The lovely thing about our grandparents was that they couldn’t wait to retire. The idea of taking cruises, relaxing, and otherwise not working for money seemed to thrill them (Before we paint too idyllic a picture remember there were powerful cultural forces reinforcing their movement out of the paid workforce.) Not today.
Today’s Baby Boomers (born 1946-1959) are not going anywhere other than to paid jobs anytime soon. We’ve talked before about the research suggesting Boomers will work full-time (or try to) until age 72-75. Here’s the fallout from that decision.
1. Fortysomethings are stalled in the pipeline as fifty- and sixtysomethings block the road to advancement. The fortysomethings care. They wanted to move up. The twentysomethings are planning their escape to self employment and are minimally aware that anyone wants to move up in the organization. They don’t want to and so assume no one does.
2. Boomers are just now awakening to their total lack of financial planning. “You mean I can’t live 30-40 years on $50,000 in savings and social security?” Never has the majority of Boomers had to confront the prospect of greatly reduced life styles or outright poverty. Half of Boomers are single so there will be no children to lean on. They would have hated that anyway. More than 80 percent of the Boomer’s children believe they will be financially responsible for their parents in the last 15-20 years of their parents’ lives
3. Succession planning and manpower planning are a modern-day form of crystal ball gazing. If employees won’t discuss retirement what kind of planning can take place? It’s very much like exit polls. It’s so much more fun to lie about who you voted for and try to distort the results.
4. Having used their homes at ATMs for the past 20 years, Boomers are only beginning to understand what that means financially for retirement. Property in Arizona and Florida may be cheap but if you’re mortgaged to the hilt what difference does it make? Worse: How many twenty- and thirtysomethings have the money or, more important, the interest in buying a McMansion? What could be more individual than the “dream home?”
5. Ultimately, the Boomers inability to self entertain lies at the core of continuing to work forever. All status derives from your job and your ability to consume at will. The idea of a strict budget is enough to send them searching for chemical comfort — alcohol and anti-anxiety drugs.
This leaves large companies dependent on health problems or layoffs to thin the ranks, which is a lame hope, as increasingly older population demands enforcement of all age-discrimination laws and obsesses on being healthy. When was the last time a sixty-two year old died of a sudden heart attack?
So what’s a company to do? We don’t see anyone out there thinking through the issues — much less addressing them. Perhaps that’s because the people charged with HR decisions are Boomers themselves!4
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