Work, savings, retirement: Generation Jones is getting hammered

If you were born between 1954 and 1965, then you may identify as a member of “Generation Jones,” that large cohort sandwiched between classic Baby Boomers and classic Generation Xers. The thesis is that Gen Jonesers, on average, have had very different life experiences than those of folks in the two iconic groupings. Indeed, with a 1959 birthdate, I am a card-carrying member of Generation Jones, and I have long believed that, on balance, our group is different than the mainstream Boomers with which we are often categorized.

Gen Jonesers now range from their early 50s and early 60s. And currently, this age group is getting hammered by economic conditions and policies, personal financial circumstances, and frequent age discrimination in the workplace.

To some extent, this Generation Jones has been snakebitten by broader events. During the early 1980s, many graduated into a terrible recession that limited entry-level job opportunities. This was also a time when America’s industrial jobs base went into sharp decline (a trend continuing to this day), wages started to flatline (ditto), and employers began eliminating pension plans (ditto again).

Fast forwarding, the Great Recession hit during what should’ve been Gen Jonesers’ strongest earning years, the heart of their 40s and early 50s. Many lost jobs and livelihoods during that time and have struggled to recover. Some have never recovered. Gen Jonesers are now hurtling toward what have been considered traditional retirement years; most are within 10-15 years of that time. But as I have written often on this blog (here, for example), America faces a retirement funding crisis of major proportions.

My own interest in this topic relates to my work on workplace bullying. I’ve witnessed the challenges that face those in middle age who have lost jobs and livelihoods due to bullying, mobbing, and abuse at work. The ongoing specter of age discrimination often undermines their efforts to seek new employment.

These are difficult topics, but they are vitally important, and they should be front and center in our national political and policy debates, even though anyone following the news knows they are not. For those who want to learn and think more, however, I’ll make two suggestions:

First, watch Elizabeth White’s TEDx talk, “Fifty-five, Unemployed, Faking Normal.” It’s an 18-minute reflection on what it means to have lost your job at middle age and to face the financial challenges that can follow. I’ve written about her important work before, and I’m a big fan of her book, Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life (2016). Richard Eisenberg, writing for the Next Avenue blog, previews White’s TEDx talk:

White’s TEDx Talk, filmed earlier this year in Richmond, Va., is a composite of her story and her friends’ — women and men in their 50s who are “faking normal.” By that, White’s talking about people who had good careers and lives until they didn’t. She describes them in the TEDx Talk as people who “entered the uncertain world of formerly and used to be.”

Second, read Elizabeth Olson’s New York Times piece, “Shown the Door, Older Workers Find Bias Hard to Prove,” which explains the legal challenges facing laid off workers who are alleging age discrimination:

Yet, even as the work force has a large number of older employees, one of the principal tools to fight such discrimination, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act — which Congress passed a half-century ago — may not be up to the task, said Laurie A. McCann, a lawyer with AARP Foundation Litigation, which is providing legal counsel to the Wichita plaintiffs.

“Ageism unfortunately remains pervasive in the American work force,” she said. Only two of the cases the E.E.O.C. filed in court last year involved the federal age discrimination act, according to a list assembled by AARP, the nonprofit older citizens group.

They were among a total of only 86 workplace discrimination cases litigated in court last year, AARP found. Few cases are taken to court because such complaints are complicated and expensive; it can take a long time to assemble relevant evidence and testimony.

3 responses

  1. Hi David,
    Your post on Generation Jones is an interesting topic.
    What boggles my mind, is after extensive research on workplace violence, mobbing, discrimination etc. there are articles that claim you have all these rights. In reality through my horrible experience, you basically have no rights. Even through Workers Comp., the employer can sabatoge your rights to receive workers comp. Does not matter how valid your claims are.
    The employer gets away with violating your rights over and over again and there is nothing you can do about it.
    This is where I have a hard time understanding the violations of employees with no justice in place.

    • Julie, thank you for sharing your perspectives on this, which all too often are right on point. When bad employers with hired gun attorneys decide to dig in and resist any effort by a targeted worker to claim benefits or to seek legal redress, these rights may become illusory. We are talking about systemic power imbalances here that mimic what we see in other aspects of our society.

  2. “…with no justice in place.”

    Before we can fix what’s wrong with fairness/justice in America, we have to understand what’s wrong. Jed S. Rakoff, US District Judge for the Southern District of New York, lays it out in a November, 2016 New York Review of Books article, WHY YOU WON’T GET YOUR DAY IN COURT.

    After trying to fight for fairness/justice for 30 years regarding workplace bullying and mobbing and the creation of a hostile work environment in the field of librarianship, and trying every legal venue I was aware of to be heard, and even attempting to create new tribunals in order to be heard, my best advice is to win the lottery. But also, keep saying to yourself: “I did not forgo justice, and will have it. I will have fairness whatever I have to do to get it.” Hopefully, this will help you stay motivated to do everything you can think of to reform the legal system and courts so that regular and poor people benefit the most from their government and community forums.

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