Whither Retirement?

mm Bill Pace

The whole notion of retirement as a post-employment destination was essentially a creation of post-World War Two affluence and the spawning of the “Boomer” generation. As people approached and entered their sixties, they often had enough financial security to retire, especially after the creation of Social Security (in 1935) and Medicare (in 1965), which was not the case in previous generations.

Moreover, there were plenty of workers (i.e., all those Boomers) who were willing and able to take on the jobs. In fact, there was often a lot of pressure on older workers to retire to “make room for the next generation”. Ergo, the existence of forced retirement programs.

But around the beginning of this century, things started to change. As people reached their mid-careers and beyond, many started viewing “retirement” through a different lens. Instead of disengaging from the world, people in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s (and later) want and need to have stay employed. In a recent article in Forbes, Marc Freedman, the leading guru of older adults and work wrote:

“Our golden years are not what they used to be. Folks are living longer, savings don’t always go the distance between retirement and death, and even wealthy retirees are coming to the conclusion that the uncertain expanse of time after their careers come to a close can begin to seem boring and purposeless.”

Consequently, after declining significantly from 1950 to 2000, the average retirement age has increased since and is projected to increase in the future. In fact, research from Bloomberg  indicates that nearly a third of older adults intend to work as long as possible. Hence, far fewer people are retiring than in previous generations and those who do are retiring later.

Importantly, many of the people who want to keep working also don’t want to keep doing what they have been doing. Lots want to change careers, often to more meaningful and flexible work that still provides appropriate wages and at least some level of benefits. While they want to change, many are uncertain about what they want to do and how to make the shift.

While it may seem like you’re on your own in figuring out how to change your career in mid-stream, there are actually tons of great support resources out there. Freedman and others have advanced the concept and practices of “The Encore Career”. That is, a second (or third or fourth) career entered into during the second half of life. AARP has recently launched their “Life Reimagined” program, which includes work continuation components. And, ClearlyNext has made serving this segment of our population a top priority. These and other resources really can help. Check ‘em out:

Bill Pace is Managing Director of ClearlyNext, a guided online career program that helps people of all backgrounds and incomes figure out what to do next. Read more >