Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Generation U

Generation U - meaning either "Generation Unretired" or "Generation Unable to Retire", depending on your finances represents something of an interesting development. The percentage of "older" people who remain in the workforce has risen noticeably over the last few years and is expected to rise further. Why?

The obvious reasons are:

1. numbers: the population in many developed economies is aging and will age further over the next few decades. There are simply more older people around. Consequently, seeing more older people in the workforce in absolute numbers is hardly surprising. However, this does not explain the relative proportions;

2. numbers (again): the changing mix of age groups within the workforce means, almost by definition, that there will be more employers willing to employ older workers. Discrimination laws certainly help here, but from an economic perspective there are simply more opportunities;

3. money: a combination of low savings rates, demographic and fiscal reality eroding the real value of taxpayer funded benefits, rising costs (in particular health care and, to a lesser extent, taxes in one form or another) and the impact of the financial crisis have made retirement a less certain financial proposition;

4. health: today's older generation is generally healthier than previous generations. Given the rise in obesity levels, I have to wonder if this trend will continue. A related point is that there are far more jobs available today that do not require intensive physical effort than at any time in history;

5. skill set: many of the current older generation have managed to acquire the skills needed to function effectively in today's work place. This in itself gives them more opportunities to keep working;

6. choice: yes, given the choice there are a lot of people who would prefer to keep working rather than retire. Personally, I think that most of these people need therapy.

The existence of Generation U is well documented. I can understand why people keep working when there is a financial need to do so. I can understand people wanting to keep working if they genuinely enjoy what they do more than anything else they could do if they stop working. Since I hope not to fall within the former category and, although I do not dislike my job, do not fall within the latter, I sincerely hope I never join the ranks of Generation U.

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