Career concerns for working baby boomers in design
Friday, May 03, 2019
This year, the last ripple of baby boomers, those born in 1964, turn 55. In two years, the vanguard, those born in 1946, will turn 75. Traditionally, these are the peak retirement years.
But times have changed, and many baby boomers find themselves faced with the prospect of being financially unprepared for a retirement that could last 20 to 25 years or longer. If you are a working baby boomer, what should you do?
Demographers point out that between 2011 and 2029, some 10,000 baby boomers each day will reach age 65, what used to be the threshold to receive full Social Security benefits.
However, due to changes in the law, most of those boomers now are not eligible for full Social Security benefits until age 67 or possibly later. And if they can hold out until they reach age 70, those benefits can be as much as two or three times higher. That’s a big incentive to keep working.
In addition, boomers in the past couple of decades have headed sandwich households comprised of their children and aging parents or other older relatives. Plus, they took a severe hit on their retirement savings, if they had any, and home values during the last recession.
For those and other reasons, such as needing healthcare coverage or other benefits, some 40 percent of boomers plan to remain in the workforce well past age 65. They simply cannot afford to retire, even if they want to.
Currently, with employment at near full capacity and an experience gap at the mid-management level, older workers are at a premium. A recent article in Barron’s reported on ways employers are increasing benefits or accommodating older employees to retain their valued experience and knowledge, such as offering part-time positions, helping them transition gradually to retirement, or reassigning them from management to consulting roles.
That scenario likely will begin to change two years or so from now if, as projected, the economy enters another recession, Gen Z begins to expand the labor pool, and Gen Y and millennial workers move into more senior positions. Firms looking to economize or downsize may view older employees who are not driving sufficient revenues as a liability or simply not a good cultural fit. Boomers wanting to work past age 65 will need to validate their worth in other ways.
Yet, as we are seeing in my firm, a number of older designers have not taken steps to keep themselves employable, whether they are working for an employer or own their firm. Many have neglected their professional development or not kept up their technical skills, relying on younger employees to perform those tasks.
Some are not willing to accommodate themselves to the cultural changes happening in the workplace. Sole practitioners and owners who are seeing their pool of long-term clients dwindling are struggling but, after years of being self-employed, are reluctant to work for someone else or give up control of their work schedules.
These, of course, are general trends. Each individual’s situation is different. Still, if you are a working baby boomer, you should be planning ahead for what may come next.
Should you be considering transitioning toward retirement and, if so, what do you need to do to have financial security once you no longer are getting a regular paycheck? Is there coaching, training, education, or experience you can get now to make you more employable in the future? Or, is there another line of work or business you can shift to that may be a better fit at this time of your life?
Don’t wait for the downward trend to begin. The sooner you start preparing for your next step, the more flexibility you will have. You can look forward to the retirement you want, not the one you must settle for.
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