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Baby Boomers Earning Less But Enjoying Work More

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
May 13, 2009

A new study indicates that workers over 50 who found new jobs earned less pay but felt greater job satisfaction.

The analysis [from an article originally located at http://www.aarp.org/research/work/employment/2009_08_recareering.html], conducted by the Urban Institute of Washington for the AARP Public Policy Institute and released last week, followed 1,705 workers over age 51 during a 14-year period beginning in 1992. The study concluded that the 27 percent who found new employment during that time saw their hourly rates drop from an average of $16.86 to $10.86, and were less likely to have pensions and health insurance.

U.S. News & World Report points out that about 35 percent of the workers lost their jobs because of business closures, layoffs or health problems, which played a role in the decreased salary and benefits. "People who changed occupations because of a layoff ended up earning about two-thirds as much on the new job as on the old job," said Richard Johnson, who co-authored the study. "If you look at people who quit their old job, they are earning about the same as the old job at the new job."

In a related story, the Associated Press interviewed two older workers who switched careers-one who gave up a job in computers to go into home renovation, and another who left ophthalmology to become a baker. Both earned lower salaries and still felt happier overall about their professions. Yet significantly, both also left their jobs voluntarily to pursue their passions.

Regardless of the circumstances, the study indicated that older workers who had switched careers reported greater job satisfaction, with 91 percent saying they enjoyed their new positions-significantly more than the 79 percent who said they enjoyed their old jobs. More reported taking advantage of flexible job schedules and feeling less stressed at work.

"They are more satisfied and report less stress because it appears that they have more control over what they are doing and they certainly don't have a lot of people telling them what to do," noted Susan Reinhard, senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute, who was quoted in U.S. News & World Report.

The study also offered some hope for workers of any age forced to switch careers, an occurrence becoming much more common in this difficult economic climate: Nearly two-thirds of the baby boomers who found new jobs also found completely different occupations.

"Don't feel like just because you have done something for most of your life," said Johnson, "that it is something you have to do for the rest of your life."

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