Sunday, April 17, 2016

Does Everyone Over 40 Long For a New Career?

One of the first things I noticed upon meeting my new physical therapist was how unhappy he was in his job.  He began his career as a self-employed physical therapist specializing in workman’s comp injuries. His primary client had been a large factory in the Milwaukee area.  His days had been long since he had to cover all three shifts, but the pay was excellent.  Then in the early 2000's the factory was sold. The new owners had stringent business insurance requirements he was unable to meet. His contract was terminated and he was replaced by a large company.  He was offered a job with this company, but declined.  He questioned the educational background of their therapists and the salary he was offered was insulting.

He spent the next year working with his two small remaining accounts and trying to secure new business, but Milwaukee had lost numerous manufacturing facilities since 1986 and the ones who remained were not looking for a physical therapist.  Eventually he closed his business and accepted a position as a staff therapist with a company affiliated with one of the local medical providers. That was where he was working when I met him.

A lot has changed since my therapist graduated in 1986:

Around the end of the 1990's, a bachelor's degree in physical therapy was slowly replaced by master's and doctorate physical therapy degrees. My therapist who holds only an undergraduate degree was grandfathered in. He tells me his company recently hired a new graduate with a master’s degree.  He points to her and tells me she doesn’t know any more than he does.  She earns an annual salary of $55,000 while he currently makes $75,000. He also has a 401(k), is eligible for state unemployment if he finds himself downsized and has medical insurance. He had had none of these while self-employed.

What he doesn’t like about his job:

He always has to be on.  He has to meet and talk to patients all day while his ex-wife who works as a financial analyst can just sit and stare at her computer when she doesn’t feel like working.

He is now billable and has to track his time hourly. He works with 24 different patients at all times.  He has to have vacation time approved in advance. He can’t just take an afternoon off on a nice day or not go in the day after a holiday if he doesn’t feel like it.

He can’t drink a soda while working with a patient. His new company told him this is rude.  To do so he would have to offer them a beverage as well and they are not in the beverage serving business.

His job is boring.

Every day is the same.  Of his 24 patients three of them usually have elbow tendinitis – my affliction. The treatment for tennis elbow is always the same. 

I suggested working with people in their homes; thinking he might enjoy that more.

He said that would be much worse and more boring than his current job.  You then work with the elderly and your job consists of, “See you again on Wednesday Betty be sure to squeeze the bag of beans when I’m gone.” At least in his current job his patients usually get better.

I asked if he had to maintain continuing education. 

He does and he likes doing that, he enjoys learning something new and his employer pays him for his time while he is out of the office.   He then got up and left.  When he returned he said he had just signed up for a day of CPE.

If he could have a do-over what would he do?

He’d be a TV reporter, but at 45 he thinks he is too old for TV.

At our last appointment he said he thinks everyone longs for a career change after age 40. It is hard to know at age 18 what you will make you happy when you are 40. 

As for me, I kind of think I would have preferred a career as a physical therapist rather than as an accounting manager, but I choose accounting, so I am making the best of it. As to everyone, I am sure many people do long for a new career.  I heard my company's President make two comments in the last week about not being happy with his career choice - running the family business.  He is 47 and at one point wanted to be a lawyer or a politician. 

Do you think everyone over 40 longs for a new career?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How Not to Feel Trapped? Advice from Andre Agassi

One of my coworkers, I will call him Frank, is trapped in his job.  He is approaching 70 and forced to continue working to pay for his wife’s medical expenses. His wife has been bedridden for several years due to M.S. Frank is loud, abrasive and intimidating.  His constant complaining brings his entire department down.  Frank is also at the top of the list of employees my company hopes to force into retirement with our software conversion.

I read Andre Agassi’s book Open: An Autobiography earlier this year for my savvy reading challenge.  While thinking about my new series staying relevant over 50 I couldn’t help, but think of Andre Agassi.

The surprising thing you learn early in Agassi’s book is he hated playing tennis.  From an early age when his dad bought a fire breathing dragon contraption that shot tennis balls out of its mouth he hated tennis.  Tennis was his dad’s dream not his own.

Andre thinks a lot about what he can control in tennis and in life:

I tell Perry that I having no choice, having no say about what I do or who I am, makes me crazy.  That is why I put more thought, obsessive thought, into the few choices I do have – what I wear, what I eat, who I call my friends. (Pg. 66)

I obsess about the few things I can control and racket tension is one of them.  (Pg. 13)

The time has come.  I need to take control of my money.  I need to take control of my F***ing Life. (Pg. 114)

I find peace in his claim that perfectionism is voluntary.  Perfectionism is something I choose, and its ruining me, I can choose something else. (Pg. 189)

And lastly, his life and his tennis (he was losing a lot) didn’t improve until he chose tennis:

I play and keep playing because I choose to play. Even if it’s not your ideal life, you can always choose it. No matter what your life is choosing it is everything. (pg. 359)

Agassi also began using the money he made from tennis to make a difference. In 2001, Agassi opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children in the area. According to Wikipedia, he personally donated $35 million to the school.

Do you feel trapped in your job?  According to Forbes, 52.3% of Americans are unhappy with their work.

From time-to-time I too feel trapped in my job.  My husband retired last year and ever since we’ve been bombarded with unexpected bills; ranging from helping a family member, to dental and medical expenses to a new vehicle for me. Plans of early retirement continue to get pushed further into the future.  

What can I do?
I can change my attitude and choose my job. I can remember why I decided to become an accountant – I thought it would be a reliable and lucrative career.  And be grateful that for the most part my career has been both.  I can try to stay present at work instead of writing blog posts in my head all day and I can help others.

From time to time I ask Frank how he is managing and he breaks down and tells me not good. That he never lets his wife see his anger or his fear.  I listen and suggest he look into signing his wife up for Medicare (she is 68) and a supplemental plan – and don’t judge why he hasn’t done this already or why our HR manager hasn’t suggested this.

I also find it helpful to leave work at a reasonable time, go to the gym and use my vacation days.

Frank has to choose his job too.  He has made the decision to continue working until his finances are under control and in the process has become difficult to work with.  Management will only put up with a difficult employee so long. If he truly wants to meet his goal he will have to change his attitude.   

Do you feel trapped in your job? How do you cope?

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Sunday, April 03, 2016

New Series: Staying Relevant over 50

It is official – my company will be converting our client-server business software to a new cloud based system later this year. The contract was signed this week. My boss and I knew our company’s owners would decide to make the conversion someday, but we thought (were hoping) it wouldn’t be quite so soon.

After the announcement was made, one of our company owners told me both my boss and I spend too much time entering and manipulating data.  There are more important things we should be working on. He also mentioned that 50% of our employees would not embrace this change and was hoping some of the curmudgeon’s would retire. (I wrote more about this in my post Do software conversions force older employees into retirement?)

My immediate reaction was skepticism and a fear of the unknown.  How will my job change?  Will I have enough work to do if the reports I spend hours creating are automatically produced?

Fortunately, I was comforted by Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. He writes:

Americans fear technology in the near future because they see it as a replay of the globalization of the near past.  But the situations are very different: people compete for jobs and for resources; computers compete for neither. (pg. 141)


Computers are far more different from people than any two people are different from each other: men and machines are good at fundamentally different things.  People have intentionality – we form plans and make decisions in complicated situations.  We’re less good at making sense of enormous amounts of data.  Computers are exactly the opposite they excel at efficient data processing, but they struggle to make basic judgments that would be simple for any human. (pg. 143)

I wish my company’s owners would read this quote:

The most valuable businesses of coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete. (pg. 141)

It appears my job’s focus in the future will be on interpreting data which I do enjoy, rather than creating spreadsheets which I must admit at times can be mind-numbingly boring. I need to remember
Worry and regret never solves tomorrow’s problems and only drains away energy from today. James Altucher
This post is the first in a new series I am implementing called, “Staying relevant over 50.” A few years ago, I read a statement claiming advertisers don’t market to the over 54 age group because this group is no longer relevant.  My ultimate goal of this series, other than providing relevancy suggestions and tips, is to prove these advertisers are wrong.

How do you recommend staying relevant over 50?

Please note I am an Amazon Affiliate