Thanks to their seniority, folks 55 and older were once less likely than their younger co-workers to be laid off during a recession. Not this time around. Steep manufacturing cuts have hit older workers particularly hard. And even in workplaces where seniority still provides protection, older men have less of it than they used to; only 44% of male workers aged 58 to 62 work for the same employer they were with at age 50, down from 70% 25 years ago.
Here are some tips for older layoff victims.
No. 1: Keep Your Health Insurance
If you have employer-provided health insurance, use “COBRA”–a federal provision that lets you continue in your ex-employer’s plan, but without an employer subsidy. It was always essential to stay insured, and now it’s affordable too. Under the stimulus package passed in February, the feds will pick up 65% of your COBRA premium for nine months. Warning: If your adjusted gross income is more than $250,000 for a couple or $125,000 for an individual, you’ll have to pay some or all of the federal subsidy back when you file your tax return.
No. 2: Consider Americorps
If you don’t need too much income and would like to do work such as tutoring, consider Americorps. A law President Obama signed in April slowly increases the number of federally funded Americorps slots from 75,000 to 250,000 and aims to fill 10% of them with folks 55 and older. The jobs pay minimum wage plus a $4,725 education grant (increasing to $5,350 Oct. 1) for each year worked. Under the new law, this grant can be transferred to children or grandchildren. Another senior-friendly change: Americorps slots used to be full-time jobs lasting a maximum of two years. Now they can be turned into part-time jobs lasting longer.
No. 3: Find Senior-Friendly Employers Online
At www.retirementjobs.com, you’ll find 20,000 listings from employers that say they’re open to applications from older workers. AARP, the 40-million member organization for folks 50 and older, lists 41 companies, from AT&T to Walgreens, that have won spots on its “National Employer Team” and links to those employers’ job sites at www.aarp.org/money.