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5 secrets of success for workers over 50

TODAY's financial editor and AARP contributor, Jean Chatzky shares her tips for navigating the workforce over the age of 50
/ Source: TODAY

On the heels of my (gulp) 54th birthday, it made me feel a little better to read that by 2022 — less than five years from now — 35 percent of the workforce will be made up of people ages 50 and older, according to the 2018 AARP Value of Experience-Age Discrimination Report.

Another fact I learned — in the next five years, the number of workers over 50 is expected to increase by 62 percent. If you’re among us, you probably already sense that our concerns — about keeping the jobs we have, getting new ones, maintaining and building our skills in an increasingly tech-centric world, and figuring out a way to enjoy our last couple of decades in the workforce — are different than those of millennials and Gen Z.

Created by TODAY with our sponsor AARP. Jean Chatzky is a contributor for AARP.

I sat down with three experts: Marci Alboher, vice president of and author of The Encore Career Handbook, Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of Human Resources at Indeed, and Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing, to discuss the topic for TODAY. As Alboher noted in the segment, “I think if you are over 50, you know that it's time to kind of refresh and figure out what the next chapter looks like.”

Here are a few important takeaways you can use when you’re trying to figure out your next move:

You're more valuable than you think

There’s a laundry list of reasons people 50 years and older are useful in the workforce. They’re good mentors, dependable, and if they’ve been around a while, they can be a valuable source of knowledge about the company or institution.

“Companies that maybe, five or seven years ago, that were startups, are now becoming more mature companies, [and] really need the talent that we're seeing from people in their 50s and 60s,” said Wells, who consults for a number of Fortune 500 companies. “We're also seeing a really good match there.”

You’re a likely leader — no matter what field you come from

There’s a perception that older people can’t master technology or don’t add value in high tech fields. It’s not true, says Wolfe. Which is a good thing, because there is ample opportunity for people in their 50s and 60s in tech companies.

But that’s not the only opportunity — it’s in leadership in general. Indeed’s recent research pointed to people over 50 looking for and finding leadership roles in finance, accounting, construction management, and yes, technology. As start-ups are evolving, they are finding a need for seasoned managers to mentor and bring along young talent, much in the way Robert DeNiro did in the movie "The Intern."

You’re not too old to do something new — and purposeful

Many people hit midlife and want to do something really meaningful, says Alboher. “They may be able to live on a little less income than before, but they still need to work.”

Her organization,, developed a program called Encore Fellowships, where people nearing retirement move into the non-profit sector and receive a year’s worth of training to restart their lifes. “Often, they become the Robert DeNiro of the organization. The advisor to the executive director … integrating into a workforce that is seeking some maturity. It’s a very interesting match.”

You’re probably good in a crisis

Think about the volatility in the stock market over the past few weeks. Did it throw you? If you’ve been investing for a while, probably not, because you’ve seen it before. Well, after a few decades in the workforce, there’s probably little that you haven’t seen. That’s an asset.

“There's a certain emotional regulation that happens with age where you've seen a lot, you've heard a lot -- you know how to get through a crisis,” says Alboher. “You've also learned how to balance the the hard things that happen outside of work with what's going on inside of work."

You’re an HR manager’s best friend

Finally, there’s the fact that we’re in a tight job market right now — as tight as we’ve seen in a while. That makes hiring a bear and people who stick with the job rather than always looking around the corner for the next best thing, as people 50+ tend to do, hugely valuable. “As an HR leader, that makes me much more comfortable,” says Wolfe. “The older generation does balance the kind of two and three year stints [other employees tend to take.”

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