Working Longer is Now Cool

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It’s official: in America, land of opportunity and home of enterprise and innovation, employers large and small understand that we Americans want to work well into what was considered in the 20th century to be our “retirement years.” Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies has just published its 17th annual survey, All About Retirement: An Employer Survey, representing perhaps one of the largest and most reliable data bases on the topic and a benchmark for results over nearly two decades.

Of the results, here are the most important take-aways that reveal the transformation of work and life in America, reflecting parallel trends in countries around the globe as we all modernize, urbanize, and age:

  1. 77% of employers agree that many of their employees plan to continue working either full-time or part-time after what was considered “retirement,” which roughly translates to leaving traditional work at 65, an increasingly outdated concept altogether.
  2. 81% of employers say they are “supportive” of employees working past 65.
  3. All employers seem to recognize that we need a new definition of work for our era of longevity – working flexibly, differently and/or in different capacities.
  4. Now, to make good on these demands for a different kind of work “post retirement,” about 39% of employers offer flexible work schedules to help employees transition to retirement, and 27% encourage employees to participate in succession planning, training and mentoring. While these percentages are still a considerable gap between what employees want and, even, what employers recognize and want to offer, they’re not bad at all. This kind of massive change takes time and now that we are just at the beginning of a new era, well, it’s a great start!

Equally profound on this topic of work and retirement is the growing power of business and markets to transform how we approach the megatrend of aging. In addition to the Transamerica Report, three other very recent events indicate the shift as we pursue the $15 trillion “silver economy” opportunity. When Madison Avenue begins to get it, you know the change is here:

  1. A bank advertises the need for planning as “…if [you were] to live to 100.” A call to action based on 21st century longevity for those of us still working in mid-career. Wow!
  2. And then there’s this tear-jerker from Gillette, which seems fully to get it. Not only is the content in the best tradition of the iconic Jerry Della Femina’s Madmen’s storytelling, the use of online YouTube format is itself reflective of the game-changing character of what used to be thought of as “oh my god, all these old people and what are we to do?” Now we know exactly what to do: “Keep ‘em working and spending.”
  3. Or, how about CNN dedicating its Travel Magazine to the 55+ set? Another signal that aging is not only about healthcare and hospitals.

Connect the dots from a reimagined working life well into our 80s to the market and business transformation underway, and you begin to understand what Transamerica – and its Dutch-based parent, Aegon – and others from Bank of America Merrill Lynch to Home Instead Senior Care are telling us about employees and employers in our aging world. While there is still a gap between how much employers want to support “older workers” and what they’re actually doing, businesses know that treating the aging of society as a business strategy is both a competitive win in the marketplace and a key focus point to attract and retain talent. Welcome to our 21st Century!

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