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Unemployed Baby Boomers Have Something To Say About “Best Practices In Downsizing”

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With the last child in college, the emotions of empty nest well behind us, the future looks pretty sweet, really. One more year to go paying for college, with both of us working full time to bring that debt down to a manageable level for him when he gets out. Our son had the privilege to be ableChocolate and churros! to study abroad in Madrid for an entire semester from August until early December. He worked all summer to earn the money to spend during this trip. As Thanksgiving drew close and his 21st birthday on the horizon, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and go visit him in his host city of Madrid. (An uncharacteristically last-minute decision for a couple that can count the number of vacations in the last twenty years on one hand.) Yet we felt great about it – we’re finally at that place in our lives where we can decide to take a trip like this and not agonize over it. Ain’t midlife grand. So, off we go.

Madrid was amazing. We walked endless miles through different sections of the city. We savored chocolate and churros at Chocolatería San Ginés in Puerta del Sol. We rode the Metro and browsed the shops and sights in Plaza Mayor. We took a bus ride to the ancient city of Toledo, home to Cervantes, and where the Castle of LaMancha still sits. Our son accompanied us to the Prado Museum, where he shared his recently acquired knowledge on the work and life of Velázquez. We had a memorable and amazing meal with his host family in a lovely restaurant in their Goya neighborhood. The best part was they don’t speak a word of English, and our son played interpreter the whole evening. The food was incredible, the company more so. A seemingly ideal vacation.

Then came the email. We finished up our vacation under a pall of negative expectations. Monday morning brought the news: my husband’s job had been eliminated. Yet another solid American company now split between Mexico and abroad with just a scattering of its former workforce that remains shuffled off to other locations in the US. Their loss, in my opinion. Now the buzz words include stuff like ‘best practices in downsizing’. Whatever. And yes, there is an age bias in many instances, not all. There’s a huge unemployed baby boomer demographic out there.

What is up with profitable American companies moving their operations daily to Mexico, China and Europe? Where is innovation? The notion of steady growth? Reinvestment? I’m so sick of hearing about this. I want to go to Mexico and see where all these jobs are going. Are those people living in new waterfront condos and driving new cars? ‘Cause if they’re not, they’re totally getting screwed. Yet at the same time, I’m one of those baby boomer kids. I see opportunity everywhere! want to see NEW business. SMALL business growth. NEW IDEAS in technology right alongside those manufacturing jobs that we’re so hell bent on giving away.

Madrid GateSo as we enter midlife we, like many others, are faced with changes. The positive side: our kids are grown, we don’t have a mountain of debt, our health is good and we are both resourceful, high energy people. The negative side: Having to regroup to such a degree…the decisions are big now as they pertain to our own futures. The fact that we will be working indefinitely as we grow older wasn’t anything either of us ever anticipated – who knew? But it is what it is, as they say, and we will cross each bridge as we come to them. So saying “your position has been eliminated” isn’t all that scary…more like a challenge. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention! We never considered either of us would be an unemployed professional or worker in our mid-fifties, but sometimes opportunity knocks very, very softly. There is an infinite amount of experience, knowledge and energy in the unemployed fifty-plus group out there, and they’re all just walking around rubbing their hands together and deciding how to focus their energies. It may turn out that those best practices in downsizing should have included those unemployed baby boomers after all….

Oh, yeah, by the way…our son’s degree? Economics.

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