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Is retiring early unpatriotic?

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As for wealthy folks collecting Social Security, Stein says that's headed for extinction, too.

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"I would guess that in 20 years, there simply is not going to be any Social Security for wealthy people; that will be thoroughly means-tested, and probably should be," he says. "I mean, why should very rich people get Social Security? More and more, the whole program will be skewed toward helping poor and close-to-poor people and ignoring people who are already well-to-do."

As for the 63-year-old Stein, he has no plans to retire.

"I don't ever expect to stop working," he says. "I love my work. I don't believe there is a meaningful life without work. You're not a whole person without work."

Who will hire older workers?
Every boomer who delays retirement or starts an encore career will help offset the coming shortage of American workers, especially in areas such as education and public and social services.

The 2000 Senior Citizens Freedom to Work Act helped pave the way by allowing workers ages 65 through 69 the freedom to earn as much money as they wish without losing Social Security benefits.

But the coming worker crunch runs far deeper than a shortage of ready hands and welcoming smiles.

The problem is, companies aren't looking for older workers.

"It's not just a shortage of people who were born 18 years ago, it's a shortage of people with the skills companies need," says Melanie Holmes, vice president of world of work solutions for Manpower. "It's a combination of a warm-body shortage and a skills shortage."

Holmes says American companies are unprepared to attract and accommodate older workers or transfer the knowledge from retiring workers to their successors.

"The problem is, companies aren't looking for older workers," she says. "When we surveyed about the aging workplace in 2007, only 18 percent of the employers we talked to said they had a strategy to recruit older workers, and only 28 percent had a strategy to retain older workers."

Older workers have a wealth of job and life experience to offer employers. They tend to be more loyal and dependable too, she says.

"The main advantage is (boomers) have a work ethic," Holmes says. "When our clients complain to us about the temporary employees we send to them, it's not because they don't have the skills necessary to do the job, it's that they don't show up on time, they're not dressed appropriately, they may not treat their co-workers with respect -- all that work-ethic stuff that older workers have."

On the negative side, older workers may be set in their ways, resistant to training, less adept with technology and judgmental of younger co-workers. Employers fear the older worker will want a higher salary and cost them more in health coverage and special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Still, the number of older workers is growing, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. A boomer herself, Holmes figures her generation is predisposed to continue working in some capacity as long as mind and body permit.

"Most of us have always been workaholics," she says. "We don't want to quit cold turkey."

The challenge for business, she says, is to prepare now to attract and retain older talent before retiring boomers drain the bathtub of skilled workers.

"Are we part of the problem because we're retiring and there's going to be a talent shortage, or are we part of the solution?" Holmes says. "The answer is really 'yes' to both of them.

"When we get to the height of the baby boomers retiring, I think companies are going to be seeing a lot of knowledge and productivity walk out the door. That's when they're going to start feeling the pain. Those are the people they need to retain by offering flexible work arrangements and changing the way some of the jobs are done to compensate for the decline in our physical abilities. Companies are going to have to work hard to get people to stay."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: June 30, 2008
 
 
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