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What's a Good Job?

The answer, which may surprise you, depends on why you work.

What Is a "Good Job"?

I believe solid employment—a "good job"—for age-50+ workers is:

Sustainable: The work environment and job duties can be performed even as we age and possibly lose some of our strength, stamina, and agility. If we have "knowledge" job, we can stay current and adapt to changing duties and technologies. The work environment is safe and sanitary.

Honorable: You can take pride in the reputation and integrity of your employer and job. You may not have the most glamorous employer, but your colleagues take pride in their work. The employer maintains ethical operations and management practices. You, and all the workers, are treated with dignity and respect.

Valuing Your Capabilities and Qualifications: The employer and management respect the value of your lifetime of work—your manual, technical, and interpersonal skills—and they strive to help you prosper.

Meaningful: You deliver quality goods and services at a fair price to customers who need and value what you provide. Your work provides a sense of contribution and importance.

Enjoyable: Your work environment and activities are rewarding and enjoyable, even though they may be repetitious, frustrating, or boring at times. The workplace is pleasant and comfortable.

Flexibility: You have flexibility in your work schedule, which permits you to enjoy family and other personal interests. You may work full-time, part-time, year round, or seasonally. Working from home may be possible and reasonable. Paid and unpaid leave is available. The important point is that your employer is willing to offer some degree of flexibility in where and how much you work.

Pay and benefits are fair and competitive for the industry. This most likely means that you cannot expect to make the same pay earned during the prime working years in your principal occupation. Hourly wages of $25 have largely vanished from the American labor market. Salaries of $40,000 or $80,000 may simply not be in the realm of possibility. Free or low-priced comprehensive health-benefit protection is close to unheard of anymore. Still, your pay and benefits should be fair, even if less generous than they once were.

Age-Friendly: To sum it up, "good jobs" are age-friendly. The employers and the managers themselves recognize the value of older workers and reject traditional stereotypes.

A "good job," paying $20,000 or $30,000 a year, or perhaps $10,000 to $15,000 part–time, may provide just what's needed for you to age confidently and with some sense of financial security. It's in our nature to work, and there is no undignified job.

Actual "Good Jobs"

Two of my favorites are:

Personal Caregiver: Personal caregivers provide health and general care, often in a client's home. Several leading personal, in-home caregiver organizations that have been recognized by and AARP include: Home Instead Senior Care, Right at Home, Synergy HomeCare, Home Helpers, Senior Helpers, and Homewatch CareGivers. These organizations hire people with or without medical and nursing training to provide care to elders and others needing in-home assistance. While the pay and benefits are modest, the work is important and rewarding.

You may also find personal caregiving work online through matching services that pair registered caregivers with families and people searching for reliable and capable individual providers. and SitterCity allow you to register as a caregiver with their services. People in your community requiring personal care review registered providers and contact you directly. You are basically self-employed and can even set your own hourly rate of pay. What's needed? Babysitters, house sitters, pet sitters, housekeepers, tutors (in academic subjects, cooking, crafts, or even knitting), and much more.

Grocery Clerk:  If job security is important and you can handle being on the go, working in a grocery store has to be a top pick. Not only do these employers provide secure work that's pretty pleasant, the pay and benefits can be better than in general retailing. Also, the retail grocery industry is blessed (though there are exceptions) with good or excellent management, and this I support with the fact that five of the Fortune magazine "100 Best Employers for 2009" are retail grocers. Consider these leading grocers: Safeway, Fresh Market, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Wegman's Markets, Nugget Market, Stew Leonard's, and Publix Super Markets.

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