The Workplace is a Safe Haven for Boomers

By Carrie Rossenfeld

IRVINE, CA—After the recession and recent 401k and stock-market shakeups, many Baby Boomers are grateful to remain in the workforce longer than they had originally planned, RETS Associates’ principal Jana Turner tells exclusively. As we reported last week, a new survey from the real estate recruiting firm of more than 120 diverse Baby Boomers who work in real estate reveals that they were more affected by compensation loss than job loss during the Great Recession. More than one-third of respondents reported that the personal financial impact of the recession will delay their retirement, and 23% of those surveyed indicated that they plan to work at least 10 more years due to the financial hardships caused by the severe economic downturn. In fact, the vast majority (84%) of Boomers plan to keep working part-time after retiring, either for need or enjoyment. We spoke with Turner about Boomers continuing to work and how this demographic views the workplace. How are working Baby Boomers approaching the workplace now that many of them have been forced to delay retirement?

Turner: It varies from one end of the spectrum to the other, depending on their personal situation—whether they have aging parents or younger kids, this all plays a role. Everyone’s life is changing in that we’re all living longer than previous. Some are forced to work longer because of the economic downturn, but maybe some of them are looking at it as a blessing. Depending on how the economy does, 10 years in the latter part of their working life could be made up of part-time work. Many Baby Boomers will work part-time by choice after retiring.

In talking with so many Baby Boomers, I’ve seen that they have a fear of the unknown after their working life ends. Our generation was so “work, work, work, keep your head down” that we lost the ability to have a balance with extracurricular activities. People are like, “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” Our parents traveled, did charity work or volunteer work after retiring, but for Baby Boomers this is a really scary time. The workplace is very safe for a lot of people. With 50 being the new 30, are people purposely delaying retirement because they enjoy working and contributing to society in this way?

Turner: Yes, I think they’re more active. It goes back to that little bit of lack of balance. Hard workers really gave a lot to their careers, and the thought of stepping out of that into a whole new life is scary. I don’t see the type of work they do really changing—it depends on the person—but we see a lot of more people who are 55 or older looking to take a risk and make a change. People have a long run in them and are willing to make that bet, especially if there’s financial gain. How else is compensation loss resonating among the Baby Boomers?

Turner: Just like everybody else, they have to do more with less. Lifestyles are changing quite a bit; people are not as liberal in spending and investments as they used to be. They have a more diversified investment portfolio that’s more conservative. They’re not buying brand-new homes, although there will always be those folks who love toys and are risk takers, but people in general are much more conservative in their approach to spending and investments now. This goes for employers, too. As the Baby Boomers age, they have achieved a financial position they have earned based on their tenure in the business, and many clients whose budgets have been affected are not willing to pay that. If there are two candidates, they will take the less-costly alternative, and that’s usually someone on the younger side. What else should our readers know about this survey?

Turner: The one thing we found very interesting in our survey is that majority of folks did not become unemployed during the recession, but it affected their compensation or investments. A lot of firms were asked to do more with less. And this is just a commentary from a Baby Boomer who went out of the workforce: There is life after your career. There are great part-time opportunities; great philanthropic work and you can pay it forward. Now’s the time to give back. Article – The Workplace is a Safe Haven for Boomers