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Is Computer Programming a Good Job for Retirees? 147

braindrainbahrain asks: "Ask Slashdot has been rife with career advice lately, so maybe I can get some too. I hit a milestone recently, the big five oh, and the realization of retirement is starting to settle in. The trouble is, I don't want to sit around, play golf, or even travel that much. I work in a technical field, but I have always enjoyed programming. Indeed, I do it as a hobby. I wonder what you readers would think about programming as a post retirement job. It seems well suited for a retiree, one could do contract work for a few months of the year, in some cases work from home even. By way of background, I have worked in hardware engineering for a very long time, and have pursued graduate study almost regularly (two Masters degrees so far). Should I begin preparing for a post-retirement career in computer science?"
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Is Computer Programming a Good Job for Retirees?

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  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Saturday February 03, 2007 @01:57PM (#17874510) Homepage Journal

    Should I begin preparing for a post-retirement career in computer science?

    I don't know, are you willing to relocate to India?

    • by 6Yankee ( 597075 )
      That depends

      Honestly... Someone asks about retirees and the first reply is a joke about incontinence.

      I'm shocked - shocked, I tell you!
    • He IS from India. I mean, come on, two masters? What red blooded native born American is going to be that naive?
  • Overqualified (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EveryNickIsTaken ( 1054794 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:01PM (#17874540)
    "By way of background, I have worked in hardware engineering for a very long time, and have pursued graduate study almost regularly (two Masters degrees so far)."

    Good luck getting a response to your resume with that background. Companies will see your credentials, assume they'd have to pay too much since you're "overqualified" and instantly send you a flush letter.

    • Most companies don't bother to respond at all these days unless the response is positive. Rejection letters are a thing of the past.
      • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )

        Most companies don't bother to respond at all these days unless the response is positive. Rejection letters are a thing of the past.

        Funny, because out of all the relatively large companies (most of the time 100+ employees) I have contacted, on the rougly 200 letters I've sent I received maybe 60-70 rejection letters. Much more than I'd ask for.

        • I sent out over 1000 cover+resume packages between Jan 2002 and Aug 2004, and I think I received around 20 or 25 rejection responses in total, most of those in response to paper/snailmail applications.

          Not a very large percentage as far as I'm concerned. But it may depend on the positions you're applying for. I was mainly looking for programming or PC/Network support postions.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sottitron ( 923868 )
      Might not be the case if he has a cover letter that concisely states your salary requirements and explains that he doesn't really want to retire into a golf, travel, or idle lifestyle.
    • Re:Overqualified (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Glonoinha ( 587375 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:48PM (#17874928) Journal
      He may be overqualified on paper to work the sort of entry level jobs that would be a good start for him, and under qualified to justify the kind of money a corp might envision him wanting - but if he is 50 and retiring loves to do this as a hobby (and has some serious fiscal reserves, the kind that makes doing it as a hobby viable) - he may be just the kind of man we want teaching our next generation of entry level developers.

      Think about it - how many of us started out on machines that booted directly into a shell that had BASIC built right in, let us start 'coding' little mickey mouse programs, and we spent hours and hours copying BASIC programs from magazines into our little 1MHz 6502 based computers with 32k of usable memory (if we were lucky) - but we were making the baby steps necessary to become true programmers. How many of us could bang out a bubble sort in at least one language by the time we were 15? How many 15 year olds do you know now than can do it now?

      If the OP wants to make more money, not sure I can help him.
      If the OP wants to make a lasting and meaningful contribution - buy (or fish out of the trash) and refurb a dozen computers that are so old they don't even qualify as door-stops (ie TRS-80, C=64, VIC-20, PC-AT class machines in the MHz (not GHz) class with floppy disks and dot matrix printers and CLI tools like DOS 6.22, GWBASIC, the DOS versions of FoxPro, Borland's Turbo Pascal and C++, some terminal emulation software and dial-up modems, maybe even an assembler and the source to some of the really old viruses, and a ton of old magazines with source code in them so the kids can copy-type in the source, see what it does.

      To paraphrase a touching scene from '13th Warrior' - a man whose coding skills lives on in an entire next generation of software engineers, this is a wealthy man indeed.
      • How many of us could bang out a bubble sort in at least one language by the time we were 15?
        I still can't write a bubble sort off the top of my head. I know Insertion Sort is harder to write, but I can always figure it out, because I remember why the algorithm actually works. I was 17 when I took Pascal, and doing homework assignments a few months ahead of where the class was, so when I got to the sorting assignment (which I'm sure was intended to be solved with a bubblesort), I thought about what I did w
        • Did it work for me? I firmly believe that it's the only real way to get started. Kind of like the first few years of cooking, where you simply follow the recipe and put in a cup of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder and a handfull of chocolate chips, etc - you don't learn to cook by reading, you learn to cook by cooking.

          And odds are, when you were eight years old computer programming was beyond you - it involved concepts way over your head. So was cooking, but that doesn't mean you couldn't open a bag
          • I firmly believe that it's the only real way to get started.
            Maybe if you don't have a teacher. My high school Pascal class didn't operate that way at all. We started with a basic "Hello World", then put the "Hello World" string into a variable, then did it in a simple for loop, etc.

            Imagine where you would have gone had you just kept on banging on that PET / 64, copy typing in code that you didn't quite understand (and letting the natural evolution I described above happen for those seven years.)
            Probably n
        • The reason you can't do a bubblesort is because you probably haven't really played with the alogorithm or you don' know the algorithm.

          As for whether typing in magazine listings will help one or not depends on whether or not the person asks the next question which is "What does this do and how does it do it?" Once one does that and then work with the code to determine the answer, one has learned the code.
          • The reason you can't do a bubblesort is because you probably haven't really played with the alogorithm or you don' know the algorithm.
            I have understood the algorithm; I just can't remember why it works for more than a few weeks, for some reason.

    • You're so right. Well, actually the first reply is right, they won't even contact you.

      I'm having that problem now. Not that I'm over educated, but I'm over experienced. I guess the years that I've been doing my work overshadows most other people.

      Unfortunately, I'm to the point that I *NEED* a job. I don't care if it's a lower job, under someone who doesn't know half of what I know. Eventually they'll move on or be fired, and I can move up to a position I dese
  • Absolutely! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 )
    As everyone knows, those of us who are trying to make a living and save for retirement just love to have retired folks enter our field and offer their services at "hobbiest" rates. Yeah, top of our list for things that make our day. You know, keeps us on our toes - makes us more competitive.

    There's nothing like having to compete with someone who (a) doesn't have a family to support (b) a mortgage to pay (c) has a pention/retirement income and - this is the one that gets us all warm and fuzzy - is getting p
    • Let's generalize your wisdom:

      Nobody should be willing to work in the field I am in for less money than I want to earn, because the competition hurts me.

      Is that about right? By the same logic, people who have higher standard of living costs (maybe they live in the Silicon Valley or just prefer to commute in a Rolls Royce) are getting screwed over by your existence in the work force. If you want to keep older folks out, maybe you should be fair and remove yourself from the job pool too.

      It's simply
  • and sit though meetings all the time read Dilbert for more info about this type of work.
  • Too soon to say (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Oswald ( 235719 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:03PM (#17874560)
    Ask me again in 20 years. I'm going to retire from my first 25-year career in 2008. After that, I plan to spend a lot of my time programming for fun and (meager) profit. If I never accomplish anything more than contributing to open source software, I'll still have a good time. If I actually make a career of it, so much the better.
  • by rice_web ( 604109 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:09PM (#17874608)
    Even more competition in the workplace? Oh hell no....

    While we're pondering cre-azy ideas, how about we revive that euthanasia debate?
  • I wouldn't do it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:09PM (#17874614) Homepage
    I have a rule.

    Anything that you enjoy doing instantly becomes much less fun the moment you are doing it because you are required to, for whatever reason.

    If you enjoy programming as a hobby, why not just continue to do it as a hobby? There are plenty of open source projects that would benefit tremendously from having an extra hand, especially one that doesn't have many other commitments. There are so many projects I wish I had time to work on, but other obligations get in that way. The time you have is such a luxury.

    • You, sir, are a diplomat. Given the tone of the rest of the posts in this discussion, yours is quite remarkable. You don't just back up the other guys in saying "we'll stay off your lawn if you stay out of our jobs", but you give an actual valid reason for him to do so. Kudos.

      Oh, and to the "old" guy, this guy has the right idea. Retirement isn't about travel or golf or lounging around growing mold. It's about doing what you want to do after doing what you had to do. If you want to do some dev work, do it.
    • by Achoi77 ( 669484 )

      In agreement with the poster above, the last thing you want to deal with especially when you are nearing retirement, is to continue on with the stress and drama of the office politics. If you love to code, by all means go all out and start doing it 'full-time.'

      That way you can do all the work you loved doing previously, and at the same time you can free your hands of all the nitty gritty /dirty world of business that prevents/slows you from doing the stuff you love in the first place. You can perfect your

    • by Duhavid ( 677874 )

      Anything that you enjoy doing instantly becomes much less fun the moment you are doing it because you are required to, for whatever reason
      That was not my experience. I still love
      programming, even doing it as a job. *Dont*
      tell my boss... :-)
      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

        I actually enjoy programming more. I think its because what Im doing has purpose instead of just doing little things here and there.

        Its funny, because at one point I resisted taking a job in programming because I thought it would be less fun that way, and I wouldnt want to do it at work and at home, too. I dont do nearly as many personal projects now, but I definitely have more fun.

        • by Duhavid ( 677874 )
          I have not thought of it that way, but you have hit the nail right on the head.

          Been doing it professionally for more than 12 years now, still loving it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wrook ( 134116 )
      I agree with this advice, but maybe I'll put a bit of a spin on it. Writing Free software doesn't *have* to be done as a hobby. You can make good money from it. As an older person (geez, as a 40 year old, 50 doesn't really sound so much older anymore :-P ), you probably have some decent business experience. I would leverage this experience. And if you have some financial security, there's no reason you can't just take some risk and start working for yourself.

      Many people are confused about how to start
    • by plover ( 150551 ) *

      Anything that you enjoy doing instantly becomes much less fun the moment you are doing it because you are required to, for whatever reason.

      Actually, I have had the opposite experience. I advocate doing what you love; if someone is willing to pay you for it, so much the better! I feel really bad for the people who wake up each morning and head off to a job they hate.

    • The way I look at it, the only things I'm paid to do, are the things I don't really like/want to do. The rest of the time I'm doing what I love, and don't have to be paid to do it. Well, you know what i mean.

    • Another option to consider is offering to do development work for non-profit charity groups. Many of them can benefit from systems, either custom written or created from various open source offerings, but have little in the way of budget. They usually aren't target clients for the group that is telling you to 'stay off their lawn'.

      The upside of working with these groups is you're usually working with people who aren't there just to get a paycheck, they believe in the work they do, and that attitude in

  • Where are you? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Depends on which country you are located in.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Living Fractal ( 162153 ) <> on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:16PM (#17874686) Homepage
    If you are retiring at 50 you have serious financial security. So I suggest you treat it as a hobbie instead of job. Do it for yourself, not somebody else. Maybe it will turn into something that makes money for you. But if you do it for some company then they own your work. Give yourself more freedom.

    Of course, if you manage to find a company that you mesh with and the projects you work on are the same thing you would do by yourself, then by all means, go for it. The team envrionment can be rewarding.

    Just try to get out of the cubicle as much as possible. You'll be dead in ten years if you don't. Or close anyway.

  • Go for it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:16PM (#17874690)

    If you like problem solving, like to learn new things, enjoy working with computers, then definitely go for it.

    You didn't mention if you can survive off your current retirement savings, but if you can that I think there's even more reason to do it. You'll have the flexibility to offer your services to groups that usually can't afford to hire expensive programmers (think non-profit national science organizations, smaller mom and pop shops, etc...) or you can contribute to open source projects.

    I think the best part of it, though, is that if you try out a certain technology (say web programming) and hate it, then you can jump to something else. There's nothing forcing you to have one speciality and you can figure out the skills required once you have a solid enough foundation (there is so much information available online and it's usually free).

    Only you know if this type of thing fits you. But I will say that if anyone tells you that you're too old, or that your brain isn't flexible enough, pay attention to what they say and the prove them wrong.

  • Enjoy your life. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tempest69 ( 572798 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:20PM (#17874732) Journal
    Ok, first off, programming for someone else is really a test of patience. While programing on its own is a great endeavour, having someone tell you how it should work will be as bad as whatever you're dealing with as an electrical engineer.

    That being said, if you love code, then delve into open source, find something that you want to fix and fix it. It will feel great. If you really enjoy programming you can just keep going. If you need to find some spare cash, then you can point to your hobby work that is in the current distro of Centos or Ubuntu. And wind up with a survivable paycheck, or you can marry the feilds you know and wind up with a big ole paycheck. It is relativly hard to find a programmer with masters level domain knowlege in two fields. Ok its not that hard, if flash more than $50/hour

    Good luck


  • by turgid ( 580780 )

    I'd say it's an excellent occupation for retirees. After all, anything that fills your time that doesn't involving driving around at 45 miles per hour in your Nissan Micra on the public highway, or taking all lunch-hour to cash your pension at the post office, is surely a benefit to society.

  • That's the first point I would make. If you like hardware then a CS AI pursuit might be robotics. You would probaby need a phd to pursue it seriously. If you just want to do some programming I would say find an OSS project, or create one, and do it as a hobby. Do not, however, get caught up in commercial software develoment as that would make your retirement very unpleasent.
    • by Shados ( 741919 )
      Well, the awkward thing is, while for every definition of it, Computer Science is indeed != Programming, in the common vocabularies lately (including in schools!), it is. Its sad, and it annoyes me, but we can't do much about it. A lot of (even prestigious-ish) universities call their Software engineering courses "Computer Science", or have software engineering classes as part of the CS department. (Almost) all companies that are looking to hire programmers fetch computer science graduates, etc. There is a
      • by pyite ( 140350 )
        Awkward too, since that makes for a lot of CS majors who don't really use what they learned, and a lot of underqualified software engineers.

        It's so true. I'm an engineering applied sciences major (left MechE after I decided that the MechE curriculum didn't allow me to take as many math classes as I wanted to). I had always maintained and was somewhat pedantic about the programming/computer science difference. After taking a software engineering class in EE/CompE department, I came to understand the even fur
        • by Shados ( 741919 )
          Indeed. The problem stem from the fact that people think (rightly so) that one should be taught generic concepts as to not be died to a certain environment. Which is great, but then they pushed it too far. Its possible to come out of some of the top CS schools (from which Microsoft, Google, IBM, you name it, hire a TON of people for programming jobs) without even knowing what a design pattern is.

          Because of that, currently at my job Im quickly becoming the guru of software developement, even though I just ha
          • Interesting thoughts, and I agree with you: software development isn't being taught (well). The problem as I see it is that the mediocre developers get their degrees and leave for a company. Like you did, very few of those actually get to grips with proper software development. Unfortunately, the people ending up teaching software development have even less affinity and experience with software development than your average programmer.

            After having completed an AI degree and wrapping up a CS degree with a

          • It is very common for people in IT/programming to believe they are the top shit. I'm not saying you are or you aren't, but I'm just saying is all.
            • by Shados ( 741919 )
              You're absolutely right! God thing I specifically said I wasn't good, else some people might get the wrong idea. Oh, wait...
              • Oh sure, 'it's not that you're good, it's just that everyone else is worse'. Yeah, everyone else is worse. Do you also think everyone has it in for you?
      • ... aside for the minority who come out of high end schools and are lucky to find a job as a computer scientist (where they most likely wont do -any- programming), virtually all computer science graduates end up programmers.

        They do? I have a CS degree, and despite spending a lot of time coding in college, I don't do much of it today. Other than hacking a little HTML and PHP, my job is mostly system administration, network maintenance, training, support, and building the occasional system out of spare par

        • by Shados ( 741919 )
          My apologies, my point was that they didn't end up as computer scientist. I mistakenly dumped all non-"pure CS" jobs in the programming category. Silly me. I had in mind, when I posted, my fiancee's school (she went to CMU), where in the last batch of data they have, something like 80% of the students got hired for software engineer position. Half of the rest was like (going from memory) related jobs, a few like you in admin and whatsnot, then you have 1-2 that do actual CS (My numbers are wrong, because I
          • Ah. I understand now. But I suspect the same pattern applies to most academic disciplines: you get a minority who go on to further develop that field of knowledge, and the majority go on to actually do something practical. :)
  • by heretic108 ( 454817 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:45PM (#17874898)
    Some keys to success:

    2. Confine yourself (at least 80%) to work that you actually love. If you commit to doing stuff you don't enjoy, you'll be very prone to burnout.

    4. Be independent, find and exploit market niches; your independence can give you an operational agility long lost by larger outfits. If you keep your overheads down, you'll have good margins on all kinds of enjoyable 'nickel and dime' jobs, and be very competitive against larger operators.

    6. Always keep your eyes open to gaps in the market

    7. by d2_m_viant ( 811261 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:56PM (#17874982)

      Is Computer Programming a Good Job for Retirees?

      Should I begin preparing for a post-retirement career in computer science? science != programming
    8. If you're over 50 it's tough enough to find a programming job even when you are highly qualified. I don't think very many companies would be interested in hiring you unless they make a practice of hiring retirees for other jobs in the company.
    9. by quizteamer ( 758717 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @02:59PM (#17875002)
      I know you mentioned that you have two Masters. Assuming that they are in a technical field, have you considered teaching? Many community colleges hire part time people who have come out of industry and have the proper degrees. It is tough work, but can be rewarding with a good group of students. I wouldn't suggest High School work (the Certification process is lengthy and it isn't part time work), but teaching programming at a local school could be an alternative to a job in programming.
      • Let me second this post. Not everyone has the temperament for teaching, of course, but if you do, then small technical colleges and night schools are a terrific environment for part-time teaching. Coming in cold, they would probably want you to teach some kind of "Computer literacy" course (or perhaps some application-specific training course like "MS-Office for Beginners") just to see how you teach, before they turn over a programming class to you; but IMHO it's a great experience.
    10. by Anonymous Coward
      A resounding NO! You see, some of us are finishing up school, and about to enter the workplace, and um... yea just don't do it! The following code snippet might explain: //please set the following flags:
      if (this.getAge() 23) {
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gangien ( 151940 )

        //please set the following flags:
        if (this.getAge() 23) {

        Horrible code.

        • You should explain why you'll be setting stuff not asking someone to set it.
        • Why are you using the this reference?
        • The method names should really be given the "set" prefix.
        • Don't use magic numbers, that "23" should be at least a constant. Maybe even better would be a property (or the equivalent for whatever language
    11. by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @03:32PM (#17875320) Journal
      After my father "retired", i.e. told his company he was retiring and wanted to start taking his pension, he worked there as a consultant full-time for a year or two before cutting back to half-time, and it took him a couple of years to _actually_ retire. But he was a research chemist, and research is the kind of thing you can do part-time.

      Professional programming usually isn't part-time work, at least if you're working for a company that's producing a product to sell as opposed to doing in-house projects to support other activities. It's typically feast-or-famine schedule, with the usual deadline crunches. Now that the 90s boom is over, there may be less of the 80-hour-week-deathmarch kind of thing going on, and programmers may be more likely to have lives rather than being 25-year-olds with an infinite tolerance for caffeine, but that still tends to be the environment.

      So if you want to work part-time, you'll need to look a bit longer for a gig than if you want to be full-time. On the other hand, if you want to work occasional full-time gigs, then contract/temp work does fine for that. Or if you want to do sysadmin work, that's often flexible about schedule.

    12. by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @03:43PM (#17875440)
      The enterprise IT world *needs* people with mature attitudes.

      I'm a sysadmin, not a programmer so this may come across off-topic, but there is a lesson to be learned with respect to mature vs *cough*immature*cough* people in the world of IT.

      Most of the people working in this area at the moment are very young and enthusiastic. Thats not a bad thing in itself; its bad when they start 'playing' with systems on which other peoples livelyhoods depend.

      They are often people who think its ok to introduce fascinating new technologies into the enterprise machine room because they *love* to tinker with shiny new stuff "ooooh Linux iscsi on all our servers! Wheeeee!!!".

      Its bad when you have IT professionals who so love fixing computer problems that they don't mind being woken up by a pager at 3am; for them its a wonderful opportunity to wrestle with a computer problem.

      The mature attitude says that computers should not wake people with a 3am pager call; they should not go wrong in the first place. It says that you should not introduce bleeding-edge technologies into important systems. It says that stability and reliability are very important.

      Same sort of thing applies to coding I guess, but not being a coder, take no notice of me.
      • The enterprise IT world *needs* people with mature attitudes.

        I totally agree with everything you mentioned. Our company tends to be very bleeding-edge; the sysadmins I work with want to install every single new technology the day it goes beta. It's encouraged in the name of "innovation", which I agree with. However, people need to learn to build stable systems that don't die unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Ripping out Solaris in favor of Linux? Fine, just make sure it's rock-solid and thoroughly te
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          the sysadmins I work with want to install every single new technology the day it goes beta. It's encouraged in the name of "innovation", which I agree with.

          What you have to do when talking with management about such issues, is to liberaly use such words and phrases as "untried", "untested", "unproven", "not ready for the enterprise".

          You have to make sure that the people above you are made totally aware that if they settle on some unproven solution that any downtime or other problems that result will be thei
      • by CptNerd ( 455084 )
        I just wish the people in charge of hiring understood this. I'm into month 6 after my last contract, and all I get is la-de-da and "we'll contact you when my hiring manager give the okay" and "oh, that project was put on hold" and "well, we can only pay $30/hour for a senior developer (which I would take in a hearbeat now, BTW). The positions I'm seeing claim to want senior people, which would imply may years experience, but they're unwilling to pay more than entry-level or slightly better wages for that
    13. Programming at 50+ (Score:5, Interesting)

      by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @03:45PM (#17875468)
      It is working for me. I started programming after working in chemical R&D for 25 years partly because I felt it was a less demanding career, and one that has more flexibility when I got to retirement. I started programming in early 2000 as a Perl web developer for a small boutique consultancy, learned Java, PHP and a few other things on the job, and for the past year or so have been working as an architect for a mid-sized company. I am 57 years old now. One thing that has been a big factor in my success is simply being able to communicate in English. There are a lot of good programmers out there who for one reason or another can't translate what they do into a coherent sentence. Another thing that has been helpful is a strong educational background - when you are in the job market it really opens a lot of doors even if you are an older person.

    14. by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @04:00PM (#17875566)
      Here's the problem with programming and IT jobs in general. The people actually doing the work tend to be young. I'm 31, and I'm already starting to see the shift in opinions of my work as a sysadmin. (You know you're old when people out of school have never seen a command prompt before...)

      I'm guessing this will change as the profession matures. However, today is not a good day for older workers in the tech field. Too many people don't realize the value of life experience. Also, employers don't want to hire older workers because they're afraid they won't be able to keep up with younger peers. Older workers also demand higher salaries, which IT is not willing to pay in most companies.

      I agree that retirement is going to be a lot different for our generation. I really can't see myself on a golf course every day or working as a greeter at Wal-Mart. Hopefully the tide will shift a little. I already see businesses less willing to put up with IT failures caused by "new, cool" systems. Maybe a little standardization and movement towards a "information systems engineering" profession will help.
    15. Academia (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Saturday February 03, 2007 @04:20PM (#17875766) Homepage Journal
      I would suggest you take an academic programming job -- it'll probably be more intellectual and better paced for your interests. Academia tends to be better for people who have broad job interests/skills than the private sector, and the retirement benefits will be better as well.
    16. by stonewolf ( 234392 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @05:49PM (#17876442) Homepage
      I have a masters in CS, 30+ years programming experience, lots of business knowledge. You name it, I pretty much have it. I was laid off on my 49th birthday. That was 5 years ago. I can not buy a paid programming job. The only serious contact I have had in the last 3 years was with a company in India that was desperate for experienced people. Moving to Bangalore is not an option for me right now. The contract market has dried up.

      I work on open source projects. I do some writing. I took the courses and passed the tests so that I can teach in the public schools. I haven't been able to find a job there yet. There are a lot of people like me chasing too few teaching jobs. I do teach part time at the local community college. But, very few people in the US are interested in learning programming right now. I have only had 6 students in the last 3 semesters. I teach and code when I can. I was thinking about going to law school. But I do not have the money and I would have to move which is not an option right now.

      So, all I can say is good luck with that.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        I also had a similar experience. After a major company layoff I tried to find contract gigs since at 45 I wanted a little break; basically a part time job or work half a year and then take a few months off. There were no jobs like that out there. I think that ship sank with the tech bust. Only the typical 60+ hours a week salaried jobs existed, and even those were hard to come by.
        So I do not think you can really be a retiree computer programmer unless you are willing to do charity work for a school or open
      • First off, good luck yourself.

        Perhaps my perspective could help. I only have a few lowely AAS degrees combined with credits toward the CS. I've been at my current job, apps programmer for about 5 years, and had pretty much the same job for 3 years at a different company before moving. Most of the jobs I have applied for, and the 2 I have taken have been with small-medium size companies. The demand for programmers at these companies is very overlooked. Especially in manufacturing shops. Companies that

        • Hey, Thanks for the info.

          I would jump at a job like those you describe. Almost all my experience has been in small start up companies. I have worked at 5 start up companies. I have actively been looking for companies like that. I have been turned down for those jobs and the reasons are usually that 1) I am over qualified, i.e. they assume I will leave at the drop of a hat and 2) I am over 50.

          The second one can be a killer for small companies. First off, they usually believe that you have to very young to be
          • Well, then they have yet to learn their lessons. Wait till they pay a vendor or contractor to do something for them only to find they get little or no support, or extremely overpriced support. We've proven many cases where having an in-house programmer can be much cheaper than buying or contracting software. Especially when you have to employ a full time DBA to manage an overly complex application that you are already paying liscensing and support costs for.

            But I do know that second one is a killer. I

    17. by ishmaelflood ( 643277 ) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @06:17PM (#17876678)
      The competition from Sudoku-playing denture-suckers should reduce the wages for this essentially clerical job down to a realistic level. Their maturity will ensure that they need less admin than the whippersnappers, so wages for IT managers should drop as well.

      Sadly, since they will tend to drop dead during a project, the lost art of commenting code will need to be reintroduced. In order to make sure that this gets done each senior citizen/coder will be assigned an unemployed baby-face, who will make cups of tea, issue pills, and remind them not to dribble on the keyboard. Every hour the baby-face will insist that the old codger comments the previous hour's work, and archives it.

      One day the fossil will collapse across the desk, at which point the baby-face will push the body to one side, and take over the programming job. She, in her turn will be assigned a baby-face.

      • by mikael ( 484 )
        Sadly, since they will tend to drop dead during a project, the lost art of commenting code will need to be reintroduced. In order to make sure that this gets done each senior citizen/coder will be assigned an unemployed baby-face, who will make cups of tea, issue pills, and remind them not to dribble on the keyboard. Every hour the baby-face will insist that the old codger comments the previous hour's work, and archives it.

        I thought that was called "Extreme Programming"?
    18. Perhaps it's an American language thing, but I've never understood how someone can be retired and still have a job - to me retirement means stopping work and getting a pension, if you start working again then you're no longer retired.
      • by mikael ( 484 )
        Many companies have (or had) final pension schemes where the monthly payment was based on an average of the salary of the last few years wrorked.
        Usuallly, the pension scheme had a minimum number of years service (and in come cases a compulsory retirement age). Once a person retired, they are
        free to do what they like with the money. Many people would find second incomes through hobbies like antuque dealing - go through the second hand
        stores looking for items of value to be traded on Ebay.
    19. I'm 51 now, I've been programming for twenty-two years. I expect to keep programming till the day I drop, because I don't have a pension (my own choice). But the industry thinks it wants young people, and doesn't value experience. And it particularly won't value experience which you have gathered as a hobbyist. Having said that I don't think it's impossible. Experience genuinely is valuable.
    20. You could always devote your time to programming open source software. Maybe get involved with sourceforge, or helping with bug patches, rather then programming for a company.
    21. Go for it.... (Score:3, Informative)

      by humblecoder ( 472099 ) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @01:27AM (#17879040) Homepage
      It's not clear whether or not the original poster will be needing to work for the money, or whether the income will be just a nice retirement bonus.

      If you don't need the extra income, then there are no shortage of outlets where you can "scratch" your programming "itch". Contribute to an open-source project (or start your own), write some useful piece of shareware, write some business applications for your local non-profit organization, teach programming at a community school, etc. None of these avenues will provide much income (if any), but it does allow you to take your hobby to the next level.

      If you are looking to actually make money out of your hobby in retirement, my advice would be to leverage your pre-retirement vocation. There is a branch of software development known as "embedded programming", which is writing software for special-purpose hardware devices. As a hardware engineer, you probably have a lot of knowledge that would be very attractive to a potential employer. Also, you probably have contacts from your hardware days who might be able to help you land a job in this area.

    22. TEACH (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dukebytes ( 525932 ) <> on Sunday February 04, 2007 @04:31AM (#17879652) Homepage
      I am 40 years old. Been working my butt off for 23 of them... When I hit 50+/- I plan on going to a nice little community college and teaching for "retirement".

      Like me, you sound like you won't be happy at all not working. I really can't think of myself as being out of a job, not even when I am 60+. So I plan on teaching.

      You have the required education, and just so much more real world knowledge than 80% of the instructors out there today. PASS IT ON. I have taught part time in the past on and off for 5/6 years. It is a lot of fun, it keeps you sharp and the students love you because, you are for real and not just from a book.

      If you code after you retire, it will get to be another full time job and who wants to deal with dead lines, time lines, requirements, and boneheads that don't know what they are talking about etc... Doesn't sound like retirement to me... If you go the teaching route, maybe a few bad ass kids in the bunch here and there, but everything else is set up, its not that hard and can be a blast.

      You won't make a lot of money, but pick a good open source project and code for it as a hobby, and go teach to make a little cash and really feel good about helping all the young geeks out there ;)


    23. If you have a passion, follow it. You will find others with your passion, and with their help find a way to continue with your passion. It does not hurt to just show up someplace that has an interest for you, offer them your services, probably as 'part-time' since you are retired you are very flexible with pay and hours.

      As an employer, I do prized a good skill set, although, I must say skill set is nothing if a person has no passion to work.

      Ha! I used to drop off resumés at various biz's untill I fou
    24. AFAICT it's not been said yet - perhaps most of the programmers here assume you already know, or haven't really considered it yourself.

      In the real world, software development is frequently boring.

      Sure, solving problems is fun. But 70-80% of the time, the things you're working on are something like:
      • Debugging code - either your own or someone elses. If you find this boring or monotonous, software development probably isn't for you.
      • Trying to make sense of other people's code. A lot of college courses don't
    25. Contribute to a OSS software project [], or start one of your own. Think of it as an on-line resume, if you ever want to get a real job. Meanwhile, hone your skills, join a community and contribute to society.

    I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken