November 16, 2018

Age of Discontent

Age of Discontent

Have you heard about the case of the man in the Netherlands who’s been petitioning the courts to legally change his age? He’s 69 but says he feels more like 49. His thinking is he’d do better on the job market and dating apps if he could choose the age he wants to be. I’ve been doing just the opposite. Having turned 61 recently, when age comes up I proudly tell people (obviously kidding) that I’m 73. To that I invariably get the “you look fantastic” response. When I tell my real age, the reaction is not so enthusiastic.

It’s hard to believe his petition will go anywhere, but can you imagine the chaos if it did? If this becomes a trend, firms like ours would have to deal with a record-keeping nightmare. Think about how many documents include someone’s birthdate!

Joking aside, the fact that someone would try to legally change his age does point to a very real problem: age discrimination. The fellow who filed this case wasn’t imagining that he was at a disadvantage in the workplace because of his age (I’m not going to get into the dating scene). Many companies don’t give older people a chance when it comes to applying for jobs. That’s why one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs is made up of people ages 54 and up. And hitting my seventh decade myself, some of these numbers don’t seem as old as they once would have.

Starting a business is a great option for some people, but it shouldn’t be the only alternative for those who want or need to work past age 50. 50! It’s the new 30, as far as I’m concerned. Everyone should have a fair shot at getting a job if they want one and have the right skills and credentials.

Here at Marcum, diversity is very important to our culture, and age diversity is a big part of that. There are four generations in the workforce today, and we do our best to make sure they’re all represented in our firm. That means recognizing that people may want a different lifestyle as they enter a new phase of their career. Our flexible work arrangements have enabled many people to remain at Marcum while pursuing other interests, too, such as volunteering or travel.

It takes some creativity on our part to make these flexible arrangements work for all, but it’s well worth the effort. In the early years of building my career in accounting, senior mentors I met along the way taught me valuable things that you’ll never learn in an accounting textbook. I’m glad every day that our associates have access to that same kind of brain trust at our firm. It’s what helps keep Marcum growing so quickly.

Who knows? With so many Baby Boomers just as energetic as they ever were, maybe society’s attitudes will start to change to the point that no one will feel the need to hide their age – or petition the government to change it. Many people are just getting rolling at age 50 and beyond – and the best is yet to come.

P.S. Next Wednesday is the annual Marcum Day of Service, when all of our offices will be closed so our associates can volunteer at nonprofits around the country. If it takes a little longer than usual for us to respond to your emails and phone messages, that’s why. We hope to have your understanding and support. We all have a lot to be thankful for, and it’s great to have a way to give back.

I will not be writing next week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday break. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year and, as in the past, I will be basting the traditional holiday bird for our family. From our family to yours, however you choose to observe, Happy Thanksgiving. And if you’re lucky enough, enjoy the extended holiday weekend. Please look for my next column on November 30.