#WorkTrends: Is Retirement Outdated?

Retirement comes from the French word meaning “to isolate yourself.” But as our guest Chris Farrell puts it: “Who wants to be isolated?”

More and more, we are seeing older workers continue in the workforce or return to it. So what does this mean for our concept of retirement? Farrell joined us to break things down, and he shared with us some surprising statistics about the relationship between older and younger workers. Farrell is the senior economics contributor to the public radio program Marketplace and also the author of five books on personal finance in the economy. We’re very happy he didn’t isolate himself from us!

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

A New Way of Thinking About Retirement

The traditional idea of retiring at 65 seems to be going by the wayside. However, this may actually have positive benefits for mental health. “One of the things that the research is starting to show is that work can be good for your brain,” says Farrell. Work doesn’t just provide personal purpose, but also a sense of community. Even just gossiping while waiting in line for the Keurig machine engages our brain in healthy ways — not to mention the fact that work does require you to use your brain for the actual work you have to do.

Of course, older workers have plenty of experience for their positions. But they can also offer something else: creativity. It’s a spark Farrell says never goes away. “If you’re creative in your 20s, that creativity will be there in your later years,” he points out. Farrell uses the Oscars as an example. Think about the ages of the nominees. There’s a reason older artists often win awards — they are able to blend the lessons learned from years of practice with their creative energy, resulting in engaging pieces of work.

The Relationship Between Older and Younger Workers

With our current tight labor market, looking to nontraditional employees is more important than ever. But we often think of older workers as at odds with younger ones. The thinking goes that since older workers are more experienced, they’ll prevent younger workers from advancing in their careers.

This is a line of thinking that Farrell calls “fundamentally wrong.” He explains that younger and older workers are actually seeking completely different goals in their careers. While younger workers are studying the organizational depth chart, older workers are typically planning that next chapter. “You still want to work,” Farrell explains. However, “you probably don’t want to stay on the job for another 10.” They may have eyes on switching careers or entering a different segment of the economy — in other words, embracing a new challenge.

Also, studies have actually shown that when workers in their 20s are doing well, older ones do well, too — and vice versa. Additionally, older workers provide a mentorship role to younger workers, who also can teach their counterparts about this dadgum new technology they keep hearing about.

The Industries That Already Get It

Farrell notes that two industries are already successfully incorporating older workers — and offer lessons for those not just trying to navigate the tight labor market, but also looking for the value older workers can bring.

Surprisingly, one of the industries Farrell notes is manufacturing, which has an older-than-average workforce. Farrell recently visited Herman Miller in Zeeland, Michigan, and was especially impressed by one of the company’s programs. The company offers workers the opportunity to take 12 consecutive weeks off. Though workers are not paid during this time, they keep their retirement benefits, health care and years of service. Many of those who take advantage of the program are over 50. According to Farrell, the employees use the time to address family issues, set up a side business, or simply work on a personal project.

The second industry is healthcare. Many hospitals offer part time employment to doctors and nurses, providing the opportunity for older workers to get the psychological benefits of work — and for patients to reap the enormous benefits of an older employee’s years of experience.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Is There An “Encore” In Your Career’s Future?

I live in New York City in Midtown Manhattan, within easy walking distance of world-class performing arts venues Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Encores are highly prized and sought after in my neighborhood. When it comes to your career, or the recruiting you and your firm are doing, is there an encore in your future?

I’m not referring to curtain calls, grateful bows or curtsies, or a bouquet of roses. Who wouldn’t love any of those? I’m talking about encore careers. The Wikipedia definition is “work in the second half of life that combines continued income, greater personal meaning, and social impact. These jobs are paid positions, often in public interest fields, such as education, the environment, health, the government sector, social services, and other nonprofits.”, a non-profit organization focused on this movement describes it more succinctly as “second acts for the greater good.”

I am a walking commercial for encore careers because I’m in one and loving it. You could have one too. Your employer could also benefit greatly from accessing the talent pool of mature, mid- and late-career people who are looking for an encore, or the next phase of their working lives. According to Money magazine in The Suddenly Hot Job Market for Workers Over 50, many organizations are discovering and focusing on this population.

Here’s my story.

I spent 30 years working for two large for-profit firms, P&G and IBM. For several years, my plans have been to join an organization with a mission focused on making the world, or at least a small corner of it, a better place. I wanted to more fully live my life in service to others, with a focus on education, social justice, equality or other issues that matter to me — as a servant leader, utilizing social to engage and connect people, both passions of mine.

I was ready to make a move and start my encore career.

I considered a handful of very interesting positions, in HR and not, all found through my personal network or my Twitter feed (really).  My decision was to accept a newly created position in Alumni and Development at my alma mater doing fundraising work.

My new role is Director, Foundation Relations and Regional Advancement Officer at Transylvania University, a private, nationally-ranked liberal arts college in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

Yes, I can hear you snickering. Transylvania is Latin for “across the forest.” The college was founded in 1780 by Thomas Jefferson when he was Governor of Virginia (and Kentucky was not yet a separate state). Later President, Gov. Jefferson recommended Transylvania over Harvard back in the day, and it remains a fine institution. I continue to live in New York City, working with foundations, alumni, parents and friends in this northeast and around the country to support the liberal arts, Transylvania, making the world a better place one student and one graduating class at a time.

Is there an encore career in your, or your organization’s future? Here are a few ways to learn more, and take action.

  1. Follow encore career-related Twitter feeds, including @NextAvenue @EncoreOrg @nonprofitorgs @Idealist @IdealistCareers @cgcareers and @DRGSearch
  2. Purchase and read The Encore Career Handbook, by Marci Albohor
  3. In your recruiting, target and seriously consider mid- and late-career professionals for open positions. Help them find an encore and contribute their years of talent and experience to your organization’s success.

I plan to share more with you in this blog from time to time, on HR, work culture, social business, travel, encore careers, and connections between people and cultures. Please share my post, and let me know what you’d like to hear from me in the future. I’ll see you on #TChat!

Why Job Hopping Hurts Your Retirement

Promise of a substantial salary hike by your current employer’s rival company, wooing you for some time to join its ranks, can be really enticing. After all who does not want to earn more? But, wait! Is it all worth it especially when it has not been even two years since you joined your present work-place? Such job offers or seeming opportunities could as well be a honey-trap if you bite the bait without assessing the pros and cons of your action. Any step taken in haste may as well translate into a difficult post-retirement phase with very little savings to fall back on to meet your essential daily and old-age health and other expenses. Is, then, job hopping, such a bad thing to do when a large section of employable young and mid-career professionals these days take it as a short cut to higher salary jobs and quick rise in life? Not in the least, if one does his or her homework well and chalks out an exit plan on the basis of existing financial standing to cope with the vagaries of a life after retirement.

Don’t hop, instead save!!

It has been established now that frequent job-changes have a debilitating impact on retirement savings. A study by ‘Employee Benefit Research Institute’ concludes: In 2008 the median job period of workers in the US was 5.1 years. The figure has since come down to nearly 4.4 years, as per ‘Bureau of Labour Statistics assessment’.

Frequently job-hopping? Face the music!

  • Saving for retirement becomes difficult
  • It means moving in and out of retirement coverage. Result: small nest egg
  • In some organisations new employees need to wait before they can join retirement saving plan
  • In some organisations 401(K) match schedules are meant to reward long serving employees, for job hoppers there is little to gain
  • May have to forgo employer contribution to 401 (K): ‘Fidelity’ finding on the basis of analysis of about 500,000 retirement savers who quit jobs in 2013
  • “Chronic job hopping could really sink your retirement savings,” cautions Meghan Murphy, a director at ‘Fidelity’

What Employers Want?

  • Over one third of employers insist on employees continuing with them for at least 5 years to keep their full match: ‘Plan Sponsor Council of America’ finding.
  • About 14 per cent of employers insist workers stay with them for a minimum of 2-3 years to get any money: Plan Sponsor Council of America finding.

Damage Control:

  • Important to go through current employer’s vesting schedule related to 401(K) and profit-sharing contributions
  • Be wise: If waiting for a few more months enables you take thousands of dollars in saving then continue with the same employee till that time-frame
  • Don’t hesitate to negotiate with new employer even if not fully vested in your 401(K). Tell them how you will lose in savings if you quit now
  • Some employers may like to compensate for the loss by agreeing to pay higher salary or a signing bonus.


  • It is recommended that job hoppers sock away 10 – 15 per cent of salary each year to insulate him or her against any unforeseen financial difficulties
  • Plan your retirement well in advance
  • Ideally start saving when in your 20s

Can Self directed IRA be saviour?

  • In fact, all IRA are self-directed. So the use of word self-directed is redundant
  • IRA or ‘Individual Retirement Account’ is a type of individual retirement plan
  • Banks, brokers or similar financial institutions provide it
  • It ensures tax benefits on retirement savings for taxpayers in the US
  • Individual retirement accounts and broader category of IRA fall under it
  • A trust account is set up for the only benefit of taxpayers along with individual retirement annuity
  • Taxpayer purchase an annuity contract or an endowment from a life insurance firm
  • Self directed IRA allows IRA account holders to invest in a broader range of alternative investments such as real estate, private mortgages, private company stock, oil and gas LPs, precious metals, horses and intellectual property
  • While investing IRA assets into alternative investment it is imperative to select right self-directed IRA custodians
  • Majority of custodians dealing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds are incapable of providing proper custody to alternative investments
  • As per Internal Revenue Service (IRS) norms either a qualified trustee, or custodian, should hold the IRA assets on behalf of the IRA owner
  • Custodian of a self-directed IRA may allow account owner access to a selection of standard asset types including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
  • Account owner can invest an investment that is not barred by Internal Revenue Code or IRC

Best option!

This brings us to one pertinent question: Where should you save your retirement money? If you go by public perception based on real time experience then tax-favored IRAs and 401(k) clearly stand out as the most attractive propositions. Retirement plans allow retirees to defer taxes on the money saved and returns earned within account. This entails: contributed amount becomes tax free till one starts withdrawing it years later. In the process, more of your money earns you investment returns over a period of time.

Old Dogs + New Tricks: Will HR Learn? #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for complete highlights and resource links from this week’s events? Read the #TChat Recap: “Age Discrimination At Work: Bad Business”.)

This week, the TalentCulture community action is truly nonstop, with a trifecta of #TChat events! Let me help connect the dots between these three elements — old dogs, new tricks and HR lessons to live by:

1) HR Celebrates New Tools: Today Oct 6, TalentCulture’s intrepid founders Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman hit the ground running at this week’s HR Tech Conference — which promises to be the biggest and most mind-blowing ever. Meghan explains what all the buzz is about at “7 Hottest Trends In HR Technology.”

2) HR Learns New Tricks: Tomorrow Oct 7, LIVE from the conference, Meghan and Kevin host an Expert Roundtable Discussion on Employee Engagement. If you’re not at the conference, you can follow the action from a distance on the #TChat Twitter stream from 2:30-3:15pmPT (5:30-6:15pmET).

3) But Are “Old Dogs” Willing? Perhaps too often in today’s digitally driven workplace, it’s suggested that innovation is a young person’s game. But is that perception realistic? Is it fair? And is it even legal? Those questions inspired us to focus on age discrimination at our weekly #TChat Twitter chat, this Wednesday Oct 9.

Youth Code: Age In Today’s Workplace

If you’re familiar with TalentCulture, you know our community has no fear about taking on deeply human workplace issues. In the past year alone, we’ve explored the relationship between “thought diversity” and business innovation, we’ve considered the value of reverse mentoring, and we’ve discussed the need to remove age-related stereotypes as Millennials enter the workforce.

Now we invite you to fasten your seat belts as we take a realistic look at age discrimination, and its implications for an aging workforce. We’ll be guided by two respected HR community leaders:

Steve Levy, a prominent workforce sourcing expert and popular recruiting blogger.

Heather Bussing, an employment law attorney who is also a founding editorial advisory board member and contributor at HR Examiner.

I sat down briefly with Steve in a joint G+ Hangout to frame this topic. Watch now, and I’m sure you’ll won’t want to miss what should be a lively and helpful social learning opportunity this Wednesday on Twitter!

#TChat: Age Discrimination at Work: Perception and Reality

#TChat Twitter — Wednesday, Oct 9 7pmET / 4pmPT

This week, we’ll skip the #TChat Radio interview and jump right into the #TChat Twitter stream, with event moderator, Cyndy Trivella. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to join us as we discuss these 5 questions:

Q1: Do you see age discrimination at work? Describe it.
Q2: If a company hires or fires with age in mind, what does that say about its culture?
Q3: Which is more prevalent / problematic: discrimination of young or old?
Q4: How can we improve the perception and reality of age at work? Laws? And…?
Q5: What role can technology play in empowering older workers?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So feel free to contribute your thoughts. Please join us and share your ideas, opinions, questions, and concerns!

We’ll see you on the stream!