Sunday, December 8, 2019

Working past retirement age

Retirement is like the carrot you can never quite reach. Not only does the retirement age keep moving as life expectancy increases, but also the cost of living keeps increasing, making a comfortable retirement harder to achieve.

The first recorded retirement plan was in 1881 in Germany when the retirement age was set to 70 with the promise of a government funded pension. Given that the average life expectancy at that time was less than 60, this was a fairly safe bet. It was later reduced to 65, still not a great risk of having to payout.

In my case, a divorce after 21 years of marriage left me starting from scratch in my late 40s where most people should start saving towards retirement in their early 20s; of course, many do not. As soon as I found full time employment, after I moved to the US, I did put money into a 401K. After two years a small setback restarted the clock. My boyfriend at the time 'talked me into' withdrawing the cash when I moved jobs. Not only did I take a large tax hit, I started from scratch again. Learning the error of my ways I continued to put the maximum amount allowable into my 401K and some employers matched that, if not 100% at least to some extent which helped it grow. Now, after 23 years of carefully managing this process I do have a healthy savings, but still not enough to retire comfortably.

Then, add to that mix, taking on the responsibility of caring for an elderly widowed mother in law. She wasn't widowed when my husband and I made the decision to open our home to her. When her husband was diagnosed with dementia and placed in a home, we couldn't see her on her own. We searched for 6 months to find the right house to support all three of our needs and she moved in with us. Five years later she started losing her eyesight; we decided that as she could no longer drive and would need help with many other things, one of us needed to stay home and care for her, drive her to her many doctor appointments and generally be available. It was a no brainer that my husband was nominated for this task. After all, she was his mother but also his salary was less than mine. Naturally, that reset the clock on any idea I had of retirement. Not only did we sacrifice his salary now I was supporting both of them and a large house. It had to be large in order to satisfy my mother in law's requirement for a master suite downstairs.

I can't really complain because I am extremely lucky to have a good job, with a company who doesn't judge me by my age, but by the work I do. They do value me despite my age. I know this is not always the case with older workers. Companies are all too quick to ease them out, in part I am sure because the longer you work the higher your salary goes and hiring a college graduate to do the same job would definitely be a lot cheaper. Whatever the reason, now past the normal retirement age I am still working full time - and in my profession, software engineering, that generally means 50+ hours per week, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

There are times I would dearly love to not have to get up and go to work. I fondly imagine that I would be able to work out regularly, write and relax. But a little voice inside me says I would probably sit around thinking I should be doing those things but actually doing nothing and getting bored. It is a moot point as I don't see that happening any time soon.

Here is a fascinating comparison of the retirement ages internationally, from this site:

 Current general retirement age (2019)
Future retirement age
  EU Men/ Women Retirement age or men/women
 Austria (AT) 65 / 60 years 65 years (2033)
 Belgium (BE) 65 years 67 years (2030)
 Bulgaria (BG) 66 years and 4 months 67 years (2023)
 Croatia (HR) 65 years / 62 years 67 years (2038) / 65 years (2030); 67 years (2038)
 Cyprus (CY) 65 years 65+ years (2018)
 Czech (CZ) 63 years and 6 months / 63  years and 2 months 65 years (2036)
 Denmark (DK) 67 years; 65 years and 6 months* 67 years (2022); 68+ years (2030)
 Estonia (EE) 63 years and 6-9 months 65 years (2026) 68+ (2027)
 Finland (FI) 63 years 3-6 months . 68 ; 65* years 65+ years (2027); 65+ (2030)
 France (FR) 66 years and 2 months 67 years  (2023)
 Germany (DE) 65 years and 7 months 67 (2031)
 Great Britain (GBR) 65 years 67+ (2028), 68 (2046)
 Greece (EL) 67 years 67+ years (2021)
 Hungary (HU) 64 years 65 years (2022)
 Ireland (IE) 66 years 68 years (2028)
 Italy (IT) 66 years and 7 months 67+ years (2022)
 Latvia (LV) 63 years and 6 months 65 years (2025)
 Lithuania (LT) 63 years and 10 months / 62 years and 8 months 65 years (2026)
 Luxembourg (LU) 65 years –
 Malta (MT) 63 years 65 years (2027)
 Netherlands (NL) 66 years 67+ years (2022)
 Poland (PL) 65 years / 60 years –
 Portugal (PT) 66 years and 5 months 66+ years (2016)
 Romania (RO) 65 years / 61 years – 61 years and 2 months -/63 years (2030)
 Slovakia (SK) 62 years and 6 months 63 years and 2 months+  (2024)
 Slovenia (SI) 65 years –
 Spain (ES) 65 years and 6 months 67 years (2027)
 Sweden (SE) 61-67 years; 65 years* 63-69 (GP; 2023),  63+ (2026); 66 (2023), 66+ (2026)
 Other countries Men / Women Retirement age or men/women
Australia 57 years; 65 years and 6 months* 60 years (2025); 67 years (2023)*
 Canada (CA) 65 years –
 Iceland (IS) 67  years
 Japan (JP) 63 years / 62 years; 65 years* 65 years (2025) / 65 years (2030); –
 Norway (NO) 62-75 years; 67 years* –
 Russia (RU) 60 years and 6 months / 55 years and 6 months 65 years (2028); 60 (2028)
 Switzerland (CH) 65 years / 64 years –
 USA (US) 66 years 67 years (2027)
This paper has an interesting perspective:

"At the same time, the paper offers evidence that more productive workers stay in the workforce longer than less productive ones. Using a standard measure of worker productivity – hourly wages – workers between 60 and 74 are more productive than average workers who are younger. Compared with workers between 25 and 59, the pay premium for older workers is currently between 10 percent and 20 percent of the average wage earned by the younger workers. That pay premium has been increasing for a decade. There is little evidence the aging workforce has hurt productivity."

Monday, December 2, 2019

Appreciation and the lack thereof

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. —GK Chesterton
I started this blog entry after observing people with absolutely no manners; by that I mean, it never occurs to them to say 'please' or 'thank you'. I get that I am somewhat obsessed with manners. I was brought up with a mixture of French weird - "don't put your elbows on the table" and Irish country "anything goes" but with five siblings, all bets were off. We policed each other cruelly, not to improve manners but to impose some sort of hierarchy, but that translated into manners.

I wondered how you could get past teenage years without someone having drilled into you not only "don't talk with your mouth full", "don't smack when you are eating" but also the need to say please and thank you at the appropriate time and more important, to understand the idea behind these words, simple appreciation for what others do for you, no matter how small. More so when someone puts them self out to help you. It is irritating when you make room in traffic for other drivers without any acknowledgement, but so much worse when you really inconveniencing yourself for someone and get no thanks.

As I did some research I realized this was not so much a function of manners, but more a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ). The more I read, the more it made sense to me. One particular person I knew, let's call her Jane, displayed not only the above mentioned bad manners but many other traits which I discovered are associated with low EQ.

Jane frequently talked of a friend, she had many years ago, let's call her Mary; they were both stay-at-home moms and spent their days together, drinking coffee, shopping, laughing and generally enjoying each other's company. "What happened to Mary?" I asked, Jane replied "Her husband died and she was devastated; I stayed away from her after that because she was so boring about it". I was horrified, firstly that she would have so little sympathy for her friend, and second that she didn't see anything wrong in her response to her friend's tragedy and didn't feel the need to comfort her. Not exactly a "friend in need". I had a very hard time understanding how someone could be so callous.

I looked more closely at Jane's other behavioral traits and became aware of indications that this woman had absolutely no empathy at all. She frequently said things like "you are getting fat" without any understanding of not only how rude that is, but also how hurtful it is. The other interesting think I noticed is that she didn't feel deeply herself. Least of all gratitude. She felt entitled to everything she had and everything anyone did for her, and often it wasn't enough. She had no problem asking people to do things for her, without any thought to how it inconvenienced them; and without a please or thank you.

Definition of empathy from this article:
"Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion," writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects.
At the same time as I was noticing these qualities in my acquaintance - I can't call her my friend because she is incapable of meeting my definition of a friend, I was introduced to the theory of Emotional Intelligence through training at work. This led to my conclusion that Jane had very low EQ and lack of empathy was just one of the indicators.

This article describes the benefits of high EQ in the workplace:
  • Nearly 90% of top performers have a higher level of emotional intelligence.
  • Emotional intelligence accounts for 90% of career advancements when IQ and technical skills are roughly similar.
  • Emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of your job performance.
According to this article other indicators of low EQ are:
  • Being argumentative
  • Oblivious to the feelings of others
  • Thinking others are overly sensitive
  • Refusing to listen to other points of view
  • Blaming others for mistakes
  • Inability to cope with emotionally-charged situations
  • Sudden emotional outbursts
  • Difficulty maintaining friendships
  • Lack of Empathy
This article is more specific about the qualities associated with high EQ:
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Motivation
  • Social skill
Yes, Jane definitely has very low EQ and it comes as no surprise that there is a correlation between EQ and IQ, as described here. But even more interesting is that high EQ is considered more important that high IQ as a determinant of success - see this article.