That’s what many employers did in the Great Recession, unloading 50+ staff, using the excuse of hard times when in reality they just wanted to cut their pension and health benefits and hire younger people for less money. Maybe you know somebody who got caught in this mess. Maybe you’re that guy. And trying the find a job when you’re post-50 and gay – even when you’re just an average, regular looking guy who doesn’t wear mascara to work – may be a double whammy. “Never been married?” asks the uppity HR interviewer who’s old enough to be your son with the five hundred dollar suit and the fifty dollar tie and a picture of his stereotypical ”Great American Family” – braces and all – on his desk.
You get the picture.
Ninety five percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession were middle class jobs. Many of these jobs will never come back because companies got smart and learned to do it leaner and meaner (like more part-timers with no benefits), don’t give s shit about experience (“we’ll train ‘em OUR way”) and turned to automation wherever they could.
The hospital in NYC where I was the PR VP went through a surprise merger in 2001, and while I survived, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I made sure years before that I had my shit together financially – sure, I had done my healthy share of international and domestic travel, had bought my tech toys and had my fun – but I was never the frivolous faggot. So by the next year, I left for a less paying but more secure teaching job in Lauderdale where the cost of living was 30% what it was in NYC and without all its fucken taxes.
But I count myself lucky. If I had been tossed out like a Handi-wipe as so many guys and gals I worked with for decades were, I would have gone through my 401K and whatever other money I had stowed away for my old age and been wondering what to do next.
A few years ago I watched a 65 year old unemployed guy who had had a six figure job being interviewed on TV, arrogantly insisting he would only hold out for a comparable job at comparable pay. I was ready to write the show’s producer and have him ask Mr. Hot Shot what kind of grass he was smoking and where I could get some. The chances are at that age or even younger of finding a job equal in status and pay to what you had is like winning the lottery.
So while it may too late to advise my contemporaries who got fucked by The Man, here are my words of wisdom to you under 40’s who think your hot job is yours forever.
Unless you’re a techie billionaire or corporate attorney, or have a rich Daddy by blood or the bedroom, have a Plan B.
Ask yourself what would I do if I lost my job tomorrow? Do I have enough $$ to coast? To live? What are my job prospects? How marketable am I? Am I in an industry or profession where experience or youth count? If I were to do something totally new, what would that be? And how prepared am I to do it?
Whenever I hear younger gay guys in a bar or at the gym spout on about their next RSVP cruise or next European junket and how they can only stay at first class hotels, or trot around in an outfit that was worth my entire wardrobe, I’d like to introduce them to Doug, a friend of a friend.
Young, pretty, frivolous, tres gay Doug pissed away the good money he was making as fast as it came in on the “Gay Life,” around-the-world travel, fancy cars and a beachfront condo. All to impress his equally frivolous friends.
Old, tired and broke Doug is now bagging at a local supermarket to pay the rent on his studio apartment.
And holding up the wall in the local gin joint on a Saturday night.