Marketplace Scratch Pad

Young and old

Scott Jagow Oct 27, 2009

Actress Billie Burke once said: Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese. But if you’re looking for a job right now, it does seem to make a difference. Young Cheddars have the advantage over Old Goudas. Even AARP is going younger.

The organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons launched a personal finance website today that targets people in their 20’s and 30’s. The tagline of Lifetuner.org is: “Helping people of all ages make smarter choices today for a better life tomorrow.” The site is heavy on social networking, but the “experts” seem to be a mix of generations.

One of the first chats on the site is with Marketplace commentator Lauren Silverman. She’s a college senior who’s obsessed with figuring out the best investment strategy. Here’s an excerpt from her recent commentary about age and investing:

… the truth is, my field research has only left me more confused. Steve tells me, “With your age and risk tolerance, put at least 95 percent in the market.” When I relay that advice to my dad he shouts, “No! You’re young, but whatever you do don’t risk all your money in equities.” Uncle Richard chimes in, “Maybe you should just buy T-bills.”

So I’ve stopped asking for advice all together and decided to trust myself. That way whatever I gain will really feel like mine. And whatever I lose, well, I’ll just do what everyone else is doing and blame that on the recession.

It’s interesting to hear from a young person trying to learn about the markets at this particular moment in time juxtaposed with the advice of older people who may’ve just had their long-held world view blown to pieces.

More about why AARP is making this move tonight on Marketplace. But I’m also interested in the bigger issue here — young and old in this recession. Tonight, Frontline airs the documentary, Close to Home. It’s a collection of conversations inside a Manhattan hair salon, and one issue that stands out is the difficulty the older clients are facing in the job market. A preview from the Marketplace Morning Report:

Chris Calbi (58 years old) says he’s sent out hundreds of resumes, and been on about 10 interviews, but had no luck.

CALBI: Whenever I go for the interviews, they go very well. I always think that I’m going to get the job. And most often, nearly every time, not only don’t I get the job, but I don’t even get a response.

Leaning back in his chair at the salon, Calbi says that like so many people of his age, he barely recognizes the business world anymore.

That says a lot. Of course, workers of all ages might have similar tales in this economy, but AARP’s latest data says 44% unemployed older workers had been out of work for at least 27 weeks, vs. 33% of younger jobless workers.

There’s a clip from Close to Home below, which might be a conversation-starter. Are employers practicing ageism? Or do you see this situation differently?

Other pertinent quotations:

Willa Cather:
The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young.

HL Mencken:
The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

Clarence Darrow:
The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children.

Pearl S. Buck:
The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.

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