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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the August 21, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Even At Retirement Age, Career Planning Still Counts

Marian Stoltz-Loike is not so much a career changer

as she is a career surfer, riding demographic waves for fun and profit.

She worked parttime when her four children were small, and friends

were forever asking; "`How do you do it?’" Trained as a psychologist

(B.A., Harvard; Ph.D. NYU), she turned the question into a business,

doing consulting on work and family issues to companies.

Now her friends, Baby Boomers many of them, are pondering the big

"R" question. Should they retire? Or maybe just scale back?

"Boomers are all over the place," Stoltz-Loike says. Some

are retired already. Some, especially women, didn’t enter the workplace

until they were in their 40s, and consider themselves to be fresh

employees on the move. Others — men and women alike — thought

retirement was right around the corner, but cratered 401 (k) plans

coupled with historically low returns on safer investments — CDs,

Treasury Bills and the like — have abruptly pushed thoughts of

cruises and fishing trips into the background.

Once again, Stoltz-Loike has listened to all the questions, and turned

them into a business. Called SeniorThinking, it consults to companies

on how to be senior-friendly and how to get the most out of an intergenerational

workforce.

On Tuesday, August 27, at 7 p.m. she speaks on "Invest in a Masterpiece..You:

A Workshop to Supercharge Your Career" at the Lawrence Center

for Mind-Body-Spirit at 1213 Lawrence Road. Cost: $50. Call 609-730-1049.

Shortly after news of a record-breaking, multi-million dollar lottery,

Stoltz-Loike and her friends played a mind game: What would you do

if you won the lottery? Would you retire?

The response from her friends, she says, was "I don’t want to

stop working." And it’s a good thing, too. Not just for them,

but for their employers. In a number of government agencies, she says,

quoting statistics from the Labor Department, 40 percent of all employees

are over 50. For many utility companies the figure is higher still.

In the pharmaceutical industry, it is 35 to 40 percent; in healthcare,

over 50 percent.

What will employers do in 5 to 10 years if those workers decide to

head for the links en masse? In five years, 27.6 percent of the workforce

will be over 50. During that same time period, the labor force is

projected to grow just .1 percent. "There will be 150 million

jobs by 2006, but only 141 million people to fill them," says

Stoltz-Loike. For older workers this means opportunity, if they play

their cards right: What, for example, do they need to do to remain

valued employees? And how can those who have lost their jobs in this

recession be hired for good positions? Stoltz-Loike offers these suggestions:

Cozy up to technology — even more. "Fifty-year-olds

are tech savvy, but not in the way that 20-year-olds are," says

Stoltz-Loike. Being proud of yourself for being able to turn out a

letter on a computer is no longer nearly enough. At a minimum, expertise

in Word, Access, Powerpoint, and Excel are essential, as is an ability

to surf the Internet with ease.

Use every resource. Stoltz-Loike especially likes the

range of programs and services offered by any good-sized library.

Take advantage of lectures, information sessions, and tech training,

she says. Other good places to go to boost skills are the Small Business

Administration, the YWCA or YMCA, community colleges, learning annexes,

alumni offices, and the state Department of Labor.

Apply for an internship. Yes, your officemate may have

gotten his first razor after Clinton left the White House, but many

employers are now open to offering internship to Boomers as well as

to college students and recent grads. If you are able to live on the

low — or non-existent — pay, this could be an excellent way

to learn new skills and to get a foot in the door.

Consider a degree program in a new field carefully. Don’t

go into a degree program thinking "`Hey, this will open another

door,’" says Stoltz-Loike, asking, "Would you hire somebody

with that attitude?" Whether you are looking into an MBA or an

RN or a Ph.D., be sure, she says, that you are doing so because you

have a passion for the work. If you do, your age may not be a problem,

particularly in an area such as nursing where there is now tremendous

demand.

Don’t hesitate to enroll in classes in your current field.

Classes, seminars, workshops, they all look good on a resume or at

review time at your current job. Those who take courses tend to look

fresh and eager — a good look for a Boomer competing with workers

young enough to be his children.

Stoltz-Loike, at 46 years old, sounds startled when asked about her

own retirement plans. "I just started my new business. I’m so

involved in getting it off the ground," still sounding like a

boomer who refuses to grow old.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring


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