This morning, as I was speaking briefly with the Director of her pre-school and some of the nursery school staff, they asked me the same question that many of my friends and colleagues have asked me since I launched Gen Plus.
How did I come up with the concept for Gen Plus?
The reason they were so interested is that they felt addressing the needs of 50 plus in the way Gen Plus approaches the demographic was unique, insightful, and serving a dire need.
The fact of the matter is that I had a long time to think every day. I was driving an hour to work in the morning and about an hour and half to come home. Stuck in traffic, every day, pondering the amount of time I was wasting every single day. But the thought process is an interesting one. Creative thought never surfaces when you wish it to. It surfaces when it is ready.
In my case, about two years ago, a financial planner came to my office to discuss the future of my finances.
After I had my child, I made out a will, a living trust, and taken out life insurance. And realized that I would probably not be able to retire in comfort. I was in my mid-forties at the time, with many friends just entering their 50’s. I was seeing, second-hand how many companies chose to downsize. They would eliminate the higher earners once they reached their 50’s. Less insurance costs, less salary, and little regard for company historians. I was not in a company like that, however, I was keenly aware that I was edging toward that demographic, and if I were in another company, I’d be a fool not to see the writing on the wall.
So, what was I seeing?
- Talented friends and business colleagues being laid off and finding it impossible to secure new employment.
- Film director out of work at 52.
- Corporate hot shots choosing 2nd careers as professors, teachers, child development workers.
- Friends unable to leave jobs they no longer cared for because they could not get a hit on a resume.
- Women 58 and 65 years old starting new businesses in the hopes that they would develop in time to sustain them.
- 68 year old salesman, hoping for an hourly job from senior friendly corporations to help supplement an underfunded retirement income.
Not a good picture. People with talent and knowledge being pushed out of the workplace. People too knowledgeable to retire.
So, I’m sitting with the financial planner.
He tells me that I have 15 years until retirement. I tell him I have 5. He looks at me with skepticism and a bit of attitude, until I tell him how ageism is hidden within fiscal tightening in the marketplace. And he has no choice but to agree. So while we looked at my 5-year plan, the seed of the idea for Gen Plus was imbedded.
One day, on the 405N, sitting in unending traffic, trying to stay awake by hopping stations or getting irritated by Tom Leykus (he will irritate you to wakefulness), I realized that I wouldn’t wait for someone to figure out how to service my issues in my 50’s or 60’s or 70’s. A strong plan to employ 50 plus, combined with selling products created by those 50 and up could have a huge impact on the coming generation’s financial health.
To top it all off, I’d been doing a lot of research on the looming management crisis — the sheer numbers of Boomers leaving the work force and the impact on the economy by 2010– and I knew I’d found the tribe that I wanted to help and work with.
Are there companies that hire 50 plus?
Sure there are. AARP lists many of them, and Gen Plus will be posting free links to any 50 plus-friendly company we find. But are there many more wearing blinders about the upcoming management crisis? Yes.
When I go to my bank, my 23-year old Small Business Consultant tells me that the bank would like him to manage the branch. How is that even possible? He’s sharp, he’s up-to-speed on banking, but certainly there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of 50 plus candidates who would give anything to manage a bank. That is the thinking that must change. I intend to change it.
My daughter will turn 20 when I turn 60. Prior to retirement, I have college tuition to think about.