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Think Out Loud

The Employment Boom

Is society ready for your final decades? Are you?

Questions, questions, questions.

As the oldest of the 76 million baby boomers approach classic retirement age, they, their employers, and society at large are facing many more questions than answers. For example: what happens if boomers stop working? Are there enough younger people waiting in the wings to take their jobs? (In the mining industry, one out of every four workers is over 55. In construction, according to one estimate, 50% of the workforce will retire in the next 10 years.) Are there enough funds in social security and Medicare to pay out to folks who would no longer be paying in?

On the other hand, what happens if boomers don’t retire? Are employers prepared to handle the higher pay, more flexible hours, and technical training that an older workforce may require?

And then there are questions about the work itself. Should jobs adapt as workers get older? Should employees? Should both?

We’re about to face a demographic employment shift as momentous as when women entered the workforce after World War II, our guest Mark Freedman likes to point out. Are we ready? Are you?

Are you working now — at 55, or 65, or 75 — not because you want to but because you need to? Has your likely retirement age gone up as your 401(k) investments have gone down?

Or have you voluntarily embarked on a new career at a time when your parents’ generation was wrapping theirs up — and has it given your life new meaning?

If 70 is the new 50, is a career change at 60 the new mid-life crisis opportunity? What’s your plan for your final decades? Is society ready for it?


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