Baby boomers have a typically revolutionary attitude about age. They resolutely refuse to allow it to define them. This can be seen in their attitude towards work. While certainly many are compelled to stay in the workforce because of losses suffered in the economic collapse, still many others want to keep working to remain vital, challenge themselves, and continue to make an impact.
A Millionaire Corner study conducted before the recession found that for many baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, retirement is a four-letter word. Three-quarters said they planned to continue working, at least part-time, beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. More than a third (36 percent) intended to work a reduced schedule, while 27 percent planned to start a new career. Twelve percent did not expect to ever retire.
A recent Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) report found that the level of workers considered close to retirement age—55 and older—is at an unprecedented level of 40.2 percent.
Nearly half of all baby boomers now work for a younger boss and a majority are older than most of their colleagues, but in an online poll conducted earlier this year by Associated Press and LifeGoes Strong.com, 61 percent said that their age was not an issue, while a quarter consider it an advantage.
In a youth-oriented culture, companies are viewing seasoned workers as an asset for their knowledge and skills. A recent Fortune story cited statistics by the AARP Public Policy Institute that in 2011, 18 percent of people over 65 worked full-time or part-time, up from 10.8 percent in 1985.
In another AARP survey of 1,000 human resource directors, 69 percent said that their companies are actively looking to keep older workers part-time and as consultants, while nearly half (46 percent) want their older workers to stay on full-time.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this, the Fortune story finds. On the plus side, keeping on more experienced workers can stem a brain drain and allow for the more expedient training of new and younger workers. On the downside, it can delay the upward professional trajectory of younger workers, who may bring with them a fresh training and “new techniques, energy, and creativity.”
The keeping on of older workers is a win-win for companies and employees, especially those hit hardest by the recession. EBRI forecasts that the upward trend in older workers will continue because of the need for access to employment-based health insurance and for more earning years to accumulate assets in retirement plans that may have been decimated by the 2007-2008 collapse.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.