Age 50

Cover of "In America"

Cover of In America

In America, life gets tough at age 50 for many people, especially if you lose your job. By age 50, many are entering their peak earning years and are planning to save for retirement. That is difficult to do if you are unemployed and can’t find a job that pays as well as the job you lost. Good paying jobs are disappearing in good times and are next to impossible to find during bad times like the present Great Recession. Employers seeking to cut costs have an incentive to replace highly paid older workers with younger workers who aren’t paid as much. Age discrimination is illegal, but poorly enforced. It is much more widely practiced that most people realize until it happens to you.

In addition, health problems start to appear around age 50. I spent the final 20 working years of my life working in hospitals and particularly hospital ERs. I noticed that patients started appearing at around age 50. To make that point, I started telling my co-workers that everyone comes from our Maker with a limited warranty on parts and labor that expires at age 50. Every day beyond age 50 is a blessing to be thankful for. Insurance companies noticed that fact too and charge higher premiums for health insurance for older workers. That represents a double whammy for the employer, paying higher wages and higher health insurance premiums for older workers. No wonder there are concerted efforts to push older workers out the door.

Now there is an effort in Washington to raise the age for Medicare and Social Security to 67 or higher. What do our politicians expect people to do to survive between age 50 and retirement at age 67, 68, 69 or 70? In a more perfect world, age discrimination would be penalized and an employer’s health care costs would be superseded by a single payer system. In a truly perfect world, people could retire at age 50 with full Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Age discrimination

RIP Homeless person

Image by Matt From London via Flickr

Age discrimination in job hiring and firing is very widespread here in the US, much more so than most people believe. And most people believe that it can’t happen to them, until it does. I would still be working at age 70 if my most recent employer had not pushed me into retirement just before my 70th birthday. Not everyone is able to work to age 70 if their job requires strength and stamina. Fortunately my strength and stamina lasted until about 6 months before my retirement.

In a robust economy, it is often difficult for adults ages 50 and up to find employment. In this economy, I believe that it may be almost impossible. Discrimination because of age is illegal, but the law is difficult to enforce, even if the government wants to enforce it. Some of our legislators favor increasing the retirement age upwards toward 70 with eligibility for Social Security and Medicare happening later in life. I personally know several people who want to retire, but continue to work only because they are too young to qualify for Medicare.

As we enter our “golden years,” those of us who continue to work block promotion for younger workers. And what are the unemployed between ages 50 and 70 to do during those 20 years? Facing discrimination, they must feed themselves and their families until they reach age 70, if they are able to reach age 70 while denied adequate housing, nutrition and healthcare.