The Eternal Sunshine of a Jobless Mind

Making work work when you are a woman over 50

A month flew by since my last post, because I have been deep in some of the seamier aspects of adulting: I fell for a very clever phishing ploy, which compromised my computer and all my financial accounts. Suffice to say that was a deeply unsettling experience, and I am still in the throes of reconstructing my digital life after having had to cancel all my accounts and start anew, as well as wipe my main computer clean, in case the thieves had dropped any software on my computer while they were in it. I was verrrrrry lucky, in that I lost nothing except about seven days’ of my own time.

The other seamy adult thing I am doing is trying to get a mortgage. Every single time I do this, I go into it thinking I’m a good candidate — I have steady income, though freelance; I have significant cash savings (from sale of my bigger house from my bigger life); I have a pretty hefty retirement account.

But no.

And I *know* I am lucky, with a helluva lot more lettuce in my accounts than most people. My earnings? Average to good. I’m not saving any money right now, and run a little short some months, but I have been hitting a certain amount of income for about 5 years, and I have adjusted to my new reality of no longer being a highly overpaid media executive. (I know; cry me a river. I promise I’m not asking for sympathy.)

But the banks? They think I’m not a great candidate on paper. Because self-employed. Because consulting. Because income isn’t the same year to year and it sure as heck isn’t guaranteed.

What kills me about this is NO income is guaranteed. Having a job these days means pretty much zilch on the security front, as far as I can tell. To corporations, employees are liabilities, not people. And I’m especially downbeat on employment trends because I’m reporting a story on women and ageism in the workplace, for Millie magazine.

And on that front, ladies? The news is really, really not good.

I will try not to sound the doom alarm here, but I will plunk down a few critical statistics:

56 percent of workers are pushed out of their jobs over 50

Older jobless women account for more than half of the long-term unemployed

Two-thirds of women over 65 live in poverty

And it isn’t lack of skills or training or ambition or lack of trying, trying, trying to find a job that keeps women unemployed. It’s ageism and the reality that women’s resumes and salaries are nonlinear and downwardly impacted by wage inequality, still.

So when I — a pretty solidly okay-financially person but definitely an underemployed person — get told I don’t have a strong enough financial profile to get a mortgage to support just *20 percent* of my total purchase price (yes, I am fortunate enough to be someone who will put 70-80 percent down), I get pissed. So pissed.

It took me ten years to come to accept that I was not going to find an elegant and seamless “career pivot” after I left magazine publishing (and it left me). It took me about 10 years to come to understand that the AI interfaces that screen resumes on job-search sites would not ever match me to the jobs for which I was applying — effectively, then, holding my resume back — because my previous job titles don’t exactly match the job titles I am applying for. This despite my giant bag of experience, covering everything from publishing, marketing, brand development, digital media, influencer marketing, social media strategy, UI/UX design and web builds and business strategy for launch businesses, working for large corporations, plucky startups, well-funded midsize businesses, you name it.

I have found my way by doing consulting work, that generally comes to me through people who know me and know my skill set. The work is not always reliable or steady, but I have learned to live with the constant low-grade anxiety that goes along with not being formally employed. (Oh, and I still apply for jobs every chance I get. Reading all of my unanswered cover letters for all the jobs I have applied for in the last six years when I was reconstructing my computer files after wiping my Macbook clean was humbling, to say the least.)

When lucky-me brushes up against obstacles, and then realizes what life in America is like for people who are closer to “average” in the big-picture numbers game than I am, I become infuriated. It’s SO upsetting. And leads me to go off on long, elaborate speeches where I cite labor statistics and earnings statistics and policy gaps and workforce trends, whipping myself into a frenzy, until my partner says, “Yes, yes, but why are you yelling at ME?”

Because, truly, I can’t understand why politicians aren’t engaged in the reality of average Americans’ lives, the downward forces that have been pushing against average workers for decades. It infuriates me. And to know that the statistics indicate that I will probably be a freelance consultant for the rest of my life — not putting anything into Social Security, not putting money into savings — just because women expire somewhere past 40 is just not right, dammit.

But there it is.

So maybe “Eternal Sunshine” is not what the jobless mind of mine emits. But the statistics are so dang sobering, that I just couldn’t bear to tell the truth in the headline. And in the weird way that life works, I did just get a full time job — yes, really — feel kind of startled about it, will share more about it later.


COMING SOON: The launch of “Free Advice” — with a question very closely related to this topic. Thank you all for your questions! Lots of good ones. Because, you know, life.