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Job outlook ruminations

March 4th, 2017 at 01:28 pm

o I've been thinking a lot about my job prospects.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm at the end of the road and will never succeed in getting another quality full-time perm job with benefits. I've said this before, and then I got the bank job, but each year, I get a little older.

Will I end up stumbling toward retirement for the next 8 years (til Medicare eligibility and Social Security) with low-paying, erratic work and the stress that goes with that, never really feeling free to actually "enjoy" these years because I can't tell if I'm actually retired or not?

Contrast that with earlier plans to "sprint" to an early retirement (from f/t work, anyway) in just a few years?

What I've noticed more and more on the job boards is that employers are combining two jobs into one, trying to find a writer, for instance, who also does web development work, knows HTML coding or can deftly maneuver through Photoshop.

I have to admit that I am not the perfect job candidate. All I've ever wanted to do was write, kind of like in my mother's case, all she ever wanted to do was create art. It may sound admirable to know your career goals, but in truth it's a little narrow-minded.

I've worked for over 30 years now and I've always earned a living as a writer. I tell employers it's what I do best and enjoy the most. And employers seem to respect that single-minded focus. But during all that time, I haven't expanded my repertoire or sought to improve my skill set much.

What I DID do was this: When I was working in financial services, I did study for and obtain my Series 6 Limited Investment Securities license and my Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent license. Not to sell mutual funds but just for the knowledge. I did it because my manager was prodding me to do so, plus for each exam I took, the company paid me $500.

When I worked as a real estate copywriter, I took Real Estate Principles and Practice, Connecticut real estate salesperson’s exam, and scored highest in class. I got a 99! I think I did this one of my own accord.

I still remember being surprised when the instructor decided to announce to the whole class who scored the highest. I was sitting in the back of the room and there were two women who were constantly talking and goofing around. When the teacher announced the high score, they just turned around and looked at me without smiling.

My certificate is up in the attic somewhere. Again, I never paid for the license as I didn't intend to sell real estate; it was just meant to help me do my job better.

Right now, I am enrolled in a free online grammar refresher course, with EdX.com with University of Queensland. If you're not familiar with them, you should check it out. These are real, college-level courses put on by professors at hundreds of leading schools. You can take the course for free but you have to pay $50 or $100 if you want a certificate.

But aside from those 3 things, and my stint in law school aborted after one year, I haven't done much to improve my career prospects. I started thinking about what I could do.

One thing I am often conscious of is that my familiarity with technology is somewhat limited. As a writer, all you need to know is MS Word. I have also used Powerpoint and Excel, and occasionally edited PDFs with Adobe Acrobat.

In a previous job I used a content management system called Vignette daily, as well as WordPress. Many years ago I also used PageMaker to create a newsletter for my employer. But that's about it. Partly due to laziness, partly to disinterest. Most of the time, I learned software because I was already in a job and I had to.

I often see jobs posted where they want you to know specific programs, like Adobe Photoshop, or HTML stuff, or Google Analytics, or something else. They don't want to pay for someone to take a course or wait til they gear up; they want an employee who can hit the ground running.

I got a free, 7-day trial of Photoshop thinking, how hard could it be? But I can see now I would definitely need a class to be able to use it. It's fairly sophisticated.

I would consider taking a course so I could put it on my resume and say that I "know" it, but there isn't any one course that employers mention, there's probably seven or eight. I think I know some of the basics of HTML coding, just stuff I picked up when I was loading stories I'd written onto a website using a CMS. But obviously there's still more to learn. Maybe that's what I should think about.

Maybe I should ditch the volunteer job editing for NutritionFacts.org and spend that time instead on an online HTML class?

I started today building a list of all the software programs writer job postings contain. Already, the list includes the following: Excel, Viso, Sprinklr CRM, Instagram, WordPress, Adobe Creative Suite, Sketchr, Flash, Squarespace, Hubspot, Adobe InDesign, Dreamweaver and Publisher.

Right now, my only source of income is the higher education website. I had hoped I could gross $1,000 a month from them, but my best month to date (last month) was just $540.

Aside from that, I still have a client I picked up about 4 or 5 years ago from Craigslist, believe it or not. He's an IT director who wanted someone to edit his emails in as close to real time as possible.

That's morphed into other things. Now he's job hunting and he landed an interview with a cover letter and resume I helped him write. Today, unexpectedly, he called and wants me to help him write out Q&As he's using to prep for the interview this weekend. Which is exactly what I do for every interview.

So I'm glad I cleared my plate yesterday with my last higher education assignment so I have time to do this.

37 Responses to “Job outlook ruminations”

  1. AnotherReader Says:

    Reality here is there are very few jobs like the one you lost at the bank. Because there is so much competition, writing is a low paying job. Writers are often the first to go when a company reduces headcount. Why pay salary and benefits when you can outsource for a few dollars?

    I know writers that have jobs for not much more than minimum wage in technical but clerical roles. They write on the side for a little extra income. I know someone that knows the programs you mention and is doing contract jobs for $12-$15 an hour.

    If you want to be employed for the next few years, you are likely going to have to accept lower pay and/or find a job that for which there is a lot more demand. You can probably find something a little higher up the pay scale than $12 an hour because of your experience, but it would be surprising to find anything remotely near your pay at the bank.

    In your shoes, I would keep a close eye on what happens with the ACA. If you end up in a high risk pool, your situation could be difficult to sustain. Any job with health insurance will look good if that happens. If the ACA is extended, in your shoes, I would look at taking Social Security early and using the allowable earned income limit to pick up small jobs. Allowing your nest egg to grow untouched might be best in your situation.

    If you have not done so, look at a forum dedicated to retirement planning and issues called early-retirement.org. A number of people that post there are facing issues similar to yours.

    I wish your situation were better, but at least you are looking at it realistically now.

  2. PatientSaver Says:

    I have to disagree with you that most pure writing jobs are low paying. There are many different kinds of writing...grant writing, technical writing, RFP writing, social media writing, blog writing, speech writing, to name a few. Then there's marketing copywriting vs. customer communications vs. corporate communications. They all require different skill sets, and if you think a company would hire anyone to perform any one of those roles, you're mistaken. They want a specialist who has experience in that specific type of writing. Writing for certain industries, like financial services, certainly pays very well whereas publishing does not. Those types of writing that are less specialized and more likely done by just about anyone who can write decently, like social media or blogs, pay substantially less. Perhaps those are the kinds of things your friends do.

    I do agree that unless something happens soon, any job with health insurance will look good. I'm still 4.5 years away from being eligible to take SS but taking it at the earliest possible date would only lock in future lower income. I would instead continue working however I could to cover current bills and defer taking SS until later for larger monthly payments.

    I am familiar with early-retirement.org...thanks.

  3. AnotherReader Says:

    Technical writers are a different group. They need detailed technical knowledge that is usually industry and product specific. Even here in Silicon Valley, most tech writers make under six figures.

    I know people grant writing for animal welfare organizations making $30-$40k salaries here. My cousin did some contract proposal writing for about $20 an hour in Southern California.

    Who is hiring writers with financial service knowledge? I get magazines and newsletters from Schwab, T Rowe Price and Fidelity. What are their staff writers paid?

    We just see your job market differently. If companies with the jobs and pay levels you describe are out there, some of them should be hiring. Specialists would be difficult to find and paid accordingly, as is the case with software engineers. Recruitment efforts would cover a broad geographic area. You would be getting more responses than you are if that were the case.

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    I'm glad you figured out PhotoShop is a bit more complicated. My daughter has taken several classes on it in high school. I asked her if she could have learned it herself (as she has self taught some things to herself), and she said absolutely not. She wants to learn Adobe After Effects and has tried to learn on her own and follow YouTube videos, but she said she will need a class.

    I think it is good to gain new skills. I hope you can find the one that would make you the most marketable!

  5. jokeabee Says:

    Does your public library have a subscription to Lynda.com? Lynda has a ton of courses to help with a lot of the things you have listed, if you're interested. I don't know if I would pay what it costs for an individual subscription, but a lot of libraries carry it. If your library doesn't, but another one nearby does see if you can get a reciprocal borrowing card-that might cost a little (where I live it is $65 a year) but you will then have access to every online resource the other library does (or libraries, if it is a statewide thing.)

  6. PatientSaver Says:

    Who is hiring writers with financial services knowledge? Wall Street brokerages or any company marketing or selling mutual funds, annuities, CRTs and other financial products. I've worked at two; as a perm employee at a mutual fund and annuity company 18 years ago, I was making $75K plus a hefty bonus and stock options. At the other, around 2010 as a contract worker for a different annuity company, I was making $50/hr. I've also worked for a consulting group catering to financial services firms and made very good money, and at a small publisher of newsletters for financial advisers...again, good money. The challenge is that any one company is not going to need an army of writers the way they need salespeople or IT professionals. J

  7. AnotherReader Says:

    The glossy magazines and the newsletters are written by someone, that is true. A lot of that material is aimed at folks under 40 and written by the same. Looking at the latest Schwab "On Investing" magazine, most article authors are not named and those that are have professional qualifications and appear to be in their 30's and early 40's. Who hired you 18 years ago or even in 2010 (and that was a contract job that went away) has nothing to do with the market today.

    I have read your blog for many years. Since you were originally laid off in 2009, I don't recall you have had many calls, interviews, or offers for high paying, full time staff jobs. I do recall you scoffing at or turning down numerous jobs and contracts that did not pay what you thought was fair. No one called you back to raise the offer, so someone took those jobs. The market said those offers were, in fact, fair.

    From what you have written and what I see with people I know that work as writers, you are searching for a needle in a haystack. In your shoes, I would continue to look, but I would also re-examine my skill set and salary requirements to see if I needed to add to my skills and/or lower my income expectations. Maybe a $30-$40,000 job in a related area would keep you from tapping your savings and offer you health insurance. In your shoes, I would be inclined to accept something like that if offered. Waiting to find that needle in that haystack is not what I would do. The risk to my future financial position would be just too high.

  8. davera Says:

    Fern, you're one of the shining examples here on the site of successful retirement planning. I've really enjoy tracking your progress. You've achieved a net worth of $1.2 million. which places you in the 90th percentile of American households in your age bracket. That's amazing, especially as you've done this all on your own without a partner.

    You therefore may be putting undue stress on yourself about not having enough money and needing to continue to work and scrimp and save. High cortisol levels from worrying may be more of risk for your long term health and well being than the low likelihood of your ever running out of $. In fact, I'm sure you're aware of the concept of income smoothing in retirement - we all spend less and less as we get older and should spend more and enjoy life in the "young" ages of retirement. I think this is especially important for folks with chronic diseases.

    Of course, we don't change our habits and mindsets easily, but try to cut yourself some slack. You're an incredibly talented writer and if there is another high paying job out there, you are eminently qualified. If not, you're still going to be A-OK financially, no matter what.

  9. Laura S. Says:

    I probably mentioned this before, but I would suggest doing a couple of lower paying gigs on Upwork to see if it leads to anything. I was active on there a few years ago when it was still Odesk. I did a few low pay writing gigs, but they led to recommendations for other work, which paid much higher. I had a gig for a flat $500 a month for ten real estate articles (400 words each). It also led me to being the runner up for a full-time work from home job for 45k a year. I did not enough of a technical writing background.

    I admire your success. As other said, don't be so hard on yourself!

  10. PatientSaver Says:

    Another Reader, I'm flattered that you have followed my case so closely. Here's what happened..when I was laid off in 2009, I worked for several years doing freelance, contract and p/t work that ultimately led me to the perm job at the bank, a high paying job. Then I was laid off from there last year.

    The "numerous" job offers I have declined were hourly jobs paying about $15/hr. There was one perm job (not an offer) where they indicated they were looking to pay $55k, and I regret not taking that job, but it came so soon after my layoff that perhaps I was feeling more confident in my job prospects than was warranted. Live and learn.

    What you suggest in your reply is exactly what I am doing: reexamining my skill set and salary requirements; that's what my post was about.

    Davera, thank you. I appreciate your thoughts. I really don't feel justified in complaining much becus I am in good shape as far as savings go. Thanks for the kind words.

  11. My English Castle Says:

    I'm thinking a bit, PS, about my professional writing grads. Although many of them too just want to write--they're English majors and interested often in creative writing and literature, I do find that the ones with more software skills are hired sooner and stay hired longer. There's a perception (albeit an inaccurate one) that "anyone can write." Often just showing the desire to learn other complementary skills will help.
    You've got SO much more experience than these beginning writers, but too often hiring folks don't see the differences. I think it's a really good idea to stretch a bit. I'm starting to think about adding to my repertoire.

    I'm finding "Another Reader" a bit harsh. I suspect I'm not alone.

  12. AnotherReader Says:

    Unlike a lot of you on this site, PS has only herself and her savings plus her Social Security to rely on. No pension, no spouse's earnings. It's all on her. She has done a fabulous job of saving and investing over the years, only to have the last eight years undermine her progress.

    Those of you in your 30's and 40's probably don't understand the age discrimination that goes on in the job market. It is very difficult for people over 55 to find jobs, especially in fields with a lot of competition for the available jobs. Corporate employers are laying off or offering packages to older workers because they are expensive to keep - higher pay and high health insurance costs.

    If PS takes a full time, permanent job with health insurance that pays all of her current expenses, her portfolio can continue to grow. Any income over her expenses could go into additional savings. Her original $1,087,000 goal might not be too far out of reach if she does that.

    If she cannot generate enough income from work to pay her expenses, she will have to start pulling from her assets. If she is not 59.5 years old, she may have to pay a penalty to withdraw from her IRA's. She will likely have to take Social Security at 62, resulting in a much reduced payment, as shown in the side bar.

    Finally, PS has a serious and very expensive medical condition. If the ACA is "repealed and replaced," likely she will end up in a high risk pool with very expensive insurance. Lower income and very expensive insurance will mean PS has to deplete her savings at a high rate. Medicare cuts are also on the table, meaning she may have to pay a lot more than anticipated after switching to Medicare at 65.

    I'm older than PS and I see the problems she has to face in the situations of people I know in my age group. It is discouraging and downright frightening to spend a large portion of the assets that were supposed to be there for your retirement at ages 55 to 62 instead and then take the reduced Social Security payment. Going from a comfortable life to struggling to make ends meet is not easy or fun.

    Harsh? Maybe. I think I'm being realistic. Those of you that are young should look at the people around you that are PS's age and not employed full time to decide if this is harsh.

    In PS's shoes, I would be flexible and take a lower paying, secure job, with health insurance, to preserve my savings. I would rather tread water now than risk struggling later.

  13. PatientSaver Says:

    I appreciate everyone's thoughts because each one offers a different angle to consider and different perspectives. Another Reader, I don't think anyone, including me, disagrees with you that I should be flexible and consider a lower paying secure job. I am with you!

    To address what I see as a shortcoming in my skill set, I'm looking at that list I've developed of all the different software programs and tech I've seen listed in job descriptions as desirable or required in a writer position. Obviously I can't take them all, but I'm trying to zero in on what I think might be most important, or what seems to be mentioned most frequently, and I think those two things might be 1. Familiarity with HTML (of which I know a bit already) and 2. Adobe InDesign.

    I also discovered my town has a robust offering of continuing education online classes I never knew about that includes many software classes at reasonable prices of around $100 for a six-week online course. There are staggered start dates beginning in about a week and continuing thru June so I need to make some decisions and move outside my comfort zone a bit.

    I think I want to enroll in one class to start and I would begin listing it and the other software I already know on my resume. Right now, my resume doesn't list tech I know except I mention a content management system I used in passing. I'll have to get creative about how to squeeze a full software list in and still keep it to 2 pages. So my list would just include: MS Word, MS PowerPoint, MS Excel (beginner here), MS Outlook, Vignette CMS and I guess Adobe Acrobat and then whatever new classes i was taking.

    My ultimate goal is still a f/t perm job and I will not make the same mistake twice of turning down a lower paying job offer with a reasonable commute. What would my minimum acceptable salary be? I'm not sure. My annual expenses usually come in around $40K, but I would need to make more because after taxes, a $40K salary would be $30-something net. So maybe $45k minimum. I know that when I worked at a certain job in 2004-2007 I started at only $50K and I still had a mortgage then.

    I have known for a while that all I need is a job to cover current expenses and provide health insurance, yet when I learned during an interview last year they would pay so much less than what I made at the bank (referenced in my original post), well, it was still hard to swallow even though that salary was feasible for my situation.

    I do not intend to allow the scenario Another Reader has described to happen. It's not entirely within my control but I'm doing my best to avoid and hearing someone else describe the blunt what ifs is probably not bad for me to hear.

  14. MonkeyMama Says:

    I just have to echo the "Don't be so hard on yourself" comments. I have no doubt that you will be just fine. If you were 30 or you only had $100k saved for retirement, this would be an entirely different discussion. Wink As is, you are in that grey area where you aren't sure yet if you should/could retire. I've seen our parents go through this since both their retirements were early and unexpected due to joblessness. It will be more clear in a few more years, if you find more work or means or have to adjust for the long term.

  15. PatientSaver Says:

    P.S. to Another Reader: I have ample Roth IRA savings so I would never have to pay an early withdrawal penalty. And if it came to it, I would rather spend down my savings as needed than claim Social Security at age 62, which would lock me into a permanently lower monthly income for life.

    Knowing how I am, I would not feel comfortable spending down my nest egg so I would take a p/t job to slow my rate of spending until I could collect SS at preferably age 66 or so. This has been part of my long-term plan all along. When I say I wanted to retire at age 60, I meant retire from full-time work; I envisioned working p/t to some extent for at least a few years.

    So really we're back to what has been the big bugaboo all along: how to obtain affordable health insurance coverage. Instead of dropping f/t work at age 60, I might continue working f/t til age 63.5, much as I'd hate to do that, and hope to then get laid off so I would qualify for 18 months of COBRA, after which I would pick up Medicare. (I don't think you qualify for COBRA if you just quit?)

    A lot of wisdom in what Monkey Mama says. I do agree it may appear much more clear in a few years which way the wind's blowing, so to speak.

  16. alice4now Says:

    Another Reader may be coming across harsh, but like you, I admit there is some truth to her words. I see the wisdom in taking classes to gain more recent skills, but this is probably time-consuming and a bit pricey. Plus you won't be working so many years for the payback from these skills. Or you could veer into a lower-pay but full-time gig using some of the skills you have but do not use, like your financial background.

    DW was just telling me that her 19 year-old airman, who has been in the military less than a year, took over the audio-visual program of a senior E-9 with 20 years of service. The "kid" has grown up with technology and picked up the programs and equipment with just a couple sessions of practice. Imagine in the civilian world, a company could save a lot of money selecting the younger worker with the fresh skills over the well paid senior staff. So I can see that it would take an awful lot of courses to get up to speed with what new graduates are using today. It just changes so quickly. On the other hand, you have your experience as your selling point, and that is something that a younger employee cannot get without putting the time in.

    Good luck, though, you have a lot of experience and I know you will line your ducks up for the best position for yourself!

  17. PatientSaver Says:

    This won't be as cheap as I thought. While most of the continuing ed software courses are $89, I of course have to purchase the software as well since I'll need to have it to learn how to use it. I just checked prices for Adobe InDesign and to my disappointment, it's not a one-time purchase like I imagined, but a monthly subscription. The cheapest subscription would be $20 a month, or $240 for the year, plus the $89 for the course.

  18. AnotherReader Says:

    For Monkey Mama and others looking at the experience of married couples: Look carefully at the Social Security difference for married couples vs. a single person. Married couples are likely to collect a minimum of 1.5 times the higher earner's benefit. Single people get only their own benefit. This means for a couple where the higher earner has a benefit of $2,000 per month, the couple will likely collect $3,000 per month if the second person's own benefit is less than $1,000. They will collect even more if the second earner was also well paid and has a higher benefit. That difference is huge.

  19. MonkeyMama Says:

    ??? AR, I Was speaking to PS's individual situation.

    I actually made my last reply before I saw the AR and PS comments directly before mine. I wasn't referring to those comments since I hadn't seen them. Nothing about those comments change anything I have to say.

  20. My English Castle Says:

    Realism is one thing; tone is another. Wishing you all well.

  21. AnotherReader Says:

    Monkey Mama: Your parents are in a better situation with respect to Social Security because they will have at least 1.5 times the annuity of the higher earner while both are alive. That means the shortfall in spending they have to make up from savings is lower than for a similar single person. A million dollars and two Social Security checks is more secure than a million dollars and one Social Security check. A million dollars, two Social Security checks, and one or two pensions? A couple in that position would be very, very well protected.

  22. rob62521 Says:

    Just my two cents: I'd work on getting more technology. Does your library offer classes? Every so often, ours does for things besides Word. I'd also get a Google account (free) and learn the differences of Microsoft and Google. My school district started using more Google to cut down on the cost of Microsoft.

    As someone like you who has the talent of writing, it seems fewer people want to pay for that talent. I think our society has shown that by the fact writers are not well paid. Sometimes you have to branch out so you have other strengths to make yourself more employable.

  23. MonkeyMama Says:

    AR, I did not make my comments to PS based on the experience of my parents. I made them based on her specific situation. That is why I replied with, "????" I understand how social security works and I understand that PS is not married. Wink

  24. AnotherReader Says:

    Monkey Mama: You mentioned your parents' and in laws' situation. That's why I pointed out the difference.

    It's much more difficult navigating a reduced income/early retirement situation with no pension and only one Social Security check. Additional savings cushion the blow. If PS can keep her savings intact and her nest egg can grow, she will likely be fine. It's navigating the "gray area" you describe that will determine her success.

    All the retirement "experts" that assume people will work until 65 and advise not taking Social Security until age 70 are not realistic in today's economy. A high percentage of people are out of the workforce well before age 65 and the majority of people take Social Security at 62. It's wise to prepare for that scenario instead of the "best case."

  25. Butterscotch Says:

    AR - why don't you have a blog if you know so much?

  26. livingalmostlarge Says:

    What do the monte carlo simulations say? What is the chance of you retiring now?

    I unfortunately suspect that the BIGGEST factor affecting your decision is health insurance and the way things are shaking out I think it'll be against your potential retirement. SIGH.

    I know that the hardest thing about early retirement is health insurance. My biggest concern for all these retiring early even Mr Money Mustache is what happens if things change and you can't get health insurance? What happens if the costs skyrocket prohibitively more than what you ever dreamed?

    I think you are in some ways safer being closer to 65. But these are the most expensive years to self-insure.

    what is your annual budget and what portion of it is health insurance? How much flexibility do you have on health insurance?

  27. AnotherReader Says:

    This is the first public discussion of the proposed new healthcare legislation. There is so much disagreement, even among Republicans, that the meetings to put this together have been secret and closed to members of Congress not on the Committee.


    If the LA Times is correct, it looks like employer-provided insurance will become taxable. Subsidies will be restructured and the Medicaid expansion will disappear. Replacement subsidies will be age-based. No description yet of how that will work. The minimum coverage requirements for insurance policies will end. Insurance companies apparently will decide what to cover.

    No articles yet in the New York Times or Washington Post, the usual places to find detailed explanations of major policy shifts.

    All in all, it looks like insurance will be harder to get and more expensive. I'm not optimistic for people with expensive to treat conditions similar to PS.

  28. PatientSaver Says:

    You may be interested to know that a few months back, Dido, who is a financial adviser, ran some projections for me.

    She ran two projections, one assuming that I earn $1,000 a month until I turn age 62, and the other assuming no earnings at all.

    In both cases, she assumed I started Social Security at Full Retirement Age (FRA) of 66 years & 10 months.

    The bottom line: if I earn 1K/month until I turn 62, I can safely withdraw about 40K/year (pretax income) to live on and still have my portfolio survive to age 100, assuming a 5.5% average portfolio return.

    If I don't earn ANY more money but still delay SS until FRA, I can safely withdraw about $38K/year. I will definitely be earning more money.

    So as Dido says (barring horrendous health care expenses), I should do ok. Obviously earning more will give me more breathing room but I WILL be ok regardless. And obviously, there's not only room for earnings, but the possibility of higher investment returns, working beyond age 62, etc.

    Assumptions: Dido used my retirement portfolio as posted in the sidebar of my profile here. She did NOT include the approximately 80K in cash & CDs nor the value of my house & car.

    She assumed average 5.5% return--pretty conservative.

  29. Kiki Says:

    Do you have a community college near you where you could take a class or two (often tech courses are short term4-8 weeks) and use their equipment at the school or via online to practice? I have taken tech courses this way - some on line and some are in person but never had to buy the software unless I wanted it for personal use. Also, then the costs of the courses (books and tuition) can be tax deductible depending upon your situation.

    Also, as MEC mentions: tone is everything. What one person writes can be misinterpreted by another as rude or harsh beyond realistic thinking.

  30. Dido Says:

    Sorry, PS, for jumping onto this thread so late--I've been sick. Some good points have been made above, by both AR (who was, however, unnecessarily harsh in tone) and MM and others.

    You should be fine in terms of covering your basic living expenses even without work, although you'll be more comfortable with the amount you have to live on depending on what happens with health care expenses.

    One of the unfortunate realities of the current market is that the job market has changed and those of us who are in our 50s and 60s are often seen as too expensive to be worth what we are used to earning.

    At some point you might consider whether you want to continue focusing on working full-time for a shorter period, as you have been, or turn to focusing on working part-time for a longer period. Self-employed health care expenses are currently deductible in full on the front of the 1040 (reducing AGI and thus increasing your eligibility for the 2% miscellaneous deductions)--as long as you are NOT eligible for employer-provided health care. This can lessen the blow of the expense.

    I know a lot of people about our age who "transition" to retirement by spending several years "consulting" and focusing their income on Schedule C self employment earnings rather than on employee W-2 wages (this includes my three local friends who started their careers as employees (writers) at Rodale Press). If you focused on earning enough to cover your living expenses (as opposed to focusing on earning how much you used to earn) and organized yourself to take maximum advantage of the deductions possible as a self-employed person, you might be able to do this into your 60s while working shorter hours than you do as an employee, getting some of the benefits of retirement and of work both at the same time. If you keep on focusing on earning as much as you used to, you might land such a job but you also might not, and it's not really under your control, whereas if you focused on earning enough to cover your living expenses, whether by part-time employment and/or part-time self-employment, that is a more doable and thus less frustrating (and more under your control) position.

    I think in general with longer longevity we are moving into an era when fewer and fewer people will have an abrupt retirement transition and more and more people will spend time in their 50s-70s doing an encore career that often may be both fewer hours and less pay than in their prime but which allows them more flexibility as they look ahead to retirement. It might be that wrapping your head around the idea of working longer than you had hoped for rather than the reality of that life that may be the most difficult thing. Donning my other professional hat as a former psychology professor, one of the findings of social psychology is that people are actually spectacularly bad at "affective forecasting," that is, at predicting how we'll actually feel in a situation, even though we prefer to use our own mental simulations of how we THINK we'll feel to guide our decisions. Actually talking to others who've been through the experience is a better predictor of how you will feel.

    The bottom line is, even though your situation is not what you hoped it would be, it is still not a horrible situation to be in.

  31. livingalmostlarge Says:

    How much do you need live on annually? $40k? How much of that is for healthcare? How much is budgeted for help or long term care? I think the real issue is how hard it is to plan for unexpected expenses. The reality is that we are in big, big trouble with the flux of health insurance.

    Right now with the proposal in place i am going to guess your health insurance will be very expensive with pre-exisiting conditions, age, and tax credits. It will cover less and be less generous. How does it work for you? Will you qualify for medicaid without income?

  32. PatientSaver Says:

    Dido, feel better soon.

    There was a time back a while ago when I analyzed if I would come out ahead if I worked f/t for 3 years versus working p/t for 5 or more years, and there was NO DOUBT at all I would do much better if I worked f/t for 3 years. This is because p/t jobs pay so much less than f/t, so even if I had a f/t job paying $80K, I couldn't expect to find a job paying $40K for a 20 hr week. In Most cases, I'd get paid quite a bit less for the same job.

    At this point, I'm really focusing on ANY JOB I CAN GET, whether it's contract, f/t, p/t or freelance. Although my medical expenses exceeded $4500 last year with the higher COBRA expenses, it was still not enough to get any credit. My AGI was $87K so I would have needed a whopping $8700 in medical expenses to see any benefit.

    LAL, my annual expenses usually come in at around $40 to $43k. How much of that is for healthcare costs depends on whether I'm working f/t or not. If I have employer-sponsored health coverage (the gold standard), as they were in 2015, my total premiums and out of pocket medical came to $4981.

    In contrast, in 2013, when I jumped onto my new employer's health plan just for the last 4 months of the year, my total medical/out of pocket and premium expenses were $7,336. Big difference.

    I've never had a budget of any kind. I don't have any monies reserved for long-term care.

    So far, the Republican plan that's being floated includes coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. But I am sure whatever we end up will cost more and cover less.

    If I still can't find a W2 job in 2017, then my COBRA will expire in late January and I would have to get on a plan with whatever replaces Obamacare, and I'm completely at their mercy as to costs I might pay. If there's no other plan, I'd end up on Medicaid and I "think" the drug I'm on would be covered.

    This subject just came up when I was talking to another MS person at one of those lecture programs I go to. I was going to ask him if Medicaid covers Copaxone. At least half the MS people who go to these programs are on disability as they have much more serious problems than I do. So they would know. I need to follow up on that. It would be the last resort because i briefly had to go on CT's Husky plan, which I think is Medicaid, for a month or two between jobs and it was an awful experience. None of my doctors were in network and I had the prospect of having to travel halfway across the state to see one neurologist in the plan who was only at one clinic once a month, or something like that. I can't quite recall what happened, but I think when I spoke to my neurologist's assistant and told her my situation, my regular doctor relented and agreed to refill my prescription for another year. It was a very stressful time.

  33. Dido Says:

    Since you freelance some, you presumably file Schedule C with your tax return and are hence self-employed. As long as you are not eligible for employer benefits AND you have self-employment income, instead of needing to be above 10% of AGI to deduct insurance, you can deduct it on the FRONT page of your tax return, line 29, as a business expense. Thus instead of an AGI of $87,000, if your total medical expenses were $5,000, your AGI would be $82,000. This is determined on a month by month basis. So since you were laid off last July (as was I), presume employer coverage for that month but then if you had self employment income for 2016 and you paid your own premiums (under COBRA) for August-December, that is five months worth of premiums, you can deduct those premiums on line 29, reducing your AGI. If you do Schedule C properly, as long as you have business expenses, there are other deductions you can take as well. If you have not only Schedule C income but actual profits (i.e., revenue greater than expenses), you can also open up a SEP IRA and contribute a percentage of profits to that, if your cash flow allows, which further reduces AGI. See Eva Rosenberg's book, "Deduct Everything." (Eva was my instructor for my Enrolled Agent certification.)

  34. Dido Says:

    Clarification: It's just the health insurance premiums paid while self-employed that go on line 29. The other out of pocket medical expenses are still subject to the 10% cap and go on Schedule A.

  35. PatientSaver Says:

    Unfortunately, I had no income from self-employment in 2016.

    But I guess I could do that for 2017 taxes, whether or not I find another job.

  36. livingalmostlarge Says:

    Okay so we are at a crossroads of what you need. UGH. And so much stems on what happens over the next few years. Yes they cover pre-existing but you can be charged up to 5x more. And less subsidies. I'm assuming what happens if premiums go through the roof again like pre ACA?

  37. ThriftoRama Says:

    You know, I am a writer and have been professionally in one capacity or another (full-time journalist or freelance journalist) since I was 18 years old. I'm 42 and I wonder what my future will be. The industry is changing. The value of content is changing, with so many outlets not valuing or understanding the skill, time and talent it takes to turn out good content. Why would they? When they can have an intern do it for free (Or a job applicant, under the guise of a 'job test'?)

    Even in the professions of writers-- fiction and journalism-- the pay rates are going down and fast.

    When younger people ask me for advice, I tell them to become a subject matter expert in something else, don't get a writing degree. You can always write as any part of your job. There is no future for those of us who are flexible and only 'write.' (Any gigs I do still have are only because I chose to specialize in business journalism, which is still in demand.)

    I do wonder what the future is for you and me.

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