Dealing With Job Loss at 50+

You’re too young to retire and perhaps feel to old to be job searching. Here is how one couple got by while dealing with job loss at 50+.

by “Anonymous”
Realtor Tips for Preparing Home for Sale photo

Even though my husband’s job loss was not totally unexpected, our immediate reaction was muted by relief.

Management changes and shifting business focus had made it evident that we were “out of the loop.” We had quietly researched the company benefit package months before and learned that an employee laid off “after more than five years of service who has attained the age of fifty” will be considered retired for the purposes of benefits

After investing more than twenty years with this employer, our family’s financial future and our “someday” retirement required that our decisions be measured and rational rather than hasty or rash. Thus, he had continued to do his job with dignity, allowing the company to choose to lay him off on their time schedule. Although it would have been emotionally satisfying to quit and walk out, we won more financially with this decision than any other that we made.

Few of us are prepared, financially or emotionally, to retire in our early fifties, and we were no exception. We also knew that, at this stage, we were not likely to replace this job with an equal one.

However, we fully intended to search for the best situation we could find within a reasonable time frame and to go forward with our lives. We put the severance pay check into our “set aside” account and immediately began our job search.

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We wrote a general resume that could be fine-tuned to emphasize areas applicable to specific job openings. Then we set up a spreadsheet for recording resumes sent, the date and follow-up. We also recorded interviews and any feedback received.

He spent the greatest portion of each weekday on his job search, but each day’s activities also included physical activity and household projects. Balance and structure become even more important in times of stress and this was clearly a stressful and uncertain time.

Besides searching online job listings, there were decisions to be carefully weighed. We left his 401k plan exactly as it was, since we were satisfied with our choices. We rolled over the lump sum pension distribution into an IRA. We opted for the company’s retiree health insurance since we could be assured of continuing coverage without gaps, whether employed or not. (See What To Do With Your 401k When You Leave Your Job.)

His six weeks of persistence was rewarded with a temporary job doing work he had done much earlier in his career and at about 50% of the pay. Since this job was within commuting range, he was happy to be “back in the saddle” and working again. (See Out of Work? Volunteer.)

Another month passed before he was offered a more comparable job, albeit with a smaller salary and benefit package, than his old job.

Today, three years later, we sold the big house we raised our family in and moved into a bright, new, low maintenance house that is an hour’s drive from our old neighborhood and employer. We are totally debt free. With my part-time work and his salary, we are able to fund his 401k and Roth IRA, as well as my IRA.

We view ourselves as self-employed, a concept we find quite liberating. We are grateful to have “landed on our feet.” From our experience, the carefully considered decisions made when “exiting” a job can be at least as important, if not more so, than the decisions made when you enter a new job. Especially so, since so many of those decisions have permanent consequences.

By thinking and researching first, and then planning and “working the plan,” we were able to make a successful transition to a new stage of life. (See ‘Plan B’ Careers Help Insure Your Future.) You can, too!

Reviewed March 2024

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