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article imageUnemployment increases for middle-aged Americans

By Daniel Taibleson     Aug 6, 2013 in Business
Shocking new data reported by The Huffington Post shows four of five U.S. adults have suffered joblessness or underemployment for part of their lives, resulting in poverty or reliance on social welfare programs.
Monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics data reports nearly five-and-a-half million people are unemployed.
July job numbers offered an hint of good news as weekly jobless claims dropped to the lowest levels since January 2008, reported “CNN Money." The four-week moving indicator stands at the lowest level since May 2013.
Yet, buried within the abundance of information are worrisome statistics about middle-aged individuals, what the media often dubs the “Sandwich Generation.”
The Huffington Post notes people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent chance of encountering poverty from 1969-1989. The risk increased to 23 percent during 1989-2009. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.
When unemployment or underemployment bites individuals – who are financially responsible for adult children and aging parents – the lifetime risk of financial hardship may rises to 70 percent by the time they reach 60 years old.
The Pew Research Center released a fascinating report on the financial burdens of middle-aged Americans.
-Almost half (47 percent) of U.S. adults at middle age still have a parent aged 65-plus, and financially support an adult child, or still have a young child at home.
-About 15 percent assist both aging parents and an adult child.
-The burden of support is more for adult child than the aging parent. Forty-eight percent of U.S. adults surveyed provided “some financial support to at least one adult child in the past year, with 27 percent providing the primary support,” a substantial increase since the same survey in 2005.
-Unchanged since 2005, about 21 percent of middle-aged adults helped an aging parent during the past year.
While many age forty-plus want the clichéd middle-age scenario complete with a red sports car and European vacations, many face the reality of a daunting present and even-more-horrifying “golden” years in poverty. Not to be deterred, many middle-aged Americans are making lemonade from the lemons of unemployment and underemployment. While reinvention for middle-aged Americans may present challenges their children don’t have, such as age bias or inability to relocate, options are available.
Here are four strategies for the middle-aged worker, though one-size-does-not fit all:
Find your passion, and figure out how to make it pay.
You may roll your eyes and think you’ve heard this old trope a thousand times, but there is truth in it for some. Think about what activities make you happy, and research what others are doing to make money. Is photography your passion? Jan Bird parlayed her passion for photographing flowers into a card business, using the online marketplace Etsy. Bird sells cards around the world, as well as at home, and is enjoying the development of her business. What is your passion, and how can you translate that into income?
Don’t know what direction to go? Volunteer!
Of course, you need a job with a decent income, but one way to get into a company or obtain more career training is by volunteering. With our crumbling social safety net, organizations such as food pantries, rehab centers, VA hospitals, libraries, and community gardens need reliable people to help with projects. This is absolutely no guarantee of a job, but it can expand your skill sets and provide valuable experience. Volunteering adds a line to your resume, as well.
Upgrade your credentials.
Never have there been more opportunities for further learning and career retraining. Not only can you get tax credits for retraining, course opportunities are available in a variety of means, from on-site to online. Penn-Foster is a nationally-known provider of online courses, from high school to bachelor’s degrees, such as the highly popular and growing careers like vet technician, carpentry or automotive. Through 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 52 percent growth in the field of vet technicians.
Go back to basics.
Many middle-aged people have worked since their teen years and boast diverse experiences. Take a fresh look at your background. What skill sets do you possess that can take you down a new career path? Did you enjoy that summer doing books for your dad’s hardware store? Maybe it’s time to take community college classes in accounting. How are your writing skills? There are many opportunities for freelancers in various subjects.
While the outlook for employment among middle-aged Americans may seem bleak, individuals have always beaten the odds. Whether your course of action is on-line education, volunteering for the American Red Cross or freelancing for an online content provider, the time is now. Get going.
Do you have advice for job searches? Tell us in the comments.
Creative Commons image by SurfaceWarriors
More about Unemployment, Pew research center, Poverty, Jobs
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