Are Older Workers and Renters the “Answer”?

By Robert L. Cain.  Written for Zip Reports, employment and rental screening company.  Visit their website.

“They actually show up for work on time, and they aren’t texting all day,” writes Kerry Hannon in her book Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies.  A change in attitude is taking place as the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank in a January 2018 report found that “all of the increase in employment since 2000—about 17 million jobs—has been among workers 55 and older.”

Hiring “older” employees, meaning people who have passed 50 or 55, can have a number of advantages in addition to showing up on time and sticking to work rather than smart phones.  Several articles recently extol the virtues of the “older” worker.  All of these articles would make you think that older workers are the solution to all of the nation’s problems, as if they all subscribed to the Boy Scout Law and are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Older workers do have a number of built-in advantages over 20- and 30-somethings on the job and possibly as renters.  But is hiring them and renting to them the cure-all for whatever is troubling your business or property?

First, let’s look at their reported advantages in the workplace.

First, they have spent most of their working lives in a culture where changing jobs was the rarity rather than the norm, as it is now.  Younger workers seem to always be looking for their next career step, while older workers tend to be more dedicated to their jobs rather than their next career move or promotion.  They are more stable not just in employment but in renting.  A study by RealPage, “Three Factors That Influence Apartment Turnover,” found that the older the tenant, the longer he or she stayed in one rental.

Second, older workers have better than average communication skills.  That is an essential quality that is often missing in younger workers who may rely on 140-character Twitter comments.  Seasoned workers “know the value of sending a hand-written thank you” note “to clients and referral sources,” something more than likely lacking in people in their 20s and 30s. In fact, they might not even think about hand-writing a note because, after all, an email or text message is “much faster.”  Yes, but it doesn’t mean as much.  In my book, Get It Rented, I cite a line from the Neil Simon play “Biloxi Blues,” “There is something magic about the written word.  People seem to embrace it more if it is written.  There is a sense of permanency with a message than has been put on paper.”  That’s put on paper, not on a computer screen.  A piece of paper is something someone can hold, touch, and feel—and keep.  An email at best gets shunted off to the appropriate folder or at worst deleted, but never seen again either way.

They may also have better face-to-face communication skills.  Many people in their 40s, when they came up against a career brick wall improved those skills by joining such organizations as Toastmasters.

Third, older workers are usually not conflicted with the family issues workers in their 20s and 30s are.  They most likely won’t have to stay home with sick kids or take time off during the day for teacher conferences or kids’ doctor appointments. They may be willing, and even eager, to work until a job is completed because they don’t have regular family commitments such as taking kids to soccer practice and picking them up from school.  Usually, older people’s children are grown or old enough to take care of themselves.

Fourth, they are the same age as clients and often customers suggests Debi Ritter in her article, “Six Benefits of Hiring Older Workers.”  Many people prefer to interact with people their own age.  Some younger people can come across as arrogant and rude, or simply clueless, to people their parents’ age even if they have no intention of coming across as that way.

Fifth, there seems to be a fear that “older” people aren’t comfortable with current technology.  That’s true for some, of course, but a 2014 detailed study paid for by AARP, “The Business Case for Older Workers,” found that “91 % of older workers have a computer, tablet, or smartphone and that the share of workers who use such devices has grown considerably over the past three years.”

Sixth, and maybe most important, they may have better critical thinking skills than do their younger peers.  After all, they have 20 to 30 years spent on the job and have learned to analyze situations that are most likely completely new to a worker fresh out of the box.  They have learned how the world works rather than still going to school about it.

Those are just a few of the characteristics that might make an older worker the better choice for hiring and renting.  But just because someone turns 55 doesn’t mean he or she turns over a new leaf and magically starts thinking of paying bills and the rent on time and being a model citizen as mere suggestions. All seasoned folks don’t all fall xinto the same idealizing pot.  Most of us know people in their 50s and 60s whom we couldn’t imagine hiring or renting to even if the job vacancy had to remain a vacancy or the rental had to stay empty.

Even though people over 50 have higher average credit scores and lower delinquency rates on loans and credit cards than their younger peers, not all of them do.

Average FICO scores by age reports TIME magazine:

  • 18-29 years old: 652
  • 30-39 years old: 671
  • 40-49 years old: 685
  • 50-59 years old: 709
  • Age 60+: 743

Then there’s the fact that more than one in five people between 55 and 64 are renters.  Why are they choosing or having to rent?  There is usually a perfectly acceptable and legitimate reason, but not always.  It bears asking why he or she is renting.  Some people are flat out of the business of homeownership after losing their homes during the Great Recession.  Others are renters by choice, preferring to have the leisure of someone else dealing with repairs and maintenance.  But still others would like to own a home but have credit so bad that the loan application chuckles when they fill it out.

The key point is to screen someone over 50 just as you would anyone else applying for a job or apartment and verify everything.

The fact remains, though, that qualified older employees and renters are more stable, more equipped to deal with day-to-day issues, are usually up-to-date with workplace technology, and more often than not value their jobs and their homes.

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