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How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Don’t believe the “retirement crisis” hype. Older workers are transforming the US economy.

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Will retiring baby boomers bankrupt Social Security and Medicare? Are millions headed for a disastrous retirement with inadequate savings? Economics writer Chris Farrell thinks not. In this engaging, optimistic report, he shows that US workers are staying on the job longer – which fuels growth and infuses the economy with “entrepreneurial energy.” With powerful stories of people who reinvented their careers in their 60s and 70s, Farrell shows how older workers are transforming their lives and the workplace. He deals briefly with the plight of low-wage workers and argues for policies to strengthen their safety net. Farrell’s insights about “unretirement” are a refreshing change from the usual predictions of a Social Security meltdown and a “retirement crisis.” getAbstract recommends his reportage and suggestions to policymakers, human resources directors and those on the cusp of what perhaps should no longer be called the “retirement years.”


From the Golf Course to the Start-Up

Retirement conjures up images of saying good-bye to one’s co-workers at around age 65, moving to a sunny state and playing golf. Increasingly, that image no longer holds true. Many of today’s older workers elect to remain in the workforce longer. Some stay with their companies, some try “encore careers” and others start their own businesses. Today, as many as 60% of older workers who leave a full-time career move into part-time work, do freelance tasks or take a “bridge” job. Some worry they haven’t saved enough for retirement. Looking to make a difference, others turn longtime passions into new careers. This is the picture of “unretirement” – working a few years longer and then doing something different, but rarely deciding to do nothing at all.

At one time, many US workers had to retire at age 65. “Mandatory retirement” ended for most jobs in 1986. The idea would make little sense today when older workers are healthier and better educated than in the past, and jobs often don’t require a lot of physical labor.

Postponing retirement brings financial benefits. Delaying retirement from age 62 to age 70 reduces your “required...

About the Author

Chris Farrell, author of The New Frugality, reports on economics for American Public Media’s Marketplace. He is a contributing editor of Bloomberg Businessweek and a commentator for Minnesota Public Radio.

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    W. K. 9 years ago
    From the abstract the aim of the book is unclear. Is it addressing persons close to their retirement, or politicians? In line with that the base of reasoning switches from individual experiences to some well chosen statistics. It does not feel very systematic. Just a source of inspiration: other paths are possible. Would it also work for the less educated?
    The book is strongly embedded in the US context. Some expressions really require explanation (401 (k)).
    It is not very useful to take away the trivial: "unretirement means different things to different people".
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    S. C. 9 years ago
    Seldom heard optimistic view; makes you stop and think of the possibilities vs. the typical Fear the Future rhetoric.
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    J. G. 9 years ago
    Why does it say on this screen "The summary that you selected has been sent! You will be able to access it on your Amazon Kindle in just a few minutes." But when I go to my Kindle app, it is not there. I've tried searching by title and by abstracts.