Boomers – The Selfish Generation?

There is no doubt that the tight labor market has produced a battleground where many older workers are reluctant to cede work territory to younger workers. These older workers, the Baby Boomers, aged 51 – 69, are holding on – like a G.I. Joe with a kung fu grip (do they still sell those?) – to their jobs longer than ever. What does this mean for younger workers?

Many Gen Xers – those born between 1965 and 1980, my generation – often find themselves stuck in middle management as they wait for upper management and leadership positions to open up. The cohort following Gen Xers, Millennials (aka Gen Y), may have it even worse as they are struggling to just get their feet in the door … decent jobs are scarce. Many have decided to stay in college longer and go to graduate school, racking up more debt, in an effort to improve their employment opportunities and wage prospects in future years.

The Scourge of Student Debt [RetirementSavvy]

The bottom line is that Boomers are remaining in the workforce longer, Gen Xers are stuck in the middle and Millennials struggle mightily to find decent employment. The financial impacts to Gen Xers and Millennials are pretty straight forward. Fewer promotions for Gen Xers and reduced employment opportunities – and mounting student debt – for Millennials means reduced opportunities and available funds to contribute to retirement accounts for both cohorts. So the question is, “will Baby Boomers ever leave the workforce, freeing up jobs and promotions for younger workers?”

Unfortunately for Gen Xers and Millennials, I believe the answer is a resounding ‘No!’ Based on my reading of news stories and reports, conversations with friends in different industries, and observations in my own workspace, I attribute the reluctance of most Boomers to leave the workforce to one of two reasons.

First, there are a fair number of Boomers, with good jobs, who are in their prime earning years, making more money than ever. Their attitude is, “why leave?” Many are working less hard than in their earlier years and making a lot more money. They are fully aware that they longer they hang around, the more they negatively impact the ability of younger workers to get into the workforce and snag promotions. However, tweaking the words of Dylan Thomas, they simply don’t want to go gently into that good retirement.

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The second reason, and I suspect the primary reason for most, is that they simply did not properly prepare for retirement; they don’t have any other choice but to remain in the workforce. Many Boomers often state that they wouldn’t know what to do in retirement and/or they really love their job. While that is certainly true in some cases, I believe that is true only for a very small minority. Simply put, too many can’t afford to quit the 9 to 5.

So what is a Gen Xer or Millennial to do? That’s a conversation for another day. Stay savvy, my friends.

James
 

James retired in 2005 after serving 21 years in the United States Army. During the latter part of his career, James' interest in personal finance was piqued based on his own experiences and observations of the way most Americans plan – or more accurately, fail to plan – for retirement and the difficulty many face in starting the process. His most valued education has been lessons learned from personal experience and through conversations with smart, savvy friends.

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