At least twice a week I get accosted by angry members of the younger generation who insist I’m clogging the job pipeline and have to get out of the way so they can pursue their careers, make their first million, get a promotion and kick me out of my office onto 45th Street. That’s not asking too much, is it?
My goals are modest. All I want is to collect a paycheck, pay the mortgage, enjoy an occasional piece of grilled salmon and play fetch with the dog. I never made a million, I can’t remember my last promotion and I have a cluttered desk with lunch leftovers buried beneath piles of paper.
The youngsters also complain that my generation — the notorious Baby Boomers — are destroying the Social Security System, which they fear is going to collapse on them. That’s a lot of guilt for one guy to carry around.
Times are tough for Baby Boomers, and even though we’re under a lot of pressure, I got some great news recently. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not the light you see during a near-death experience.
While I was at a presentation by a business guru, he looked into his crystal ball and saw 76 million Boomers plodding into retirement, sort of like a geriatric Woodstock, but instead of Boone’s Farm we were drinking Metamucil … and many of us were gainfully employed.
He predicted there will be jobs for us in the future because of what he called “lateral redevelopment,” which sounds like something a commercial real estate developer concocted to bring Wal-Mart to the west side of Manhattan.
The good news is there aren’t enough members of Generation X to fill jobs that require strategic thinkers who are mature and thoughtful, (namely us), so we will be “repurposed” for those positions and pick up the slack. The bad news is we’ll probably have to take a pay cut.
“With these new lateral opportunities, will we get a substantial increase in compensation?” I asked.
“No,” he promptly responded.
“What’s so good about that?”
“You won’t get fired or retired.”
We’re between a rock and a hard place because many of us are making up for years of over-spending and loss of our retirement savings.
An article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “How Companies Must Adapt for an Aging Workforce,” predicted employees will be working into their 80s and 90s in the future, and by 2050, 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over 65.
“Employer surveys commonly reveal that workers over 60 are seen as more experienced, knowledgeable, reliable and loyal than younger employees,” it said. However, “seniority-based pay sometimes exceeds performance at the latter stages of the life cycle.” That means pay cuts.
Times have changed. I can remember when my commuting buddies looked forward to retiring at 55. Many of those fantasies unfortunately came true. After they got laid off, they were forced to retire because they couldn’t find another job.
Most of us can’t afford to retire because of the bad economy, bad investments and the need to support our kids. Furthermore, many of us won’t want to stop working now that a French study showed that delaying retirement can cut the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
One possibility is to “reinvent” ourselves and become entrepreneurs. According to an AARP survey, half of the 76 million Americans over 50 who are approaching retirement want livelihoods involving entrepreneurship.
To me that always meant spending someone else’s money on a whacky idea like scented whoopee cushions. However, I’m open to any and all opportunities — nail salons, personal grooming, “Dancing with the Stars,” “Real Housewives of New Jersey” — anything. I am ready to “repurpose” and “reinvent.” Bring out the hair dye, but don’t try to take away my office.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.