Not Happy with Your Job? Wait Until You Hit 50

In this photo taken Sept. 20, 2013, Oscar Martinez, 77, greets diners at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. The chef is the parkís longest-tenured employee, beginning as a busboy nearly 57 years ago. He says he loves his job, and a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs finds heís not alone: Nine out of ten workers 50 and older say theyíre satisfied with their work. (AP Photo/Matt Sedensky)
AP, Matt SedenskyOscar Martinez, 77, greets diners at the Carnation Cafe at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. The chef is the park's longest-tenured employee, beginning as a busboy nearly 57 years ago, and he says he loves his job.
By MATT SEDENSKY

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 Café, 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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62 Comments

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joan

Laughable. The promotions go to the kids.

October 29 2013 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dyat08

Then I guess nothing really does change, I've struggled with work my whole life anyway.

October 29 2013 at 9:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cindy

It depends on yor health. If you are sickly, work will prove a challenge. But some people can not afford to retire at any age.
It sounds like some people elect to not retire, which is fine. But some people have no choice.

October 29 2013 at 8:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Augusto M. Trigueiro

why to work after 50 years? We must rest. I do not anything, but I like to fishing, play footboll, and go to Boats... There is not stuff better than this...lol

October 29 2013 at 8:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
nvisiblegypsys

it's not that we're happy......but afraid to voice our unhappiness, because 50 is now the "magic number" at which prospective employers automatically trashcan your resume'.

October 29 2013 at 8:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mbestfrnd

I am well over 50 and now hate my job. I work for the United States Postal Service. They took a job I loved and made me hate it. No longer does our mail come on time. It comes an hour to two hours late to our office everyday since they closed our local plant and outsourced it to another plant. I feel trapped because I have two special needs children and cannot afford to try and change jobs. Where would someone well over 50 find another job anyway in this economy and under this administration? I see the depression, the anger, the demoralization of the people I work with and other friends who work for the Postal Servive. It really sucks but we all feel powerless to change anything. No one up the chain of management seems to care. They just say come to work and don't start keeping your time until the mail comes.

October 29 2013 at 7:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jrb359

If you're over 50 and not working, be sure to thank a Democrat. Especially those that voted FOR obamacare tax!

October 29 2013 at 6:01 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Paul

Hilarious article. I'm 54 and have never been more professionally miserable in my life. Look for another job, you say? Fat chance. No one NO ONE will hire anybody over 50. I've heard all the excuses wrapped up in the "no qualified" bow, even though I can match every required expectation and most 'nice to haves' listed in every job I've applied for. I was told by one recruiter that my 28 years of experience wasn't enough. Even though I'm a veteran - even have an Honorable Discharge from two difference branches, I was told I was "the wrong kind of veteran". Companies that say they hire the older worker won't; companies that hire veterans don't. Yet I see my 30-year-old boss come to work late every day, IF she shows up. Then won't take experience-earned advice on a project only to see the project fail because she insisted on doing it her way. Taking classes and getting certifications haven't helped, either. I'm almost resigned to the fact that I'm going to be bitterly miserable until I retire, IF I can retire.

October 28 2013 at 11:53 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Paul's comment
Michele

I was laid off last year from a doctor's office. Still can't find a job. And the longer I am out of work, the less likely they will even give me a chance. I will be 55 in November and have never ever had a problem getting hired, til Obamacare came into focus.

October 29 2013 at 4:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Michele's comment
Steve

. . . blaming the ACA for your inability to obtain gainful employment is the funniest excuse I have ever heard . . . thanks for the chuckle this morning . . .

October 29 2013 at 6:40 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down
dyat08

Whatever!

October 29 2013 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Yvonne Kelly

i have all the work i can handle, 73, single, housework, yard work, live on $11,000 a year. takes hours juggling bills to stay in house. i have 4 dogs to care for. have vet and grooming bills, if not for my dogs would be lonely. if i did not have to show drivers license i could get work i look younger than people in their 50's-good genes. grandmother lived to be in her 90's w/ no wrinkles
no secret but ponds cold creme.

October 28 2013 at 11:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
michilady22

Yeah unfortunately it is true- because after 50 you are lucky to have a job at all these days. Older more experienced workers are not preferred and are the first to be let go.

October 28 2013 at 11:16 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to michilady22's comment
dyat08

I work somewhere where they are all twentysomethings. Why? Because they don't offer health insurance, nor do they pay a wage that a REAL ADULT can live off of. That's what the real problem is right there.

October 29 2013 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply