Boomers: Getting older's an asset ...

Posted: April 27, 2011

WASHINGTON - Feel like the office geezer? Age may be an asset at work, or no issue at all, according to an poll.

Nearly half of those born between 1946 and 1964 now work for a younger boss, and most report that they are older than most colleagues. But 61 percent of the baby boomers surveyed said that their age is not an issue at work, while 25 percent called it an asset.

Only 14 percent classified getting older as a workplace liability.

In fact, most of those who have reached age 50 noted that co-workers seek their counsel more now than when they were younger. And a third said that their employer treats them with greater respect.

About two-thirds of poll respondents said that they were able to stay abreast of developments in their field and keep up with technology.

A small but significant group of boomers report work-related struggles that they attribute to their age. Those who earn less or have fewer savings were least likely to report satisfaction at work. About one in four boomers still working say that they'll never retire, and about the same fraction say that they have saved no money for retirement.

And some are still climbing their own learning curves: One in five boomers have been in their current field for less than a decade, the poll found.

The first post-World War II baby boomers reach 65 this year. But two-thirds say that they'll work at least part-time past retirement age for financial reasons, either because they'll need to or because they'll want extra spending money. An additional 29 percent said that they'll keep working just to stay busy.

It's an important snapshot of the nature of the nation's economic rebound at a time when the jobless rate remains persistently high. Workers from the wave of 77 million people born during the post-World War II boom are sweeping toward retirement age and beyond. Even as the economy begins to grow, the swollen workforce at the older end of the spectrum could mean fewer jobs for younger workers and those who became unemployed during the recession.

A Congressional Budget Office report released March 22 found that although boomers are expected to begin leaving the workforce over the next decade, they may also be retiring later in life than previous generations. And that could "substantially dampen growth in the labor force" through 2021, the nonpartisan CBO reported.

It's not a new trend - in fact, labor-force participation rates for workers age 60 to 69 have been rising through the past decade, CBO said. The reasons are many: Women, who tend to live longer than men, have exhibited greater attachment to the workforce than their earlier cohorts. This group's overall health is better. And a shift toward fewer jobs requiring physical strength could be a factor, CBO said.

Institutional changes in pension plans, health insurance and Social Security also give older workers more reason to keep their jobs longer, CBO said.

On the question of age discrimination, 82 percent said they have never personally experienced it in the workplace; 18 percent said they had. But that number rose to 24 percent for unmarried women and to 29 percent among boomers reporting job dissatisfaction.

The most oft-cited form of age discrimination was being passed over for a raise, promotion, certain assignments or a chance to get ahead.

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