Ageism: Your Future In Pieces

Getting old sucks. My back hurts just writing that sentence. Anyway, author, speaker and all-around solid dude Vinay Singh believes work really sucks for the aging. He feels so strongly that he even wrote a book entitled, "YOUR FUTURE IN PIECES: The Brutal Truth: How Ageism & Income Inequality Are Destroying America." Sounds like the perfect topic for a podcast about all-things-employment, huh? Enter Chad & Cheese to get to the bottom of all this ... but not before a glass of prune juice, because staying regular at our age during an interview is paramount.

**This podcast was recorded a few short months before the COVID shit hit the fan. Needless to say, the Ageism conversation will have a much larger impact than we originally thought.

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Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: All right, all right, all right. What's up everybody? You are listening to the Chad and Cheese Podcast, HR's most dangerous podcast. I'm your co-host Joel Cheesman.

Chad: And I am Chad, young at heart, Sowash.

Joel: Very nice. And today we are to meet, greet, Vinay Singh, the author of a new book entitled, Your Future In Pieces. Vinay, welcome to the podcast.

Vinay Singh: Thanks for having me guys.

Joel: You're an author. What else should we know about you?

Vinay Singh: I spent my entire career, 22 years and counting in talent acquisition and human capital business partnering with hundreds of companies. A lot of it was on the agency side, quite a bit of it was on the corporate side.

Chad: Excellent. So let's just jump right into this, right on the front of the book, it says, the subtitle, "The Brutal Truth: How Ageism And Income Inequality Are Destroying America." And then you take a look at the back of the book. Now I know why you look so pissed off on the picture, on the back of the book.

Joel: Are you an angry man Vinay?

Vinay Singh: No, not at all. I'm actually very funny and jovial.

Chad: Why the book then? Obviously ageism is happening, we know what's happening, but why the book? Obviously it's a much bigger issue than what we all think it is.

Vinay Singh: Absolutely. It really is. When I first started in talent acquisition recruiting back in the nineties, I was very surprised to see people coming to me at ages, mid to late fifties and highly accomplished. But because of M&A, which is obviously happening every single day, there's a new M&A. But these highly accomplished people simply couldn't get back into the market at a position where they were and sometimes even one step down. And I was surprised to see how long it took for these people to get on. And me being in recruiting, I mean, I was representing people of all ages and of all technical abilities. I was a technology recruiter and the speed of which people at a younger age were getting off the market was very, very quick. And it was progressively longer for older people, and honestly a number of people that I was representing never got on the market.

Chad: Is this a salary issue? I mean, because if you think about it, somebody obviously has more experience, they can ask more and if you are younger, and you're coming new into the market, you're more moldable, right? So it's kind of like can't teach old dog new tricks, not to mention that's an expensive dog, versus the new little puppy that you can train.

Vinay Singh: Yeah. So that can be something that a company may say, but working internally, I know it's actually not really the truth.

Chad: Okay.

Vinay Singh: When companies, every quarter post profits for, per three month period in the billions, but then they want this experience, yeah?

Chad: Yeah.

Vinay Singh: On the job description, the person matches, but, yeah, you know that $5,000 we just can't make it. Yeah, we're a multinational, $75,000,000,000 company, but that 5,000 we can't do that, so

Chad: We can buy back stock, but we can't pay that extra $5,000.

Vinay Singh: ... Buyback stock, at last year to the tune of $1.2,000,000,000,000.

Chad: What?

Vinay Singh: I'm sorry, 2018 to '19, yup?

Chad: '18 to '19. Wow, that's huge.

Vinay Singh: Yup. That's what they did with the tax plan.

Joel: So a little bit of devil's advocate, just coming out the gate, I'm an average person, in this example and I'm watching the democratic primaries, and I'm looking at the party of diversity and inclusion, and I'm looking at their first round of eliminations, more or less people of color go away, right? Black candidates, Asian candidates, the next round of eliminations, women are gone, a gay man is gone, a younger gay man has gone. And the two candidates fighting it out for the nomination are surprise, two old white dudes. So what do you tell someone that's just an average person on the street, that's looking at that and convince them that ageism is a problem, and if I combat with, isn't racism and sexism a bigger problem? How would you refute that?

Vinay Singh: So let me take the ageism and then I'll respond about the racism and sexism, yeah? So ageism, isn't it ironic that so many people in the workforce at ages 40, 45, 50 are told they are not qualified or they don't understand technology or they don't fit, yet the average CEO's age is 58. And so you can't really work in a company unless you're a CEO or if you're not in a company and you go into politics, you can't be in politics, you can't do a lot of things in corporate America, but you can either be the president of the United States or a CEO of a company. So really, how does that work out?

Chad: So you're saying it's fringe more than anything else?

Vinay Singh: It just doesn't make sense, does it? You can only have the highest jobs or nothing. So that's ironic. And now to answer the ethnic and the gender issue that you brought up. So this is the thing about ageism as this last frontier of ism, what it does, so to people, of women or minorities, people of color, it is exponentially exacerbated in ageism. So women that are older, get exponentially more discriminated against than men, yeah? And if you're a woman, who's a minority, X times even further. So I like to say it like this ageism doesn't care about color, gender, ethnicity, anything, doesn't see disability, doesn't see veterans, doesn't see anything. All you have to do is wake up and every day be a little bit older and slowly but surely ageism is coming for you. If you're healthy and you happen to get to an older age and are highly productive, it's coming for you. So if you're even a white man, it's coming for you. So if you happen to be a minority man, times it by two, and if you happen to be a woman, times it by three, and if you're a minority woman, times it by five.

Chad: So there's compound interest is what you're saying.

Vinay Singh: I wouldn't say it's interest.

Joel: No.

Chad: Joel and I are both Xers. Are you an Xer? You've got to be an Xer. Okay. So here's the thing. And I know we're getting into that age now, but I think for years, we've always thought the boomers have had it so fucking easy, right? They had cheap college, they had great economies for the most part, right? And when we were in bad economies, they were in great places because they had about three fucking houses. So why are we feeling bad for these guys?

Joel: Don't forget free love.

Chad: Yeah, free love. Yeah. We had to worry about HIV.

SFX: Hell, yeah.

Chad: We had to worry about HIV and all that stuff. Couldn't get a shot for that. So why should we

Vinay Singh: Yeah, you're not kidding.

Chad: ... Why should we care about these guys having a hard time when they've had such an easy life as it is?

Vinay Singh: From a generational... So I'll group it into different generations. The boomers are on their way out of the workforce, but we are all living supposedly longer. And of course it's true compared to a half century. I mean, that's just true, overall, the statistics are there. But a perfect example is this, this is Q4 data from EPI. I'm a big fan of EPI, Economic Policy Institute, right? They're a very well known global institution. One out of five or 20% of baby boomers will have to work till the day they die, there is no retirement, there is no golden years. That's fact, it's not me, that's the real research. So I don't think when they were planning their retirement, they were looking forward to working at Walmart at 75 and going to some other part-time waffle house just to pay the bills and to keep their neck above water till, again, there is no goal, that's it, no retirement. That's what this American Dream was for them? No, of course not. This is the struggling dream, right? This is the reality of today. So there is that for the boomers. Now you mentioned Gen X, right? That's us, the three of us. Guess what? We're going to be moving into retirement in the next five years or so, right? Or some of us are already heading in there.

Chad: Yeah. Very doubtful.

Vinay Singh: Right, or I should say, let me take it back, retirement age.

Chad: Yeah.

Vinay Singh: But that's not going to happen, right? So we're going to help, in this number. So I just gave you one out of five or 20%. I say, it's going to get worse and we're going to move the basis point five to 25%, that's one out of four. When do we consider this an epidemic? One out of four Americans will not retire they'll work till the day the die, that will be happening in the not too distant future. I don't think it's going to get better there either, I think it's going to... The needle is going to keep on pushing closer to one out of three Americans, 33%.

Joel: We talk a lot on the show about the gig economy and gig economies tend to be marketplaces that are meritocracies, right? Do you really care that your Uber driver is 25 or 65? In most cases you probably don't. Is it your sense that a growing gig economy will help level the playing field or do you still see problems ahead for that as well?

Vinay Singh: Yeah. This gig economy is... And every 20 years, we just changed terms, terminologies. It's just a consulting economy that's what a gig worker is. So let's just look at what a gig worker gets. We see in the media, the gig economy gives freedom to people, people can set their own hours. How fun is that to know that you can be fired on any given hour of any given day? How great is it to wake up every morning and not wonder if you have, when you go into work, will you even have that job? How great is it to have no career ladder and no future prospect of where you're going? How great is it to not get a company bonus? How great is it not to get company benefits? All these things. I don't know anybody that's excited about not having those things. And in California, they're already constructing laws, that if you get hurt on the job, you can't sue. So I guess that goes into... And I'm not an expert in corporate legality and this kind of stuff. But I assume maybe that means you can't get workers comp. So where is the, all this wonderful stuff that we talk about for the gig worker? It doesn't really exist. Who does the gig economy benefit? It benefits shareholders and the executive class. If a company can hire 30% of their employees or their workforce, because gig worker is not an employee, if 30% of their work productivity is coming from a gig employee, well, they don't have to pay those people benefits, that's a huge savings. Where does that money go? I don't know.

Joel: Shareholders.