I went to a conference this week for people who work in what's known as "custom content." Not very long ago that was called advertising, but in this era of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, lots of old things get new names.
I hadn't been to a professional conference in a long time, and it surprised me how young everybody was. Heck, I have kids who are older than some of the stars in this business. Being a very old dog among young pups made me think about whether continuing to work past the time when many people enter retirement is really a good idea. Is it possible to remain competitive and contribute something worthwhile when you are old enough to be your co-workers' grandparent?
For most of us, retirement planning doesn't include signing up for vocational education, but maybe it should. One of the things I observed at the conference was that the only things that are really new are the tools. And while knowing how to use them is important, it's not rocket science and that knowledge doesn't substitute for talent, imagination and drive -- things that have always been keys to success and don't necessarily diminish with age.
About 20 percent of people 50 and older have no plans to retire -- ever, according to a survey conducted recently for financial services firm Charles Schwab Corp. But in order to do that, we boomers are going to have to strive to keep our skills sharp and our work product relevant. If we can do that, there's plenty of evidence that our participation in the workforce will continue to be valued.
For instance, despite the current economic slowdown, American manufacturers are concerned about the potential retirements of boomers because replacing them won't be easy -- or cheap. Advanced Technology Services, which works with manufacturers to improve productivity and profitability, calculates that the pending retirement of highly skilled baby boomer workers will cost manufacturing companies $43 million each, on average -- with nearly one in five manufacturers estimating their costs at over $100 million.
With those kinds of dollars at stake, my bet is that some old-timers will be persuaded to continue putting on their work boots and their employers will be happy to have them on the job.
So maybe we should take our cues from the advertising business and give retirement a different name. We won't be retired; we'll be rejuvenated and restored.