February 08, 2010, 3:53 PM — For as long as he could remember, Ben Richardson had had big plans for an early retirement.
Passionate about computers but anxious to leave the confines of a desk job, Richardson, a technical adviser in database services at CVS/Caremark Corp., had prepped for a host of post-tech alternatives even as he met the demands of his IT career.
He took classes and labored on business plans, dreaming of the time when he would be able to retire from IT and pursue his love of what he calls "blue-collar hobbies."
He thought he might teach school, start an HVAC business or even get into general contracting and welding. "I wanted to spend more time outside and get healthy," Richardson explains. "Sitting in a chair for 30 years takes its toll."
Scratch that. Thanks to the tanking economy, Richardson, now 52, has put all those plans on hold. "When the recession hit, I knew I wasn't going to be able to retire," he says. "I decided to hunker down and keep my current job because the market was so poor. I have a good-paying job here, and changing jobs now isn't such a good idea."
Nearly two years into the recession, shrinking nest eggs and the fear of skyrocketing health care costs are forcing late-career IT professionals to trade dreams of early retirement for the reality of toiling extra years in the workforce.
Instead of channeling their energies to around-the-world travel, starting a new business or devoting time to volunteer work, many IT veterans find themselves either actively in the job market or desperately safeguarding their current employment. They're refocusing on career management, learning new skills and trying to be as flexible about their job responsibilities as twentysomethings just starting out.
Whippersnappers in the Rearview Mirror
IT is hardly the only career sector ravaged by the recession -- in fact, experts say IT has weathered the storm better than most. (For example, data for April to June 2009 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that unemployment rates for several key IT positions averaged 5.8%, which was substantially lower than the overall U.S. average unemployment rate of 8.9% for that period.)