To work or not to work.
This is the question baby boomers frequently have to face, as many of them are now forced to consider joining the nation’s retirement ranks. Even those with a sizable nest egg will have psychological and social adjustments to make. Here’s why.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy (averaged out for both sexes) was 61.7 in 1935, the year that President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law. As of 2010, life expectancy is 78.7. Let’s face it — with almost eighteen additional years in front of them, boomers simply need things to do, and according to all indications, they want to work. The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) recently released its FastFacts report, citing that the labor force participation rate among people close to or beyond retirement age — age 55 and older — is at the highest level it's been for the entire period the report has been published (1975 to 2010).
The drop-out rate for this age group is considerably lower than that for much younger people. You can interpret the report in a variety of ways. For one thing, those who have worked for a much longer time have refined their job skills and are less vulnerable to being fired. For another, some baby boomer retirees simply need the money. In a tepid economy, many are faced with the financial burden of adult children who still live at home, or who still depend on them for material support. They may have pensions that have failed to keep pace with inflation. What’s more, yields on stocks and 10-year treasury notes have sunk to about 2% not exactly ample income support for a retiree.
Regardless of their economic situation though, many leaving the official workforce merely want to be of value. But employers are not exactly beating the path to the door of 60-and-70-year-old job hunters. The good news is that new retirees no longer feel the need to reinvent themselves in orthodox ways. Many now feel up to pursuing the “insecure careers” they preferred but shied away from in their youth: entrepreneurs, authors, voice-over actors, administrators and development managers for non-profit agencies.
An October 21 USA Today feature article offers numerous examples of retirees who have opted for “encore careers.” Take the case of Yuval Zaliouk, 74, co-owner of YZ Enterprises in Toledo, who retired from a career as conductor of the Toledo Symphony in 1989 to make and sell cookies he developed from his grandmother's recipe.
Or David Roll, 72, who switched from a career as a Washington, DC, lawyer 10 years ago to become an author, historian and founder of Lex Mundi, a “non-profit agency that finds pro bono lawyers for social entrepreneurs around the world.”
The great thing about encore careers is that retirees can often feel more inclined to do the very things they always wanted to do, as opposed to what a family member expected of them when they were young. And now they know themselves better, and can more easily approach a new venture with verve and with an attitude of nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Zailouk offers heartfelt encouragement to the boomer looking to start an encore career. “It’s really a question of courage,” he says. “In America, there’s nothing that can stand in your way.”