Workers approaching retirement age who are still employed should insulate themselves from job loss as much as possible. "The lower the required skill level and the shorter your tenure is, the more likely it is that you will be the one let go," says Dallas Salisbury, president and chief executive of EBRI. "Keep your training up, and try to build some seniority with an employer." Sometimes, however, a major career change into a more recession-resistant industry is necessary to find work.
After former event planner Jan Albert, 56, of Yorba Linda, Calif., was laid off in August 2007, she took over caregiving responsibilities for her parents. Her mother has Alzheimer's disease, and her father has Parkinson's. She also went back to school to earn a gerontology certification. Albert and her sister then launched an in-home-care business, 24 Hour Angels, which provides elder-care services to 15 clients and employs 20 people. "The baby boomers are going to get old, and there are not enough younger folks to take care of all the elderly," she says. "Anyone who provides services for elders will be in demand."
Less stress. Those who find new jobs after age 50 typically take pay cuts and give up pension and healthcare benefits, but their second careers often involve less stress and more flexible schedules, according to an Urban Institute and AARP Public Policy Institute study of older workers over a 14-year period. When Jerome Schindler, 67, a Columbus, Ohio, attorney who specializes in food labeling, was laid off from Borden in 1995, he set up his own practice out of his home. He eventually attracted six major clients, including his former employer. "The total income I get from this work isn't as much as I was making at Borden, but it is a more relaxed atmosphere," he says. "I come down to my office in the front room in my pajamas, and I work on the computer." Schindler has recently cut back his working hours to part time and plans to retire fully in 2014.
Early retirement isn't necessarily a bad thing for workers with a pension or enough savings to pay their bills. Many early retirees, even if their retirement was unplanned, say they enjoy the extra time for hobbies and grandchildren. But dreams of world travel have been replaced with renting a Planet Earth DVD. And these days, hitting the links means applying for a part-time job at the local golf course.