Sunday, 20 April 2014

A change is as good as a retirement

Since being retrenched from my previous job as a scientist at a tiny, privately-owned minerals processing research company about 15 years ago, I've been working for a small privately-owned marketing company (of around 250 employees). The company owner/CEO is about ten years older than me, and had wanted/planned to sell up and retire in her fifties (until the GFC squeezed profit margins and made the business less saleable), so it was always unlikely that my current job would last all the way through until my retirement. Pre-GFC the prospect had been more likely, as I had hoped to be able to afford 'early retirement' (by around age 57-60). But post-GFC my SMSF balance wasn't going to be sufficient unless I keep working until 67 or thereabouts.

Last week my employer announced that she will be retiring this year, having managed to sell the business to a large, multinational company. As usual this is being presented to the current employees as a completely positive development, with the new 'owner' having deep enough pockets to properly fund the company's future growth and expansion. But while the prospect of a multinational parent company with deep pockets may well be exciting for the younger employees (via improved education/training, opportunities for international work travel and the chance to work for different divisions located in different countries, and the greater chance of career progression to senior positions available within a large, multinational company), for those of us over 50 the change doesn't seem so 'exciting'. While there are promises that all existing permanent employees will retain their positions ("no retrenchments") this is only ever a short-term guarantee (I.e. it really mean "no retrenchments --- just now"). New ownership always means the chance to restructure a business to make it more efficient, which generally means laying off some of the existing staff working for the acquired company (once the new owners have absorbed all the valuable IP and determined which "key staff" they want to retain). My position is even more precarious as a large part of my current role was tasks associated with a part of the company that isn't being sold off, but is being split off as a smaller private company to be retained by the current owner. So I expect that in the next couple of months those tasks will have disappeared, and my work will have been restructured around the remaining "internal audit" tasks that I perform. I've had little training and no professional qualifications in internal audit (just a couple of short courses completed about ten years ago), so I'll either be given some proper training and have a chance to obtain audit certifications (the "best case" scenario) or else end up retrenched and with little prospect of getting a similar position elsewhere.

Changing employer and career path in my late thirties was quite stressful, but worked out OK in the end. But being unemployed and looking for a new position (and career path) again in my fifties isn't likely to have such a happy ending. I'll probably either wind up in a new job which requires a lot of unpaid overtime to 'get up to speed' and prove myself (again), hence putting an end to my part-time PhD studies, or else end up in a much lower paid position with little or no job security. Or perhaps even be unable to find any decent job at my age and wind taking early retirement with an inadequate superannuation balance (and no access to aged pension due to the assets/means test).

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mOOm said...

That sounds worrying. I hope things work out on the more OK side.

Financial Independence said...

I am so sorry to hear about it. I work in one of the multinational companies myself, we have to "prove" ourselves every 4-5 years, as the job changes.
Overtime is not on the table any longer, it is written in the contract -" to get the job done". So 50 hrs a week + is norm long time ago.

I have been silly enough to suspect that at small companies demand even greater for the unpaid time. Obviously it is not. How are you getting on with it? said...

The sale of the company isn't "official" until the new FY (July), so for the next few months our new CEO (who is in the third tier of management hierachy of the BIC (Big International Company) will be visiting our Sydney Office to get to meet the staff and get familiar with our operating procedures (I think this affect people higher up the management foodchain than me, at least initially). Changes will be happening from July-Dec I expect, and I expect I'll have a lot of new tasks heading my way (not being given any significant tasks to do would be a *bad sign* I suspect)...