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Not happy with work? Wait until you're 50 or older

By Matt Sedensky

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:28 a.m. HST, Oct 27, 2013

ANAHEIM, Calif. >> Not happy with your job? Just wait.

A study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 9 in 10 workers who are age 50 or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job. Older workers reported satisfaction regardless of gender, race, educational level, political ideology and income level.

Consider Oscar Martinez.

If Disneyland truly is the happiest place on earth, Martinez may be one of its happiest workers.

Never mind that at 77, the chef already has done a lifetime of work. Or that he must rise around 3 a.m. each day to catch a city bus in time for breakfast crowds at Carnation Caf?, one of the park's restaurants. With 57 years under his apron, he is Disneyland's longest-serving employee.

"To me, when I work, I'm happy," said Martinez, who's not sure he ever wants to retire.

Though research has shown people across age groups are more likely to report job satisfaction than dissatisfaction, older workers consistently have expressed more happiness with their work than younger people have.

The AP-NORC survey found significant minorities of people reporting unwelcome comments at work about their age, being passed over for raises and promotions, and other negative incidents related to being older. But it was far more common to note the positive impact of their age.

Six in 10 said colleagues turned to them for advice more often and more than 4 in 10 said they felt they were receiving more respect at work.

Older workers generally have already climbed the career ladder, increased their salaries and reached positions where they have greater security, so more satisfaction makes sense, says Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, one of the most comprehensive polls of American attitudes.

"It increases with age," said Smith, whose biannual survey is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. "The older you are, the more of all these job-related benefits you're going to have."

Looking at the 40-year history of the GSS, the share of people saying they are very or moderately satisfied with their jobs rises steadily with each ascending age group, from just above 80 percent for those under 30 to about 92 percent for those 65 and older.

But as in the AP-NORC survey, the age gap grows among those who derive the greatest satisfaction from their work, as 38 percent of young adults express deep satisfaction compared with 63 percent age 65 and up.

Smith says earlier in life, people are uncertain what career path they want to take and may be stuck in jobs they despise. Though some older workers stay on the job out of economic necessity, many others keep working because they can't imagine quitting and genuinely like their jobs.

Eileen Sievert of Minneapolis can relate.

The French literature professor at the University of Minnesota used to think she would be retired by 65. But she's 70 now and grown to love her work so much, it became hard to imagine leaving. She's instead just scaled back her hours through a phased-retirement program.

"I just like the job," she said. "And you don't want to leave, but you don't want to stay too long."

Walter Whitmore, 58, of Silver Springs, Ark., feels the same. He says he has plenty of things to occupy him outside of his account representative job at a grocery distributor, but having a reason to get out of the house each day brings a certain level of fulfillment. He sees working as keeping him vibrant.

"It wasn't a goal to live to do nothing. You live to accomplish things," he said. "You have to maintain that functionality or you turn into Jell-O."

Robert Schuffler, 96, still reports for work most days at the fish market he opened in Chicago decades ago. He has turned over ownership to a longtime employee, but he can't imagine not seeing the customers he has known so long, and who still show up with a warm smile, a kiss for Shuffler and a shopping list. His job does more than just keep him feeling young: It keeps him happy.

"It's like some guy would make a million dollars today," he said. "He's very happy with the day. I'm very happy being here."


Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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mikethenovice wrote:
Is it because the employees with the most seniority can get the junior workers to do the dirty work while they slack off?
on October 27,2013 | 07:25AM
star08 wrote:
Your screen name says it all.
on October 27,2013 | 09:43AM
kaleboy wrote:
It must be what you do at your job!
on October 27,2013 | 11:40AM
cojef wrote:
For me it was not job security, it was a no retirement or health insurance plan for employees after 13 years. So at age 42 changed employers from private to Federal Government. Took a loss of pay intitially but made up for it and currently been retired comfortably for over 22 years and still counting. A major decision with no turning back, but the best of our lives.
on October 27,2013 | 07:59AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Mike, is that the way you operated before you retired? Shame on you for trying to belittle senior workers. Nine years ago, I started my new entry-level job @ age 57. My new coworkers expected to "carry me". They also expected me to lunch with my wife regularly. She worked across the hall, but that didn't happen. Instead of others "carrying me", I do all my own work. Then I help others work their load. Out of 100 workers, 4 are older than me. I am extremely multi-tasked. There are tasks that are impossible for supervisors to ask of their workers. I am the one to get things done, because no matter how much everyone rants and refuses to do, it has to be done. In my work unit, there is no "That's not my job." mentality. Whatever needs to be done WILL be done. We are the "go to" guys. Others come to us for assistance. We clean our house, then help others take care of their business. I have helped others in my unit to work as a team. One guy was 21 when he and I joined the workforce. He should've never passed probation. I transferred into his unit 2 years ago. The guy was totally incompetent, called in sick every week, hours late for work almost daily. With my help, we "persuaded" him to quit. I'm undertaking another "impossible" job soon. Two years ago, with my supervisor's approval, I volunteered to help another unit with their files.For 4 hours daily, I helped them. Sometimes I was the only person working "their" assignment. After 3 months, I stopped helping them. It would've taken another 6 months to complete the task. Kinda disheartening when everyone in their unit feels they're "too busy" to assist in this impossible task. When that task was shelved, I bounced around shredding files and organizing case records for other harried overworked coworkers on the floor, with my boss's consent, of course. When the assistant in another unit quit after giving birth, I volunteered to become the temporarily assigned assistant. "Of course you'll still have to maintain your workload." said my boss. "Of course." I agreed. That meant I'd literally be working two full time positions simultaneously for $199/month more. (It's for the work experience, for my next career move". Besides doing this, I maintain my unit's closed files. My closed files are current, the guys across the hall is 11 months behind, the unit next to us is 5 months behind, and the one with the "impossible task" is several years behind. So I came across this brilliant idea of assisting the unit who's 11 months behind and the section that's 5 months behind simultaneously, while still working my 2 work positions. When all of us get up to speed, then 5 of us workers can start on "The Impossible Task". I call it impossible because there is no way that the supervisors can persuade/force their workers to get the job done, especially without offering overtime. "The Impossible" takes a little more time to accomplish. LOL, one of my junior workers asked, "So you can help me because you're not busy". I answered "No, I've got TONS!! of work to do, I help you because it's gotta be done, because you're too busy to get your files up to speed." So mike the novice, I guess you were one of the "old timers" who slacked off before you retired, right? Just so you know, I'm happy what I'm doing, and I sleep very well when I go home. Sixteen more years and I'll have earned ANOTHER full pension!!! Yes, I'm proud to be Baby Boomer One. I set the pace. Now let's see how well the next generation carries the torc
on October 27,2013 | 08:48AM
niimi wrote:
RetiredWorking is clearly showing what experience, passion to "do what it takes", and accountability is. WATCH AND LEARN, YOUNG ONES!
on October 27,2013 | 08:55AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I see this! Thats me!
on October 27,2013 | 08:37PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Bdpapa, I knew that others felt the same way. :)
on October 28,2013 | 06:22AM
samsdad wrote:
This article is full of #*%$#. When I hit 60 yo, I was getting paid more than anytime in my life, I had seniority in the system but I was more frustrated than ever. So, what did I do? I retired and I'm happier than ever collecting my pension check ever month.
on October 27,2013 | 09:21AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
sam, maybe for you and some others.Maybe the responsibilities linked to the hefty pay increases caused your stress and frustrations. Like Eileen in the article stated, I just like the job. I retired my first job after 32 years,when my employer made me an offer I absolutely couldn't refuse. Like Oscar, I'm not sure I ever want to retire again. My company allows me as well as others to work a 4/10 shift(4 days weekly/10 hour daily. On my day off, I drive from town to Makaha to take my daughter and my grandchild to early childhood education class (inpeace.org). And on the first of each month, I have driven downtown to personally pick up my pension check for the past 11 years. What made me happiest was when my kids left home and none left me with their emotional and substance abusive baggage, as well as unwanted grandchildren that I'd have to raise for them. If any had done so, I wouldn't be so happy, I'd be working begrudgingly to support them or I'd be retired and raising my grandchildren. What also makes me happy is knowing that if and when I need a caregiver, my kids will be fighting to take care of "Pops".:)
on October 27,2013 | 12:23PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
To put things into perspective, many of my coworkers don't share my happy viewpoint. Of 13 employees who can retire, I know 5 could afford to do so without affecting their lifestyle. Many of my coworkers, young and old are a few paychecks from being severely strapped. Not homeless, but messed up.
on October 27,2013 | 01:02PM
Bdpapa wrote:
I've been retired for over 10 years and my main focus is my grandchildren.I make enough but not much. If i'm gonna work hard its for my family not for anyone else.
on October 27,2013 | 08:39PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Bd, my grandchildren were born last year. I save every dollar and $5 bill that reaches my wallet for their college education. My standing joke is "I saw all my $1 bills for my grandaughter, but I save every $5 for my grandson! (LOL,j/k. My daughter decides how the $$ is saved.
on October 28,2013 | 06:27AM
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