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Advice & More October 2012

Dollar Sense

Over 50 and Headed Back to School?

By Teresa Ambord

It is true that, since 2007 when the economy began to slide, the unemployment rate for people 55 and up has doubled. But it is considerably lower for this age group than for American workers in general.

Some call it reinventing themselves. Others call it getting an edge on the competition, or rebuilding nest eggs lost in the recession. If that sounds like you, a new grant program might be just the boost you need. The goal is to reach out to thousands of adults, 50 and over, who are interested in training (or additional training) for healthcare, education, or social service jobs.

You may be happy to know, this is not another government giveaway. It’s from Deerbrook Charitable Trust, which has provided $3.2 million to fund the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program. Eleven colleges so far are scheduled to participate through the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). (See sidebar for more information.)

Record high unemployment and unsuccessful job searches have left many feeling like they are stuck in neutral, if not reverse. That’s why baby boomers in search of options are hitting the campuses. Some just want to try something new. Others have realized that if they hope to find unemployment, they need to brush up and expand their skills.

Though there are currently 11 colleges signed up to participate, the AACC expects that by the end of 2013, another 89 schools will be added to the list. And by the end of 2015, the hope is to put 10,000 baby boomers back on track for viable employment.

Necessity Is the Mother of Reinvention

One study by an advocacy group for older Americans estimates that 25% of baby boomers used up our savings by 2009, out of necessity. Of those, 43% say their savings have not recovered.

Even for those who have not lost their nest eggs, the fact is we just may feel too young to retire. Will anyone hire us? asked this question of Fred Dedrick, the director of an independent group known as the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. This group works with business and communities to buff up skills and jumpstart careers. In the last four years they’ve helped 1,860 people age 55 and up to retrain for new jobs. Dedrick said older people should not assume they are without options. “If they have a 20-year record of being a great worker, companies will take them.”

It is true that, since 2007 when the economy began to slide, the unemployment rate for people 55 and up has doubled. But it is considerably lower for this age group than for American workers in general.

Productivity expert, Frank Lonergen (of Ancile Solutions) said employers who deliberately overlook older workers are making a mistake. Baby boomers have a wealth of experience, he said. His firm works with individuals to improve employee productivity through training. According to him, there is not much difference in the performance of a 25-year-old worker and a 55-year-old worker, if both have the right opportunities. In the hiring process an employer may not hire the 55 year old because it is assumed he or she will work for 10 years and then want to retire. But, said Lonergen, very few 25-year-old workers plan to remain with one company for more than two or three years. Looked at through that lens, the older worker is a better bet. So when you go for an interview, it can’t hurt to point out to the employer than you are committed to sticking with them till you retire.

Keep in mind, if you decide to retrain in a new field, your pay will likely be low, at least to begin with. Don’t let that stop you from supplementing your income and broadening your horizons.

For more information about the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC, see
Contact: Norma Kent, 202/728-0200, x209, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


SIDEBAR: Colleges Currently Participating in the AACC Program

So far, these 11 schools are in the program, but stay tuned for many more to join: Arapahoe Community College (Littleton, Colo.), Black River Technical College (Pocahontas, Ark.), Broome Community College (Binghamton, N.Y.), John Wood Community College (Quincy, Ill.), Lansing Community College (Lansing, Mich.), Owens State Community College (Perrysburg, Ohio), Pitt Community College (Winterville, N.C.), San Jacinto Community College District (Pasadena, Texas), Southside Virginia Community College (Alberta, Va.), Waubonsee Community College (Aurora, Ill.) and West Virginia University at Parkersburg (W.Va.). Grant funding applications for AACC member colleges are available now at

The grant funding also includes toolkits and marketing resources to help ensure colleges are able to outreach successfully to would-be students age 50 and up, as well as support from colleges that have done this type of program before.


Click Here to Read - "What’s It Like to Go Back to College?"


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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