of value is usually a small percentage of the workforce.

9. The demand for technical skills in workers rides the waves of new technology. As the wave passes supply begins to exceed demand and usually continues long past the point where the demand drops to near zero. Engineers are greatly affected by this. The market value of these skills drops even faster to the point where they are essentially worthless and you can't even give away work born of those skills.

Relative to 9. above look at the number of informational replies many basic CR-4 questions draw. Look at the time you put into those answers as your tangible investment and then look at the return you get in many cases.

Food for thought for us seniors who still want to work. And also for a society that will soon come up short of workers to pay into Social Security.

Ed Weldon

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 4:55 PM

A few US presidents were over 60 and Ronald Reagan was 69 on entering office of the greatest country on earth. No difficulties there. Churchill was late 60's during the war. De Gaulle and Mitterand were both late 60's when in power.All thses guys needed fast minds and were good leaders.

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#28
In reply to #25

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 6:16 PM

You need more worker bees than top leaders. The military usually knows when it needs fewer officers than it has. Even at flag rank. They readily retire them. And look at the number of retired senior officers who get air time to second guess the current leadership. I'm not all that convinced that those "contributions" are all that constructive in the grand scheme of things. There are parallels all the way down to small working group of engineers in a company setting.

Another related thought ...... When you get too many people with fast minds and good leadership ability together and ask them to make decisions the process take longer. Our Congress in the time of the great leaders you cited was like that. But at least they made decisions. Not so today. I'm still searching for the root causes behind how we got here. .............. Maybe it was the decision to open the drain valve on the US Treasury back in the 1960's slow the filling in the 1980's.

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#45
In reply to #25

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/05/2011 8:39 AM

You have to realize people like Reagan was a leader, A leader that surounded himself with smart people, people that was smarter than himself. Reagan realize that and did what true leaders do, took advantage of his resources.

Something that a younger leader may have problems with, as Ed mentioned. with the diminished hormone levels a leader can do that, as oposed to a younger one, where a control issues may pose problems.

It works both ways.

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#26
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Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 5:54 PM

One other point I didn't bring up in my last post because it is somewhat unique to the USA and our emphasis on broad economic success rather than individual economic success. It is common practice in our state's labor laws to have a set of laws that define when overtime pay is given to workers. Along with those laws is a defined "exempt" class of management and professional workers who draw salaries based on weeks or months of work. "Exempt" in this context means exempt from the rules that grant overtime pay. I believe that the original idea was that managers and professionals of the same company status and comparable duties as managers were "on the job" 24/7 even if they weren't in the workplace.

60 years ago this status for all engineers became widespread in industry. In most medium sized companies there was a social status for engineers as professionals that encouraged them to identify with company objectives as well as their own paychecks. In those times the engineers were subtly bent toward scorning involvement in unions. Few engineers worked more than 8 hours/5 days or were expected to. There were industry exceptions such as large defense contractors; and sure enough, engineering unions grew rapidly in those places.

But most industries saw little of that sort of thing. Now fast forward to the last 20 years and rapidly changing technologies, international competition, and huge pressures to bring products and to market and project completions in short time spans. Add to that electronic computing and communication technologies which not only shorten development time but also enable engineers to do the work previously done by hourly office and technician level employees. Engineers found themselves working longer hours into the evenings and doing more sub professional clerical and drafting work. Employers found they could eliminate office worker salaries because the engineers were doing their work for free and doing it more efficiently to boot. All the employers needed was to keep the motivation level for their engineers high.

As times got tough in the US and unemployment rose that motivation deteriorated into "get your projects done on time whatever it takes or we can find someone to take your place." "And by the way we're working Saturday. Please have your project status report to me and your distribution list at 8:00 AM Monday morning. We'll tell plant engineering to leave the heat on over the weekend" (hint, hint) And there quickly grew the phenomenon of the 7:00 AM, Noon and 5:00 PM meetings. Meetings in which you and other team members sequentially report the same info to people who were on your distribution list while you surreptitiously try to get some thing accomplished with your little electronic leash.

You wonder why at age 60, when 8 hours of work make you genuinely tired, employers won't consider you for an engineering position?

Is the answer as simple as changing the definition of "professional" in state labor laws by a single overriding Federal law to keep the playing field level? Don't hold your breath.

Ed Weldon

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#27
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Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 6:00 PM

Although what you say is true, at times... this subject, almost more than any other, must be considered on a case by case basis. What you wrote is definitely not something that equally covers all seniors. A simple majority, perhaps. But it's not a blanket statement. There is a substantial percentage who do not apply. As was mentioned by another... look at the presidents we've had in America... or elected leaders in many countries, for that matter. And plenty of successful CEO's and owners of companies that have none of that. Mind, body and spirit all decay at different rates in different people. Your own experience is different from anybody else's. I know people in their 50's who are experiencing all those things you mentioned. I also know people in their 70's, who aside from some additional aches and pains, are still as sharp and also competitive and virile as anyone I know.

I'd have to say that what you classify as "reality" is exactly the type of mentality that makes this whole issue a problem. If too many people believe what you said, and believe it is a foregone conclusion that everyone falls under those conditions, we get a sad story for many undeserving seniors. who are put out to pasture before their time.

On the other hand... those that spent their life properly financially preparing for retirement, and also caught some breaks during their lifetime, don't have to deal with this issue, and have plenty of options.

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#29
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Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 7:06 PM

OBE - If we consider this subject on a case by case basis there will be a lot more losers than winners if we stay on today's course. If all you care about is winners that's fine. They are great role models and make substantial contributions. And they will take care of themselves. What about the losers?

Reality is where the rubber meets the road as we say in the automobile racing world. Reality to someone looking for a job is in the minds of hiring managers. That's the reality I was talking about when it comes to hiring older engineers. If they say "no" to an applicant then there is a reason. I cited what I believe are reasons. These are very real and I assert that it affects more than a simple majority even including the ones who get hired or retained after 65 and the ones who for one reason or another no longer want any paid engineering work.

But regardless of their percentage their problem is big enough to need fixing.

That's my position. …………… Ed Weldon

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#31
In reply to #29

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 7:20 PM

I'm with ya Ed. We're on the same side. It's definitely a problem that needs fixing.

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#30
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Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 7:16 PM

you forgot one ED

Experience generally commands a higher price tag...

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#32
In reply to #30

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 7:22 PM

Let me modify that just a bit. "Experience generally expects a higher price tag."

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 7:24 PM

the employers expect to pay a higher price too

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#34
In reply to #30

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 11:19 PM

But for every experienced high price tag guy they need 4 or 5 "yes men" to provide support. Long as they can "draw" in 3d CAD and have the right constants to plug into formulas or know a little bit about where to find them they'll do. Oh, yeah.....They need to know how to build PowerPoints. And not mind a 60 hour work week. When it comes to promoting one of the yes men or hiring/retaining and old experienced hand who usually wins?

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/03/2011 11:27 PM

the expectations on both sides perpetuate the inefficiency & waste of talent

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#36
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Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/04/2011 9:17 AM

The problem is that the knowledge is not being passed on to the younger generation. Companies hire older people for their experiance to get a job done but don't use them to mentor the younger generation.

I think that there is also the feeling among some people who are nearing retirement that if they pass on all the information that they have acquired over the years then the company will have no reason to hire them back on contract after they retire.

You don't have to be able to learn do the latest and greatest things in computers but just be aware of what is possible. There are new people comming out of school each year who have grown up on computers and we can't hope to compete with them in computer skills but they have no practical experience and have no way of getting practical experiance since most manufacturing is done overseas.

You need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to make life worth while. Some people want to keep on working, others do volunteer work and others take up intrests that they never had the time to do when they were working and some go into politics.

When I retire the one thing I will definately not be doing is commuting one hour each way to work. Wall-Mart sounds good. It is local, there is no responsibility, no one is upset with the person at the door and it pays some spending money as oposed to volunteer work.

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#44
In reply to #23

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/05/2011 3:18 AM

As per your thinking (pts 1to 9) old are just people who are good for nothing? Are they burden on the society?. They can not contribute to economy in any way?.I do not how you have arrived at this perception, may be it is only your own experience. I do not agree with you sorry.

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#37

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/04/2011 9:53 AM

<....Once people reach retirement age, they start thinking about retirement.....>

The wise ones start thinking about it much earlier than that!

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#38

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/04/2011 2:03 PM

I agree that increased longevity is a good argument for increasing the retirement age. My concern is that I don't see much chance that the current high levels of unemployment in our economy are just a blip. I think this is the new 'normal'. I'm self employed so I don't plan to retire until my mind, eyes, or hands crap out. My wife has worked in the medical profession all of her life, but when she quit her job a few years back so we could move it took her nearly a year to find a new job. And this is a job in the health care industry which is one of the few sectors that are still adding jobs. A neighbor of ours who had just recently retired from a career in an employment agency said she was extremely lucky. It's pretty hard to find jobs for folks with 10 years or so of retirement age. From that I assume there are a lot of folks in their fifties who are having a lot of trouble finding work right now. So while on paper this sounds like a good idea, I'm not sure that these folks who are currently a decade away from retirement age will see their conditions improve if their retirement age is pushed even further into the future.

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#40
In reply to #38

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/04/2011 3:36 PM

Johnfotl -- So what do we do about this dreary future? The employment situation you describe was there but less noticeable before the 2008 crash that took away the economic driving force of easy credit. So if economic driving forces to restore demand come back I think unemployment for seniors will still be a problem. Employers will always have a numerical preference for young energetic workers.

What we need is some new motivations to hire senior workers. Some new business models. If the government is going to do this it will take a serious majority of voter support to make it happen. I believe this is more likely to happen at a state or even local level than at the Federal level. But such models cannot place significant burdens on the businesses or they will simply wither or leave the scene. Nor does it pay to increase burdens on people with jobs. They will scream, wield their votes and even take to the streets.

I would attack the factors which add overhead cost to the business for each new employee. Another is to find ways via labor laws to discourage the businesses from minimizing their workforce numbers by working employees overtime. And of course avoid tax burdens that simply take money from taxpayers and give it without significant multiplier effect to workers or businesses.

How would you do this? If you run a business what changes would you support?

Ed Weldon

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#41
In reply to #40

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/04/2011 4:12 PM

besides overtime there are other fixed costs that make it cheaper increase to the workload, than to expand the workforce

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#43
In reply to #41

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/04/2011 5:17 PM

Garth - Before I start unloading my ideas ideas about which fixed costs and what to do with them I'd like to hear from others..... I'm talking too much on this topic already...Ed

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#50
In reply to #41

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/05/2011 8:26 PM

It has been my experience to see workers not working 100% because they knew overtime would wventually be required in order to complete the job on time. Once overtime was authorized, I would see a little bit more activity happening. I worked as a contract worker in an engineering department of a large shipyard. The draftsmen were union. I saw a lot of loafing. Supervisors seemed powerless to do anything about it due to union strength. When an engineer needed a drawing done quickly, he would do it himself. That would bring the union shop stewards out to complain that jobs were being taken away from the union membership. As contractors, or job shoppers, as we were called, we were disliked by the union members because we made them look bad. We had much experience under our belts, were paid a good salary. We had to put up with the union "atmosphere". If we needed to work overtime, the union made sure their members worked overtime also.

Because of the unions, government contracts frequently went overbudget. I enjoyed my work and like the other job shoppers, we not only picked up the slack, but even excelled in work output, much to the delight of management. We had excellent work relationships with management and if it was up to them, they would have preferred to keep us permanent over their union workers.

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#46
In reply to #40

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/05/2011 11:28 AM

The two issues that come up most are the steeper health cost for hiring older workers, and the 'tradition' by which older workers with 'more experience' get paid more.

The extra pay for extra experience model is pretty deeply rooted and would require perhaps a generation to change, assuming we wanted to. It may well be that the ever increasing pay model is inefficient - maybe the experience is increasingly irrelevant and outdated, maybe the slowness outweigh the experience. Maybe in a time of limited opportunities we should shift resources to producing better and more appropriately trained younger workers, and let the old muddle through.

What I do sense from all the HR newsletters that appear in my inbox every day is that these people seem to live on a different planet than I do, and seem more concerned with not getting sued for discriminating against job seekers with tattoos than they are with finding the right mix of people for their industry. One important thing we could do is put hiring decisions in the hands of department managers, and rely less on HR for these decisions.

On the health care front the obvious choice would be to sever the link between employment and health insurance, so that employers could look just at job performance when making hiring decisions. But for nominally political reasons this country seem incapable of taking a lesson from the rest of the advanced world on how to structure and fund healthcare. Any step away from our fee for service employer based system is fraught, and brings out the long knives of the medical/industrial complex.

I think that too may people still believe this economic downturn began in '07, and is just another cyclic episode. My sense is the downturn is structural and began much earlier, but was obscured by the rapid expansion of personal and government borrowing. This misperception leads to short term thinking and gimmicks, when what is needed is a longer view of history. If there is a way out of this it will be through long term strategies to improve education and training so that we can compete more effectively in the global economy. We need more workers employed in production, more engineers designing new and more energy efficient products with a world wide appeal, and fewer unproductive rent seekers scheming to skim off 'their' percentage of the profits. Most importantly we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that it will be the large multi-national corporations that will provide the needed jobs. Most new jobs are created by new industries, often started in garages on shoe string budgets.

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#47
In reply to #46

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/05/2011 3:30 PM

good stuff John

in some ways we are the enemy [well, many of us anyway]

the implementers & practitioners of automation

which is in some ways in opposition to the continuous growth model

I've helped unemploy plenty of people

the best one was a sorter that reduced the number of inspectors from 50 to 7

admittedly most of the reductions provided warm bodies for expansion in other places within the company

still overall, the ongoing industrial revolution will out grow [if it hasn't already] the continuous growth model

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#48
In reply to #47

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/05/2011 4:54 PM

Automation is just one category of labor saving methods. It is driven by two major factors. Cost of labor and limitations of the human worker. There are lesser factors also.

I believe the dominant factor is cost of labor. So let's address the cost drivers in a rough order for an average worker in an average working family unit. For simplicity I'm going to pick some big round numbers which are very vulnerable to challenge but make it easy to demonstrate my thinking.

Let's say the family unit contains 1 worker and 3 people. Remember these are averages for USA workers. In declining order amount per year based on $50,000/year worker, i.e. $25/hour

Shelter -- $12,000 rent or mortgage/property tax/insurance

Food -- $7000 incl. other stuff bought at market

Medical -- $6000

Energy and transportation -- $4000

Education -- $4000 .........cost for a 40 year working career (zero cost HS only) $80K for 40% non college grads (JC, trade schools and college dropouts) and add $150K for 40% college grads averages to $4000/year. Include interest on student loans.

Discretionary individual spending -- $11,000 ...... everything else includes debt service other than student loans, 1st mortgage and car payment interest (3 items buried in the above categories)

Savings -- $4500 ......... includes 6.4% SS and Medicare contributions and some 401K/IRA/pension contributions

Income taxes -- $1500 ....... other taxes buried in appropriate categories.

Don't like my numbers? Some digging on the internet from government sources starting with the 2010 Census can refine these numbers.

Companies usually have around 25% direct overhead on an employee's pay. That's $6.25/hour. So $31/hour (rounded off) is the gross savings per worker when jobs are eliminated by automation.

Now go back and look at each item and ask why it is what it is. My focus would be on the biggest ones and question where does the money go and why. And why are many other countries lower in some or all of these cost areas?

Ed Weldon

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#51
In reply to #48

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/06/2011 1:50 PM

I'm guessing that the '25% direct overhead on an employee's pay' includes their health insurance premiums. Otherwise the $6,000 for health care sounds a bit low. I'm also guessing that the $12,000 for housing, property tax and insurance is based on the historic '25%' of income for housing, a number that I believe has crept up lately to ~30%. This will start creeping back down at some point as housing prices fall, and more folks in underwater mortgages walk away. But thanks for laying this all out. It is a very useful starting point for a rational discussion.

I would nominate real estate costs (both to businesses and individuals) and health care costs as areas where savings could be found. I'd also suggest that since much of our current economic discomfort is primarily due to the US having priced itself out of many sectors of the global market, that we make direct cash to cash comparisons of these factors to our international competition. Last time I checked, a Chinese engineer makes ~$10,000 per year. In the US this would be an ailing homeless engineer.

If you look at a graph of US housing prices over the last few decades (link below), it appears that the bubble is over, and prices have returned to their per-bubble trend lines.

http://www.jparsons.net/housingbubble/

There are two problems with this analysis. It only applies to houses that have changed hands. Last I heard ~1/4 of mortgage holders are underwater. The other problem is that the trend line is based in a period before globalization sucked so much of the wind out of our sails, and when our appetite for public and private debt was just taking off. So the historic trend line may well now be unsustainable. In the short term these high costs for shelter will squeeze the discretionary spending. Low levels of discretionary spending discourage development of the new products that could create new jobs. I believe that similar things are happening in the commercial real estate market.

I have noticed a strange phenomenon in my area, where the supply of rental housing is critically low (one or two 'for rent' ads in the paper for the type of housing in your $12,000 per year range in a city of over 50,000 people), and yet rents do not seem to be increasing as the law of supply and demand would suggest, and may actually be falling slightly. I really have no explanation for this. My guess is that landlords are getting a serious haircut. And of course there are huge numbers of unoccupied homes in the area. I don't think any of this is sustainable.

Looking at a similar graph for health care costs (see link below) it appears that the 'health care bubble' hasn't burst yet. From what I know salaries for Doctors and other health care personnel have not risen enough to cause these increases, so the money would appear to be going elsewhere (probably health insurance profits and overhead, new and expensive medicines and devices, and palatial facilities). When the public learns to moderate its jingoistic attitudes on this subject we may be able to learn something from other developed nations that manage to provide health care to their citizens for roughly half of our cost.

http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot/OECD042111.cfm

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#52
In reply to #51

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/06/2011 2:10 PM

Health insurance varies from company to company.

When I had my design and fabricating company, Statiscally speaking, the average age was about 30 years old.

Most of which did not smoke. I set up a smoke free environment, mostly because they dropped their butts (cigarette butts) whereever they finished and did not dispose of them properly. The employee matrix, going with a relative low age, health and a smoke free environment, I had a very good matrix along with a very good plan. Insurances cost was about $300.00 /month for family, of which I also matched. (employees paid 50%). total $600.00/month. To bring the costs down more, I started a program to kick the habit. But the size of my company really was not much a return at that time. Success was not very good.

This was back in 2005.

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#53
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Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/06/2011 4:08 PM

There does seem to be a lot of variation. In 2005 I was paying $1200 per month for a family of four, with a $2500 per person per year deductible. Age is probably a factor (mid 50's instead of 30) and location. One other issue is the deductable. My wife now works for the local hospital chain, and the cost is about $130 per month, with an unbelievably low $200 per person deductible. And this includes vision and dental which my old policy didn't. According to Kaiser, the average cost for a family in 2009 was $13,400 per year. News reports suggest that annual increases of ~10% are not unusual, so the current figure is clearly even higher.

I think that our private insurance system is a major cost driver. My wife works in the auditing department for the hospital chain. Her job is to fight with insurance companies over money. She works with hundreds of others in a big building. None of them are providing health care - it's all about money. The insurance companies also have armies of clerks, accountants, lawyers etc. holding up the other end of this fight. Personally I'm glad she has a job, and I'm glad it comes with such excellent health insurance, but I can't help thinking that there are a lot of mouths to feed here that don't contribute to actual patient care. Insurance companies siphon off 20% to 30% of every premium dollar for operating costs (fighting over money) and profits. The hospitals and other providers also have a lot of overhead in this same non-productive area. So somewhere around 30 to 35% of the health care dollar is largely wasted. I can imagine that people of ill will could deliberately design a 'socialized' system that was equally wasteful, but they'd have to really work at it.

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#54
In reply to #53

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/06/2011 5:02 PM

I had shopped around, and was very fortunate. The insurance rep. did say, after a year an adjustment will be made because of more information. But that never happen. It did go up, but wasn't an issue.

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#49
In reply to #47

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/05/2011 5:29 PM

I agree. I also design and build equipment that eliminates jobs by replacing humans with machines that are more reliable. This is one of the structural problems we are up against. High wages/cost-of-living and mediocre education is another. I also believe that we spend too much money keeping the wealthy happy. Excess capacity in the financial industries, rather than providing solid financial support for productive industry, starves the other sectors of resources (both human and capital) they need. Of course they are probably right not to invest the bank's money in business here in the US, because they are aware that for the most part our production costs price us out of the global market.

As I see it, since global market forces now make it more difficult to run a productive business here to create wealth, most of the 'animal energy' of capitalism is now focused on concentrating wealth. I'm not arguing against wealth, or in favor of bashing the rich. I just think we have pushed a good thing too far. When you concentrate wealth you must eventually get to the point where significant numbers of people have more money than brains. The near endless series of asset bubbles we have been experiencing is evidence (at least to me) that we may have reached that point.

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#57
In reply to #49

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/07/2011 6:20 PM

Read Michael Lewis' book "The Big Short" and you will reinforce your thoughts on the brain deficiency in the moneyed class. ............. Ed Weldon

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#58
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Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/08/2011 11:26 AM

Thanks Ed - I've seen him interviewed on TV a few times and was bowled over. What struck me about his 'story' was that all these folks who saw the bubble and bet against it fell somewhere between 'eccentric' and 'sociopathic' on the 'scale' of human behaviour. The weird part to me is that they were essentially correct in their analysis, while the more 'normal' MBA frat-boy types were either oblivious to the impending disaster, or chose to keep their thoughts to themselves. I'm probably completely nuts myself (my wife certainly thinks so), but it does often seem like the ADD, Autistic, and Aspergers folks play the role of the young boy in the 'Emperor's New Clothes', pointing out the obvious that eludes the rest of society. Again, thanks for the tip.

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#55

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/06/2011 5:05 PM

I am 62 years old, but have been in my field for 40 years. Just the other day my boss (same age) stated "Ron we should be good for another 20 years".

I just cannot see myself in a rocker sitting on the front porch.

Ron

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#56

Re: Seniors In The Work Place

07/07/2011 1:11 PM

I have a suggestion... I used to think about this many years ago, even though I was "young" at the time.

Why not use local radio and TV to advertise (which should be free as a PSA) a meeting of retired engineers -- kind of like a VFW hall meeting -- in your (anyone, anywhere) city. It would do wonders for the morale of many who are just facing retirement, but also might provide the intellectual stimulation for the genesis of new product ideas, new alliances, etc. It would also be a way for career engineers to still feel in touch with their tribe. I would probably go just because I would be interested to see who all showed up if it was in my city. And if it doesn't seem to work out, at least it was tried. Heck, CR4 provides that in a limited way. But face to face meetings are different.

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