Retired Parents Driving Each Other Nuts? Send Them Back to Work!

A growing market for fellowships that targets older workers connects private-sector expertise with nonprofits in need of help.

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)  
National Journal
Sophie Quinton
See more stories about...
Sophie Quinton
Sept. 4, 2013, 9:29 a.m.

Nancy Diao works part time, for a small sti­pend, at a Bay Area edu­ca­tion non­profit. But at 60, Diao isn’t your av­er­age in­tern. She’s a former ex­ec­ut­ive who will spend her fel­low­ship year at Break­through Col­lab­or­at­ive serving as act­ing chief op­er­at­ing and chief fin­an­cial of­ficer.

Diao didn’t feel ready to re­tire when she left Wells Fargo last year. “I had a hard time say­ing ‘I’m re­tired,’ be­cause I’m not, men­tally,” she says. She didn’t want to re­turn to bank­ing, though; she wanted to find mean­ing­ful work that would still al­low her to spend time with her two young grand­chil­dren.

Mil­lions of baby boomers, like Diao, don’t want or can’t af­ford to check out of the work­force at age 65. And many are seek­ing a trans­ition in­to work that has a so­cial im­pact. The San Fran­cisco-based En­core.org helps older work­ers make that trans­ition by pair­ing them with non­profits in need of their private-sec­tor ex­pert­ise for a fel­low­ship year. It’s an ar­range­ment that fits the needs of all par­ti­cipants, and it has broad­er rami­fic­a­tions: As the pop­u­la­tion ages, keep­ing older work­ers in the work­force could boost the eco­nomy, al­le­vi­ate re­tire­ment in­sec­ur­ity, and ease strain on the so­cial-safety net.

In 2009, Pres­id­ent Obama signed a law that — in­spired by En­core.org’s mod­el — al­lowed for the cre­ation of fed­er­al fel­low­ships for those 55 or older in every state. Fund­ing has yet to be ap­pro­pri­ated for the pro­gram, but that hasn’t stopped En­core.org from cre­at­ing a 20-city net­work that placed 200 fel­lows last year. The or­gan­iz­a­tion es­tim­ates that 31 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans ages 44 to 70 want to find work with a big­ger so­cial im­pact. 

The era of long, va­ca­tion-style re­tire­ments is over, says Marc Freed­man, CEO and founder of En­core.org. “That ideal is no longer at­tain­able for in­di­vidu­als, and it’s not sus­tain­able for so­ci­ety. Who can af­ford a bal­loon pay­ment for 30 years of leis­ure?” he asks. Fed­er­al sur­vey data show that most full-time work­ers ac­tu­ally re­tire in stages — switch­ing to part-time work, or dip­ping in and out of the labor mar­ket as they age.

Older Amer­ic­ans are also col­lect­ing their So­cial Se­cur­ity checks later and work­ing at rates not seen since the 1960s. In the mid-1990s, less than a third of people age 55 and over were either act­ively em­ployed or look­ing for work. Today, the share is 40 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the St. Louis Fed­er­al Re­serve.

Length­en­ing life spans and chan­ging life­styles ac­count for part of the shift. Amer­ic­ans who hit age 65 can ex­pect to live an­oth­er 20 years. Of­ten, their fam­ily re­spons­ib­il­it­ies are still on­go­ing: In 2012, one-third of baby boomers had both an eld­erly par­ent and a fin­an­cially de­pend­ent child, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter

Chan­ging pen­sion plans are also part of the story. Few­er work­ers are en­rolled in defined-be­ne­fit pen­sion plans, which guar­an­tee monthly pay­ments after re­tire­ment, and more are en­rolled in 401(k) plans that grow with salary con­tri­bu­tions. “There’s a much big­ger pay­off to stay­ing in the work­force,” says Richard John­son, dir­ect­or of the pro­gram on re­tire­ment policy at the Urb­an In­sti­tute. “As you keep work­ing, you’re really im­prov­ing your re­tire­ment se­cur­ity, be­cause you’re able to add to your nest egg.”

With the av­er­age fel­low earn­ing $25,000 for a year of 1,000 hours of work, En­core.org’s fel­low­ships aren’t sup­posed to be fam­ily-sup­port­ing jobs but are in­ten­ded to help older work­ers move to the next stage of their work­ing lives.”The fel­low­ship is serving a lot of pur­poses of a per­son’s trans­ition,” says Leslye Louie, na­tion­al dir­ect­or of the En­core Fel­low­ship Net­work. “It could be go­ing from the for-profit sec­tor to the non­profit sec­tor, it could be go­ing from full-time work to part-time work, it could be mov­ing from one part of the United States to an­oth­er.”

Any­one can ap­ply for En­core fel­low­ships, but the ma­jor­ity of fel­lows so far have spent their ca­reers in the private sec­tor and have been able use that ex­per­i­ence to help build the ca­pa­city of non­profit or­gan­iz­a­tions, draw­ing on ex­pert­ise in areas like mar­ket­ing or per­form­ance man­age­ment. Or­gan­iz­a­tions af­fil­i­ated with En­core.org’s fel­low­ship net­work vet can­did­ates and set up in­ter­views with em­ploy­ers. Sti­pends are gen­er­ally provided by non­profit part­ners, al­though some fel­lows are sup­por­ted by former em­ploy­ers or by found­a­tions. Many fel­lows go on to take full-time or part-time non­profit jobs.

Just like fel­low­ships for re­cent col­lege grads, En­core fel­low­ships help work­ers get their foot in the door. It is gen­er­ally harder for older work­ers to find new jobs than young­er work­ers, and a bad eco­nomy has ex­acer­bated the trend. In 2011, the av­er­age job seeker over age 55 was spend­ing 35 weeks look­ing for a job, com­pared to 26 weeks for young­er job seekers, ac­cord­ing to fed­er­al stat­ist­ics. Age dis­crim­in­a­tion con­tin­ues to be a prob­lem older work­ers face. Some em­ploy­ers as­sume — falsely — that more-ex­per­i­enced work­ers are more ex­pens­ive, harder to man­age, and less com­mit­ted to their jobs, says Peter Cap­pelli of the Whar­ton School at the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania.

For Break­through Col­lab­or­at­ive, bring­ing on Diao as an en­core fel­low was a per­fect solu­tion to a press­ing prob­lem. The or­gan­iz­a­tion needed high-level ex­pert­ise to help man­age a big ex­pan­sion to new sites and new cit­ies but couldn’t af­ford to bring on a CFO at an ex­ec­ut­ive-level salary, says Laura Zahn, the non­profit’s chief aca­dem­ic of­ficer. Diao’s year­long po­s­i­tion will cost the or­gan­iz­a­tion just $35,000, and should see it through the crit­ic­al ex­pan­sion peri­od.

Since Diao’s fel­low­ship began this sum­mer, she has worked on elim­in­at­ing ad­min­is­trat­ive in­ef­fi­cien­cies and get­ting the or­gan­iz­a­tion more af­ford­able of­fice space. “I have a lot of ex­per­i­ence, so when I look at something, I can say, well this makes sense, this doesn’t make sense,” she says. Her col­leagues think she’s work­ing mir­acles. When Zahn ori­gin­ally looked at Break­through’s ex­ist­ing lease earli­er this year, she thought ex­tric­at­ing the or­gan­iz­a­tion from it would be a night­mare. But then Diao got on the phone with the leas­ing agent and put to use her years of ne­go­ti­at­ing with and man­aging people. “Something that could have been either con­ten­tious or im­possible be­came an op­por­tun­ity,” Zahn says, who has learned that Diao’s soft skills in deal­ing with people are as use­ful as the hard skills she brings to the or­gan­iz­a­tion. The learn­ing cuts both ways; Diao’s new col­leagues are teach­ing her about Face­book, Twit­ter, and Mi­crosoft Ex­cel.

Hav­ing Diao around has also had a calm­ing in­flu­ence on Break­through’s staff, who are al­most en­tirely in their 20s and 30s, Zahn says. “What I love about En­core is this bring­ing to­geth­er of gen­er­a­tions,” she says. In one of their first con­ver­sa­tions, Zahn told Diao: “You’re two years away from my mom’s age, and my mom is my best friend! I love hav­ing your wis­dom and ex­pert­ise.” Diao’s age wasn’t a prob­lem. It was an as­set.

What We're Following See More »
“PROFOUNDLY DANGEROUS”
Clinton Rips Into Trump
34 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Just a day after Donald Trump called her a bigot, Hillary Clinton delivered a scathing speech tying Trump to the KKK and so-called “alt-right.” This new frontier of debate between the two candidates has emerged at a time when Trump has been seeking to appeal to minority voters, among whom he has struggled to garner support. Calling him “profoundly dangerous,” Clinton didn’t hold back on her criticisms of Trump. “He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party,” Clinton said.

SEVEN-POINT LEAD IN A FOUR-WAY
Quinnipiac Has Clinton Over 50%
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 51%-41% in a new Quinnipiac poll released today. Her lead shrinks to seven points when the third-party candidates are included. In that scenario, she leads 45%-38%, with Gary Johnson pulling 10% and Jill Stein at 4%.

Source:
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
MIGHT STILL ACCEPT FOREIGN AND CORPORATE MONEY
Chelsea to Stay on Board of Clinton Foundation
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Is the Clinton family backtracking on some of its promises to insulate the White House from the Clinton Foundation? Opposition researchers will certainly try to portray it that way. A foundation spokesman said yesterday that Chelsea Clinton will stay on its board, and that the "foundation’s largest project, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, might continue to accept foreign government and corporate funding."

Source:
INTERCEPT IN MIDDLE EAST
Navy Calls Iranian Ships’ Actions Dangerous, Unprofessional
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Four Iranian ships made reckless maneuvers close to a U.S. warship this week, the Pentagon said Thursday, in an incident that officials said could have led to dangerous escalation." The four Iranian vessels engaged in a "high-speed intercept" of a U.S. destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz. A Navy spokesman said the Iranina actions "created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation including additional defensive measures" by the destroyer.

Source:
×