#NowMe Episode 10: Women & Job Loss

Losing your job is scary, but according to the Washington Post, for women aged 50 to 61, they are 18% less likely to find new work than women 25 to 34. And if they’re 62 or older, they’re 50% less likely to be rehired. In this episode, Jan explains what women can do to plan for circumstances like these.


NowMe Episode 10 Transcript

#NowMe Episode 10: Women & Job Loss

Ms. Walker: Hello, this is Hollis Walker with Jan Blakeley Holman, director of advisor education at Thornburg Investment Management. Welcome back. Thanks for joining us for another episode of #NowMe. So, Jan, it’s not news to anyone listening that these are really terrifically challenging times. I have a friend who lost her job right before the virus blew up. To make ends meet, she went to work for Instacart delivering groceries. In the meantime, she’s gone out and gotten two roommates, so she can meet her mortgage and make her finances work. I really admire that. I think she’s faced the personal financial crisis she’s had as a result of all these things—this perfect storm in her life—head on and pretty wisely.

Ms. Holman: Well, Hollis, I think it’s a time where people have to be creative, assertive and as you said, wise, and I’d add another word there, decisive. There was a recent article in the Washington Post by Michelle Singletary who said that the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting women over age 55 and as a result, they’re having a harder time finding a job if they lose theirs. They said that women ages 50 to 61 are 18% less likely to find new work than women 25 to 34. And if they’re 62 or older—and do we know anybody that age, Hollis?—they’re 50% less likely to be rehired.

Ms. Walker: I read that article, too, Jan, and I have a lot of questions about this subject. One is, to what degree do you think older women are even cognizant of this issue? I wonder whether a lot of women listening today might hear this and think, oh, that’s terrible, but that doesn’t really apply to me because I’ve got major expertise in my field, and I’ve got degrees from Harvard and Stanford, and even if I lost my job, which is very unlikely, I’ll be able to get another one. What do you think about that?

Ms. Holman: Well, I think people become aware of things when it happens to them. Aren’t we all kind of experiential types where, you know, it’s not happening unless it happens to me, or their group of friends? You know, when you read an article like this, if you read another article like this, then it starts to drill home the point, and I think that many people would be surprised to hear this because they don’t have information like this.

Ms. Walker: And there’s no place to go to get this information in a timely way, I think.

Ms. Holman: Right.

Ms. Walker: Yeah, it does show up eventually, but… So, okay, another thing I’m concerned about is that women who lose their jobs due to the coronavirus or this whole perfect storm that’s happening now, even if they realize, it could be really hard to get another job. I’m worried that they won’t take action soon enough to protect themselves financially.

Ms. Holman: Well, you know, it’s an individual-by-individual thing. For some people, when the going gets tough, they get tougher. They take immediate action, they want to ensure that they are controlling the end result instead of being buffeted around by whatever, you know, the universe has to offer, and there are other kinds of people who face this type of situation and freeze, like a deer in the headlights. Best case scenario, a woman who is 55 will have planned for emergencies like this. I’ve stressed many times in these podcasts the need for an emergency fund which is six to nine months of expenses readily available. Now, some people haven’t planned for these kinds of emergencies, put enough money aside, or even some people have gone through their money. So, what do they do then? I think, again, that’s where creativity comes in.

Ms. Walker: So, what about just halting any new investment in retirement funds or other securities, until you’re really back on your feet financially. Is that a good idea?

Ms. Holman: If it helps cashflow, that would make sense. But that would only make sense if you needed additional cashflow because there’s an opportunity right now, and that is the market volatility and the fact that you’re able to buy or invest in mutual funds or securities of your choice at fluctuating prices. And when you’re able to buy at fluctuating prices, what you wind up doing is reducing your cost basis. It’s a strategy typically known as dollar cost averaging, but in this case, it’s buying at fluctuating prices. In the long run, you lower your average cost, so if it’s only about cashflow and really isn’t about being concerned about what’s going on in the market, then I think, yes, that is a way to approach it.

Ms. Walker: What about dipping into a retirement account? I’ve read a lot of articles about people being forced to dip into their retirement accounts. What are the options there?

Ms. Holman: Well, let’s say you work for a company, and your spouse or someone else in the household loses their job, and you as an entity need extra money. If you’re still working for a company that has an employer sponsored retirement account, and if you have some amount that is vested, in other words, that is owned by you, maybe you want to consider taking a loan from that account. But if it’s a cashflow concern, the problem with a loan is that you have to pay it back in regular payments, typically one payment with every paycheck. If cashflow isn’t a concern and if you’re just trying to get a lump sum of money, that may be an approach to use. If you’re affected by a health issue, job loss or cut in pay because of the coronavirus, you can tap into your retirement funds without penalty under a law passed by congress called the CARES Act. C-A-R-E-S, which stands for Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.

Ms. Walker: How does that work?

Ms. Holman: Well, under the CARES Act, you’re able to withdraw up to $100,000 from your retirement accounts, not retirement account. For example, Hollis, if you had a 401k and you had an IRA, you can’t take out $100,000 from each. It’s $100,000 total. You wouldn’t be subject to the penalty you would typically have if you’re under 59 ½. You wouldn’t have to withhold taxes of 20%, which is great, and for tax purposes, you could spread the taxes on that income from your retirement account or that lump sum you take over three years, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Of course, I’m talking about tax deductible retirement accounts. There may be different rules for Roth IRAs, so it’s important to check with an expert, maybe a financial advisor or your HR department.

Ms. Walker: But is that really a good option, to tap into your retirement accounts? I can imagine that a lot of women might think, well, I don’t want to do this, but I can always put the money back later. But I hear some hesitation in your voice about this putting it back later business.

Ms. Holman: Well, that’s because that requires discipline. I mean, I wouldn’t say by nature human beings are disciplined, right? If it’s a commitment that you can follow through with, that would be great, and with the CARES Act, there’s a provision that says, if you take money out of the retirement account and pay it back within three years, you may be able to avoid paying taxes by amending previous tax returns, so 2020, ‘21 and ‘22.

Ms. Walker: And things could be very different. If you have lost your job, your income overall would be different and so that could affect your tax situation anyway.

Ms. Holman: Right.

Ms. Walker: So, I’m also wondering, do you think it’s better to take any job just to keep the money flowing and to stay in the field, so to speak, than to be out of work for an extended period of time? Elizabeth White, who wrote a book called “55, Underemployed and Faking Normal”, says women need to “Get off the throne and just get back to work.” How does that sit with you?

Ms. Holman: Well, I remember, a long time ago, I lost a job, and I wound up doing that, going – this was way, way back – going to get a job, and of course I got a job in a guitar store. So, what did I do? I bought guitars. But, that said, it depends. I read some of that book, and I have concerns about it because it seems so dismissive and kind of negative. Essentially acting as though women who have been successful think they, you know, it’s their God-given right to get a wonderful job again. Well, I think we have to be careful about how we talk with people who have lost their job or are seeing a hiccup in their career because we don’t want them to feel like they’re nothing. But we also don’t want them to feel like their much better than having to do something and take some action that may not be a long-term approach.

Ms. Walker: Right, we could take a short-term job that was below our normal capacity and use that as a buffer while we are looking for that better job that really suits our skills, our skill level especially. So, okay here’s, maybe this is the most important question of all.

Ms. Holman: Okay.

Ms. Walker: If I’m a woman over 60, and I have gray hair, and I lose my job, should I color my hair, get a facelift, buy a younger-looking wardrobe with some of my IRA money in order to get rehired? If knowing that 55%, or 50% of women over age 62 –

Ms. Holman: Two.

Ms. Walker: – I think you said, only have a 50% chance of getting rehired, do you think that would be a wise use of my IRA money?

Ms. Holman: I think I’m the wrong person to ask that question to. My hair started turning gray when I was in my 30s, and I’ve always thought it was because I had three little kids who were under four years old at the same time. Now that they’re in their 30s, I’m a lot better, but the hair color went anyway. I remember a great friend of mine told me back then, she said, “Men with gray hair look distinguished. Women with gray hair look old. Dye your hair.” Well, I didn’t take her advice, and now every time I see her, she says that my silver hair is gorgeous. So, you know, go figure. My advice: don’t dye it. Let it go, be who you are. Be proud of who you are and go for it.

Ms. Walker: Thanks, Jan. That’s all the time we have today. You’ve been listening to #NowMe with me, your host, Hollis Walker, and Jan Blakeley Holman, director of advisor education at Thornburg Investment Management. If you want to suggest a topic for us, email us at nowme@thornburg.com. If you’d like to hear more episodes of #NowMe, you can find us on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite audio provider, or by visiting us at Thornburg.com/podcast. Jan can also be found on LinkedIn. If you like us, subscribe, share us on social media, and leave us a review. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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