You’ve probably heard the familiar statistic that 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. And even though many of today’s boomers are working well past 65, the fact is that the leading edge of that post-World War II population bulge is now well into their 70s. What happens as these experienced workers retire? A lot of U.S. companies are asking themselves that very question.
Boomer Retirement is “Upending the Workforce”
We just read a pair of articles on the topic of boomer retirement, each painting a different picture of this demographic phenomenon. Recently we discovered this Washington Post article on the subject of baby boomer retirement, and it helped bring into clearer focus the problems companies are going to face as their well-trained 55-plus workers start to retire and head for the exits. “Baby boomers upend the workforce one last time,” the article is titled. “As boomers enter their final years in the workforce, their retirements are taking companies by surprise.” According to the Washington Post report, “In the next five years, almost three-quarters of the companies surveyed in 2018 by Willis Towers Watson, a risk-management and insurance brokerage company, expect to face significant or moderate challenges from late retirements.” The biggest concern: how to replace all that skill and expertise.
But maybe these employers are worrying unnecessarily – or, at least, that’s how they might feel after reading this MarketWatch article from a few months back. “Retirement isn’t for everybody — or at least not every baby boomer,” the article states. “The generation closest to retirement isn’t ready to leave the workforce.” That’s according to a poll of 1,500 workers between 54 and 72 years of age conducted for Express Employment Professionals by the Harris polling firm. “Some have decided to extend their careers [while] others are dipping their toes into retirement by shifting to part-time work,” says MarketWatch. “And then there are the retirees who decided they wanted to come back to work after all.”
(For a very recent related article on the AgingOptions blog, click here to read about the concept of phased retirement. It’s a good idea, but few employers offer it – not yet, at any rate.)
Boomer Retirement is a “Moving Target”
In the Washington Post article, writer Andrew Van Dam explains some of the variables that have human resource managers worried when it comes to the topic of baby boomer retirement. For one thing, the age when the average boomer plans to quit fulltime work is all over the map. “Boomer retirement dates are a moving target,” writes Van Dam. “Record-breaking shares of Americans plan to work longer.” Back in 1995 when the Gallup organization first started asking workers at what age they planned to retire, only about one in eight said they expected to work beyond 65. Today that number stands at 41 percent. To make matters worse, many workers hesitate to tell their employers when, or if, they plan to retire. “They may not know themselves,” the Post reports. “Even if they do, they may be reticent to discuss their financial situation or make themselves vulnerable to replacement by committing to a retirement date with their employer.”
The two articles we read seem to paint a much different picture of just why so many boomers are delaying retirement. “A lot of the older workers are working primarily because of financial need, not because they’re fulfilled with their job,” the Post reports, quoting an official involved with the Willis Towers Watson survey. But the MarketWatch article chooses to accentuate the positive. In the Express Employment Professionals survey, about a third of study participants said they planned to work past 66, many for reasons of personal and professional satisfaction. “The desire to extend their careers might have to do with how these boomers feel when they are in the office,” said the article: “Half or more of those who were still in the workforce said it made them feel knowledgeable, confident and valued.”
Boomer Retirement is Eluding Many who Must Keep Working
Still, the picture for those remaining in the workforce past traditional retirement age is not all rosy. MarketWatch also reported that some of the participants in the study worried they would never be able to retire, an outlook that made them feel “frustrated, overwhelmed and old.” Some workers have to keep a paycheck coming just to make ends meet or to cover medical expenses. “Many Americans are not financially prepared for retirement,” says the article. “One in five [Americans] have no savings at all, according to a 2018 Planning and Progress Study by Northwestern Mutual. Of the baby boomers surveyed, a third had between $0 and $25,000.”
As we read these two articles, the bottom line for us seems pretty clear. If you’re an employer with a large number of workers approaching retirement age, you need to prepare for a coming “brain drain” even if you’re not sure when or if those workers plan to retire. If you’re an employee, especially one with solid, necessary skills, your expertise just might give you the leverage to negotiate the kind of “glide path” to retirement that we described last month on the AgingOptions blog. In either case it’s pretty clear that, once again, baby boomers are rewriting the rules – this time the rules about if and when to retire.
Boomer Retirement: If, When and How
Deciding the questions of “if” and “when” to retire may largely be up to you, but if you want to know the “how” of retirement, you’ve come to the right place. Here at AgingOptions our strategy for comprehensive retirement planning is called LifePlanning, because we really do help you plan for all the vital elements of retirement life: financial security, legal protection, medical coverage, housing choices, and family communication. These “puzzle pieces” all have to fit together to create the right kind of retirement plan, and with a LifePlan, they will. Come find out how, at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar with Rajiv Nagaich. He’ll explain the philosophy behind LifePlanning and he’ll answer your questions – then the next step will be entirely up to you. These popular seminars are free, and there’s one coming up near you. Simply visit our Live Events page for a current calendar of available dates and locations and register online for the one that works for you.
Whether you’re retiring next week or in 20 years – or even if you’re already retired – you’ll want to attend a LifePlanning Seminar with Rajiv. We’ll look forward to welcoming you soon. Meanwhile, age on!