Here’s an amazing fact: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment rose during the pandemic for workers 55 and older from 3.3% in March 2020 to 13.6% in April 2020. The numbers have calmed down in the later months, but the question remains: what happens to the older workers who were laid off from April to July when the rate stayed at a high 8.7%?
This type of extended unemployment or forced retirement can lead people in their field to completely fall off the corporate ladder and find themselves in a difficult place to rely on their limited remaining unemployment benefits when figuring out what’s next .
The exact path from forced early retirement is not the same for everyone. Some people may choose to fully retire and live on their retirement assets and social security. Others may be planning a way to get back on the workforce. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to people who have been in forced early retirement due to COVID-19.
Six steps after discharge
This situation offers a number of options, from trying to go back to your previous field, to finding a parallel field where you can transfer skills, start over, or simply retire for good.
Get to know personal and professional relationships
If you want to stay in your current area of expertise, finding a job is an obvious next step, but don’t just spend your time checking out Indeed and other job vacancy websites. Instead, reach out to people you’ve worked with in the past and with whom you’ve had a positive relationship and see what opportunities they may know about.
Do your contacts know of jobs in your previous area that you might be well suited for? Are they ready to give you a hint if you are looking for a new job in this or a related field? Can they recommend you internally for vacancies?
Often the way from an unwanted early retirement back to your old career path leads through an old contact. This personal connection is important, both between you and that person, and between that person and the job you may be able to get.
Advice or freelance work
If you want to stay in your current field, but there are no job opportunities available to you, you should try your skills in freelance or consultancy work. This may not be the result you want because freelance work and consulting services bring fewer professional benefits. However, you can keep your feet in the field and continue to earn income.
If you’re looking for quick and very easy freelance opportunities, you should check out Fiverr, which offers small but easy freelance jobs. For more challenging and lucrative opportunities, see Upwork. You may also want to explore counseling options with previous employers as a starting point.
Assess your skills
If such opportunities are not available to you, this may be an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate your skills to see which areas might actually suit you. What areas are open to you with the skills you acquired in your previous career?
Although I was once in the data mining profession, I spent much of my professional time documenting, writing reports, and communicating with employees. These skills prepared me for a new career path as a freelance writer.
Step back and look at the skills you’ve accumulated and wonder what career paths those skills might be well suited for. You may find that the things you have learned lead you towards a completely different goal.
Start a new career
If it looks like your old career path is a dead end, it may be time to fully consider a new one.
A good first step is to do some skill assessments. Minnesota State University has a great list of competency assessments for people considering a career path. These often clearly illustrate what natural talents and abilities you have and can point out some careers that you might be suitable for.
From there, you can evaluate some entirely new career opportunities. Do you need further training? Do you need to attend a business school? Maybe you just need to study on your own.
Downsize your lifestyle
From a practical point of view, an unexpected forced early retirement likely means that you will have to downsize your lifestyle. In the short term, you have likely made a number of simple decisions about your spending decisions. However, if it’s a more permanent change, or a change that will take years, consider bigger changes.
Start with the case. Can you move into a smaller house or apartment? Can you share your living space with someone else to offset some of the cost? Do you need a car for transportation or can you get by with local transport, cycling and / or car pooling? Do you need a data plan for your cell phone? What about cables?
When you cut away a ton of major expenses, the challenge of figuring out how to get there financially on a lower income suddenly becomes a lot easier.
Recalibrate your investments (if any)
If you are fortunate enough to put investments aside for retirement, the moment you are forced into early retirement is a moment to consider recalibrating your investments into “retirement mode”. The reason for this is that you have actually become a retiree who wants to live off these investments for as long as possible. Therefore, retirement requires a different investment strategy than trying to create wealth over the long term.
How does a retiree deal with investing then? Someone who is more than 10 years away from retirement has no plans to retire during this period, which is why they are likely to invest very aggressively. A new retiree will likely need to make withdrawals over the next 10 years in order for the money to be more stable and with less volatility.
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