A growing percentage of men and women approaching retirement say they plan to continue working part time once they cross that “retirement threshold.” But as this recent article on the website NextAvenue reveals, a significant number of boomers are doing little or nothing to keep themselves employable – and as a result they may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
The article, written by Richard Eisenberg, provides a sobering reality check for the 56 percent of workers who say they plan to keep working part time after they retire. (That figure, which has been growing steadily in recent years, comes from the just-released 18th annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers.) “But,” says Eisenberg, “working in retirement may be wishful thinking, the survey revealed, given how few people are taking steps so they’ll be able to do it. And quite a few workers seem to be betting their employers will let them stay on part-time, which is anything but a certainty given current employment practices.”
The key for future retirees who have their hearts set on continuing in the workplace is preparation, something that the NextAvenue article suggests too few workers are taking seriously enough. One Transamerica official put it this way: “If workers aren’t proactive about making sure they have their skills up to date, understanding the employment marketplace and safeguarding their health, it becomes wishful thinking.” This lack of proactive preparation is going to be made even more problematic because technology is causing many jobs to disappear – especially repetitive jobs that some seniors might be counting on for part-time work. Generally speaking, the more creative and relationship-driven the job, the less prone it will be to automation, making it all the more important that future seniors take a long, hard, objective look at their skill set. The time to learn new ways of working is now, not tomorrow.
As Eisenberg points out in his article, the job market is already pretty unkind to older workers. “Finding work in your 50s and 60s is much harder than when you’re in your 20s or 30s,” he writes. For job seekers between 55 and 64 years of age, the average duration of unemployment is now about 44 weeks, according to AARP. More than one-third of the long-term unemployed (defined as those who have been job-seeking for 27 weeks or longer) are 55 years old and older.
To illustrate the disconnect between the perceptions held by many workers and reality in the minds of employers, NextAvenue’s Eisenberg includes several “reality checks” that capture the reader’s attention. A few examples:
- Nearly three-fourths of workers believe their employers support employees staying on the job after 65. The Reality Check: the steep decline in workplace participation among those over 65 suggests that many workers are engaging in wishful thinking.
- Almost half of all workers, according to the Transamerica retirement survey, anticipate being allowed to phase into retirement by staying in their job while gradually reducing hours and responsibilities. The Reality Check: the Society for Human Resource Management reports that only 5 percent of employers offer a formal “phased retirement” program. The idea of a retirement “glide slope” is still pretty uncommon.
- Roughly 50-60 percent of workers in the survey report that they are trying to make themselves more employable in the future by staying healthy, working hard, and keeping job skills up to date. The Reality Check: those percentages should be closer to 100 percent, says NextAvenue. “Opportunities for people with out-of-date skills are far fewer compared to people with current job skills. That’s a reality,” says Catherine Collinson of Transamerica. But paradoxically, the survey showed that only 4 percent of boomers said they are going back to school and learning new skills. Those unprepared for tomorrow’s job demands will be in for an unpleasant surprise as they age.
The article has other examples of the naiveté of today’s aging workers. Many assume they’ll be able to work part-time while retaining their current benefits, but that’s highly unlikely, since few employers extend benefits to part-time employees. Most of us understand that networking is a critical skill in today’s job market, yet the survey reveals that only one boomer in seven says they’re actively networking in order to broaden their list of professional contacts. And two-thirds of boomers expect to remain with their present employer in retirement, when realistically speaking they may end up changing companies, freelancing, or starting their own business in order to achieve their income goals while cutting their hours.
The key, as with so many aspects of retirement, is planning and preparation. If today’s full-time boomer expects to be tomorrow’s part-time retiree, this article provides a healthy dose of realism. In the same way, here at AgingOptions we frequently talk with people who have dreams of a fruitful and secure retirement but they’re doing little or nothing to prepare themselves for it. That’s why we urge you not to procrastinate any longer: join us early in 2018 at a free AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar featuring Rajiv Nagaich. You’ll discover that you really can preserve your assets and avoid burdening those you love as you age in a manner that suits your dreams, desires and values. With a LifePlan, your financial, legal, housing, medical and family plans and strategies all blend seamlessly together. You’ll face retirement with optimism and a sense of security that can only come from proper preparation and planning.
For more details, click here for our Upcoming Events page where you’ll find dates, times and locations. You can then register online or contact us for assistance. It will be a pleasure to meet you and to show you how joyful retirement can be, with the power of an AgingOptions LifePlan.
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)