I'm about 40 years old and I'm a software developer (with focus on Java). I was told that in my region (German-speaking Europe) companies stop hiring people over the age of 45.
I don't believe in public pension systems and assume that in order to survive when I'm old, I'll need to work until I die. It's doable because one of my ancestors also worked in an intellectually challenging job until the age of 89.
I intend to use the time until I'm 45 in order to acquire resources that will allow me to earn enough money in a role where I can continue working as long as I perform (not when some HR bureaucrats think I'm young enough).
In what occupations, niches, or roles can a 45+ person work without being discriminated because of his age?
Ideally, this niche should allow me to work remotely because I want to settle down in a rural region when I'm old. Both being an employee and a contractor is an option for me.
Below you can find my ideas on how this can be achieved. Feel free to criticize them (if one of them is terribly wrong, please tell). Note that these options are not mutually exclusive (I may use several of them at the same time).
Option 1: Pick a niche where the demand is likely to be so high that employers/customers will hire by merit
I assume that the rule "We don't hire anyone over 45" applies only, if the company doesn't need that developer badly enough. Let's say a company offers a job, and 100 qualified people stand in line for an interview. In this case, they can be picky and only hire young people.
If, on the other hand, the demand for that particular skill set is so high that their recruiters have to hunt down qualified candidates (it's recruiters who court the qualified candidates, not the other way round), then the age may be a lesser problem.
Hence, part of the solution is to
- pick a niche where the demand is likely to stay high in the coming years and
- establish myself as an expert in this niche (learn the technology and create proofs of my skills like a portfolio).
Most of my experience is with Java. I don't think I can work in Java when I'm old (see also Option 2 below for an additional reason). So I need to pick another niche.
It's primarily medium and large corporations that need Java developers. These companies also have the age-discriminating HR gatekeepers.
In contrast, anyone, from a Fortune 500 corporation to a mom-and-pop internet store needs a developer who can make their web site work properly (frontend development). I assume that smaller companies care less about my age, especially, if I work for them as a freelancer.
Another reason in favor of frontend tech: Java is an established, mature technology. There are solutions for the majority of problems.
Frontend technology, on the other hand, changes rapidly and there is a lot of chaos in this sphere. In the frontend world I can deliver additional value to the customer by helping them orient in that chaos. For example, I could blog about which technology in 2018 you should use for task X and why. Such a blog post would a) help the potential customer make a technical decision and b) promote me as an expert. In 2019 I would write another article with the same topic and it is very likely that the contents will be different (because by then the advice from 2018 would have become obsolete).
Option 2: Pick a niche in which employers/customers are used to remote work
As I said, when I'm old I want to settle down in a small village. Most companies that use Java are located in big cities and, according to my experience with German-speaking companies, 99 % of them don't like remote work (I know that in other cultures, e. g. in US, remote work is much more widespread).
My impression is that there are more frontend-related remote jobs (including freelance) than Java-related.
Therefore I could increase my chances of finding employers/customers by focusing on niches populated by more remote-friendly companies.
Note: I don't consider working for US companies remotely because of the time difference. Correct me, if I'm wrong (i. e. if you know someone in the US who successfully works with a remote developer in Europe without them both being online simultaneously for 6+ hours per day).
Option 3: Become a superconnector
This approach focuses on expanding my network. For example, if I
- contribute something valuable to a promising open-source project,
- write a valuable blog post, or
- translate some material from English to German
I'm likely to get to know new people. The more people I know, the easier it is to provide value to them by connecting two people who may be useful to each other. The more such favors I do, the more likely people will want to respond in kind and help me get jobs (or get past the age-discriminating gatekeepers).
If these efforts go really well, I may find something like a virtual user group where I would regularly hold free webinars (e. g. on topics in frontend development), provide value for the customers, and position myself as an expert (which again increases the likelihood of getting hired). This would also increase my attractiveness to potential customers despite my age.