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Fired just before retirement? It's not time to panic yet

The unfortunate truth is that most people do not feel prepared financially for their retirement years. A 2013 survey by American Consumer Credit Counseling found that 75 percent of people agreed that they were not financially ready for their post-work years. But what about if retirement comes earlier than expected… and not by your choice?

Find out now: How much mortgage can I afford?

What about those U.S. workers who are laid off or fired right before they’re due to retire? What does this do to their retirement plans? And what can they do to make sure that their retirement years are financially stable ones?

Older and Unemployed

It’s important to realize that there are many workers 55 and older who are struggling with unemployment. The AARP reported that nearly 1.8 million U.S. workers 55 and older were unemployed in May of 2013.

Losing  your job when you are older can be a particularly tough blow. A big problem is that it often takes older workers longer to find a new job. PBS reported in May of last year that it was taking those 55 and older about a year on average to find new jobs.

This can play financial havoc with older Americans’ savings. This is especially true considering that many workers pump up their retirement savings as they get closer to retirement. If they’ve lost their jobs, though, they can’t do this.

Related Article: How Prepared Are You For Retirement?

What To Do

Fortunately, it’s not impossible to find a job when you’re over 55. You will, though, have to convince potential employers that just because you’re old doesn’t mean that you’re out of touch with the modern world of work.

This means showing potential employers that you’re not afraid of technology. You’ll have to use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to network. This can help you find a job, and it will also show employers that you don’t resist today’s technologies.

Related Article: It’s Nothing Personal But… You’re Not Hired!

Prepare several stories of how you’ve used technology in the past to succeed in the workforce. You’ll need these stories during the interview process. If you’ve designed successful Web pages, developed an award-winning online ad campaign or sold a record-setting number of high-tech software programs in your past, promote these accomplishments during your job interview.

At the very least, study up on the new technology that people are using at work. This could be social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. It could be smartphones and tablets. You might also learn about cloud computing.

You’ll also need to make your experience a strength. If you’re 55 or older, you undoubtedly have plenty of stories in which you’ve created training programs, crafted marketing materials, helped develop new products or took on tasks that helped your company increase its bottom line. Employers want to hire workers who can help them make more money. Point to your years of experience to prove that you’re this type of worker, and give employers specific examples of how you’ve helped boost the profits of your past employers.

What Not To Do

Don’t apply to every job out there. Often, older workers take a scatter-gun approach, applying for every open position they can find. This too often means that they are applying for jobs that they are overly qualified for. Doing this paints you as desperate. It also gives employees the impression that you are out of the loop.

Finally, don’t forget your biggest tool in finding a new job: networking. If you have a long career behind you, you also have plenty of work contacts who can help you find a new job. Don’t be afraid to schedule meetings with former employers, co-workers and clients. You never know if a past client has a friend who is starting a new accounting firm or if a former boss knows of a colleague who needs a new IT professional.

Related Article: The Top 3 Retirement Myths- Busted

Losing a job when you’re close to retirement is scary. But it doesn’t mean that your days in the workforce are over too soon. There’s always another job out there. You just have to use your skills, experience and knowledge to find it.

Next Steps

  • Assess your current financial situation. Do you have enough saved for retirement or do you need to go back to work? A financial advisor can help you revise your financial plan to take into account this unexpected development.  A matching tool like SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to up to three registered investment advisors who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.
  • Be frugal while you’re searching for a new job so you don’t move further away from meeting your retirement goals. Make a budget and stick to it so you don’t end up totally depleting your savings account.

Photo Credit: Gilbert305

Dan Rafter Dan Rafter has been writing about personal finance for more than 15 years. He is an expert in mortgages, refinances and credit issues. Dan's written for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Phoenix Magazine, Consumers Digest, Business 2.0 Magazine, BusinessWeek online and dozens of trade magazines.
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