Don't underestimate ageism or women over 50

Hello Mustaschians,
Finding myself unemployable at 55 years of age I can only regret that I did not understand how pensions, taxes, insurances and real estate worked in Switzerland when I moved here 30+ years ago.

Moving into the banking industry in 2007 seemed like a safe and lucrative way to end my career. Little did I know:-) Thankfully I squirrelled away my bonuses into my 2ème pillar and renovated my flat in Geneva to avoid the high cantonal taxes. Yet health insurance and fixed costs of living quickly eat away at my capital as I had not foreseen to be effectively forced into early retirement so soon after 50.

On the positive side I have learnt to appreciate Aldi/Lidl and my natural curiosity. Currently I am trying to change faucets bought on Ricardo by studying videos on YouTube, stream content on Viptv and completing a Coursera/Stanford course on machine learning.

Maybe I will tackle my investment blockage next thanks to this forum.

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If you’re afraid you might run out of money, then I would be careful with investing. You should only invest the money that you will not realistically need in the next 10-20 years at least.

But why are you unemployable? In banking? Is there no job with a bit lower qualifications that you would be able to get?

Have you considered moving out of Geneva or even Switzerland to avoid high living costs?

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Hi Bojack,
Dont’ know how long you have lived in Switzerland or how old you are but there is great resistance to transferring skills between industries. My CV looks very suspect as I have worked in aviation, telecom/IT and most recently banking. Other industries fear people from banking are too expensive, lack IT skills, spoilt with perks and inflexible. While that would hold true for many of my former colleagues, it is difficult to shake this prejudice.

Social charges increase at 43 and then again at 55 driving cost up even if you down in salary. Actually my unemployment counsellor told me that in Geneva they consider anyone over 55 as unemployable.

There is great resistance to hiring qualified people for unqualified jobs. I have tried relocating, in particular to Zurich as I speak some German, but there is basically zero interest. I would be delighted to have any job at all but on each occasion I loose out to a less skilled person.

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That is quite awful. Makes me really angry to read it. So the social contributions that are meant to secure our future, are in this case holding you back. I guess in that age bracket the pension contribution is already 17% or sth? It’s sad that the market is broken and that skilled experienced workers, who could still contribute, are just wasting their hours not being able to do the work…

My dad is actually close to your age, an accountant in Poland, unemployed since a few years. He can’t find a job in his profession.

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My company is contributing 25% of your insured salary once you are 55 years old. Combine this with high salaries to due age. Someone in their 20/30s is much cheaper, might have less experience but usually way more ambitions.

One of my main reasons why I’m pursuing FIRE. Retirement income in 20 years will be so low, that poverty in old age will become common in Switzerland. You will have to work till 70 with no chance of finding a new job from 55. It’s already a tragedy today.

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Yeah, it’s scary. There were some guys at my bank, aged 55-58, that were pushed into early retirement. They were given some severance packages. But they were unhappy with it. They wanted to work. They didn’t have enough money saved for old age. Can you imagine that? 30+ years in IT, being in the real estate market in the 90s, and still not being able to retire? What have they done with their money?

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@Anna
Could you retire today? Do you have enough assets?

Hi Cortana,
It all depends on how long I live and how/where I live.

I lost my job at 51 so unemployment ended at 52. I had to wait 3 years after my last 2ème pillar contribution to be allowed to withdraw the non-obligatory portion of my 2nd pillar. If I did not find any way of making a living I toyed with the idea of moving to TRNC (Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus) ie outside the EU. Had it all sorted but with Covid the TRNC has been closed to non-residents since 16 March so I now I am giving up on that idea.

I thought I had a consulting opportunity starting this year but again that fell through despite 4 zoom interviews up to the president and chairman level.

So I guess the answer is that if I had a choice I would want more of a financial buffer to ensure a comfortable retirement in case I live to 80 (in my family we tend to die young). If I am forced to retire I will most likely run out of money and in any case would have to worry about money for basics should my health impact my independence.

If I retire now I will most likely outlive my assets and end up in a precarious situations later should I sell the flat if I run out of money. Without an income no one will accept you as a tenant.

So I will keep on looking for a job and minimise my expenditure.

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In Geneva it is even difficult after 45. I keep laughing when I read about the expected increasing pension age. When I started working I often attended retirement drinks of older colleagues. Since the late 90s the companies I have worked for have had a policy of not hiring people over 50 and slowly easing existing staff over 50 out. The result is that I barely know anyone who retired without being pushed out.

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You are spot on so make sure to plan ahead and make sure that you are financially independent by 50 latest.

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Keep my fingers crossed. Someone has to be smart enough to hire you. If only you could leverage your experience and not the highest financial expectations to increase your chances… I wonder what’s the best strategy. Telling them you’re desperate for a job and would accept lower pay does not actually sound like a good plan :man_shrugging:

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You are right. Two years ago I found a job and convinced the unemployment office to pay 50% of my salary for 2 years(Geneva offer to 52+ who have exhausted unemployment). Sounds like a great idea to me.

The guy I was working for accused me of trying to entrap them by involving the state, refused to request the reimbursement and proceeded to fire me. Granted he was an ignorant megalomaniac and soon thereafter got fired himself but it meant I lost also that opportunity.

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Hi @Anna, I found great help in reading this book “what color is your parachute” when being unemployed. I can highly recommand it. Age is one of the topics it takles.

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Really sorry that you have to go through this. It sounds very stressfull.

Did you try to get professional career coaching before? Are you sure that your CV is optimized for your situation (and not optimized for the situation you were in when you were 40)? :slight_smile:

I’ve heard that reason many times before and I have no idea how to best deal with it. Why not write “Salary expectation: 75’000 to 80’000 CHF” (or whatever) on your resumé? Or signal in an other way that you are willing to step down career wise?

Hi Anna, I am sad to hear your history, but have you also tried different business like big Engineering companies (ABB, GE, Sulzer, WinGD, Hitachi, Siemens, Axpo, etc.) around Zurich? I know you said you tried to relocate, but I know a lady your age with similar background that was hired after 50 and just retired with 64 doing kind of Project Management job. Some secretaries also have your age (although I believe you probably need fluent German). These companies are all the time promoting gender/age diversity, so you might have a chance.

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@trotro I have had professional career coaching twice as part of compensation packages. The third time this was offered I negotiated to swap it for an IMD program. Frankly I have been shocked at the poor added value of the providers selected by my employers.

Having spent my formative years in the US and having a natural penchant for sales and marketing I continually experiment with my CV based on the target audience. However today most applications are done online and I frankly doubt anyone picks up on anything more than my foreign sounding family name, gender and age and worst of all broad experience across several sectors.

Best results seem to come from dumbing down education, titles and accomplishments. :grinning:

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@GdOeS Thank you for this very constructive suggestion. Just FYI: I have been told by an interim agency that no one wants a secretary over 50 even on a temporary basis. She also suggested I add a comment about my sartorial elegance on my CV under my marital state.

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I work for a major international corporation. Last year, one dude celebrated his retirement party at age 65 (virtually, of course).

That was a sensation! Everyone I met was baffled. How could he have survived all the layoff waves! Still in the company at that age!

As you say, most people that I’ve seen leave the company over the years were being laid off.

Sad, but I think in some companies and/or industries, this is the new normal.

Stay optimistic, don’t give up, and something good will turn up, maybe unexpectedly so. And there is nothing sweeter than past sufferings.

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Why would this be a downside?

Because in some companies, playing it safe is essential for survival.

Hire the special one, the one with plenty of experience across many different areas, and you could hire an exceptional talent that really makes a difference.

But what if that person instead starts maneuvering to get your position? What if she worked in many different sectors because she wasn’t any good anywhere? And what if she finds it out that working with you in your sector isn’t good either and wants to move on to another field? That wouldn’t make you look good with your boss.

Nah, better hire someone “safe”.

Unfortunately, the working world is not a meritocracy.

There are companies that are different, though. I once worked for one where they took pride in finding undiscovered talent. And they were good at it. It might just take some time to find such a company, but they exist!

PS. I can recommend “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella. When he took over at Microsoft he did have to battle some “old habits” in the company.

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