Kathy Etscheidt is an accounts payable coordinator who’s a stickler for details within the finance department at Van Meter, Inc., in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At 77 and having worked for the company since she was 17, Etscheidt has also likely seen more changes than any other employee in its history.
On Thursday, June 13, her fellow employee-owners at Van Meter will celebrate her 60th work anniversary with cake and an open house. It’s attention that Etscheidt would rather not have, so she tries to turn it back on her employer instead.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming to work,” she says. “The culture has changed a lot over the years, and always in a positive way. They’ve always believed if you put employees first, everything else falls into place.”
At a time when more adults are working past retirement age, either by choice or necessity, Etscheidt’s story isn’t uncommon. More than 20 percent of Americans beyond retirement age are still employed – the highest percentage in 57 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Longer life expectancies, shrinking pensions and higher health insurance costs all factor in to why more seniors are choosing to delay retirement.
But what does make Etscheidt’s choice different is just that: it’s a choice. As one of roughly 500 employee-owners at Van Meter, the Employee Stock Ownership Program benefits would have allowed Etscheidt to retire “years ago and live quite comfortably,” she says. Instead, she continues doing what she has since she was a teenager, in the same department for the same company – yet another detail that makes her 60-year work anniversary unique. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that current working Americans hold ten different jobs before the age of 40, though the longetivity varies by age.
“I tell people I don’t know how I got to be so lucky,” Etscheidt says.