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For many, retirement isn’t work’s end

Local agency specializes in finding jobs for those who have retired.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:30 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

As college graduates start flooding the labor market, many will find themselves working with someone who already has retired.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2015 the percentage of the work force age 55 and older will rise from 13 percent to 33 percent. The shift is largely due to the aging population of baby boomers, but it also suggests people are living longer, and many either want or need to keep working.

For some, working after retirement or delaying retirement is a matter of necessity. During the late ’90s, the upswing of the financial markets generated healthy returns on retirement plans. But in the past four years those investments have faltered, said Jim Lively of Retirement Plan Advisors in Jefferson City.

“Because of the increasing cost of health care, they are delaying retirement for a few years,” Lively said.

For others, money isn’t the issue. They want to work, and that’s where Columbia resident Jo Manhart comes in. Manhart’s employment agency, Available Jones, is dedicated to finding full- or part-time work for people who have retired.

“Older folks want to feel needed and useful,” Manhart said.

Manhart has about 70 clients she is trying to place and has found jobs for 40 others. On her Web site, availablejones.com, she lists all the workers who are looking for jobs along with a description of their experience and the type of job they want.

One successful placement is Paul Meyer, who retired in 1995 from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, where he developed computer systems to store patients’ medical information. He now works as an exam proctor for Pierson Professional Testing.

“It’s hard to separate yourself from something that you’ve spent years with that you enjoyed,” Meyer said. “One (reason to work) is to keep busy and keep occupied, and probably the money is second or third.”

Manhart was an executive with the Missouri Poultry Federation when she lost her job because of a merger in 1999. She had years of business wisdom to impart and realized that older, perhaps even retired, workers are an asset to companies because of their work ethic, people skills and experience.

She originally planned to name her company “Geezers to Go.” She finally settled on “Available Jones,” the “Li’l Abner” comic strip character who was always available to work for a price.

When Manhart’s potential workers contact her, she interviews them to get an idea of their prior work experience and what types of jobs they would like. She helps them update their resumes and helps them practice for interviews. If her client doesn’t have a resume, Manhart will help her client make one. She screens all her clients.

“I wouldn’t place someone that I won’t hire. The reputation of my agency is based on the quality of my placements,” Manhart said.

Though Manhart is now back at the Missouri Egg Council, she continues to run Available Jones at her office at 1000 W. Nifong Blvd. She described her clients as “very particular” and genuinely interested in making a contribution.

Dale Griessel, a retired bank president, now reviews loan files at Premier Bank. After 40 years in the banking business, Griessel was glad to leave the major decisions to someone else. But he’s ready to give advice whenever it’s needed.

“I’m not a decision-maker anymore, and I’m comfortable with that,” Griessel said. “I remember when I was a young banker and there was a big meeting and I used to think, ‘Boy it really would be neat to be in those meetings.’ I remember 20 years later, I was in one of those meetings and I thought, ‘This is not so neat after all. There are some major problems.’ ”

Griessel said the adjustment from his bank career to his current job has been easy.

“I would have hated doing this work when I was president of the bank because of all the interruptions,” Griessel said. “I enjoy the thought that I’m making some kind of contribution and being helpful.”

Many people from outside Missouri have contacted Manhart in hopes of finding an agency like hers near them. Although Manhart doesn’t plan to franchise Available Jones, she does offer the opportunity to make a “virtual franchise” on her Web site. Manhart is writing a “how to” guide for starting a business like hers titled “How to Lose Money Owning Your Own Business and Love It,” which she will be self-publishing by the end of summer.

In the book, Manhart gives advice on all aspects of starting an agency, from financing and insurance to how to gather clients and “pound the pavement.”

“You would not expect anyone to write a book unless they became a success,” Manhart said. “I don’t claim to have been a success yet. But I do claim to have learned a lot, and I think somebody can be a success at this.”


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