Boomers represent the majority of political, cultural, industrial and academic leaders in the U.S. Their departure from the workforce through retirement may cause a huge drain on the institutional knowledge, relationships, and expertise of businesses and organizations. The Department of Labor projects labor shortages in the fields of health care and nursing, education, public utilities, and engineering over the coming decade.
At the same time, concerns abound regarding the Boomers’ lack of adequate financial readiness for retirement. A McKinsey Global Institute report (2008) found that having a workforce that continues to work beyond the traditional retirement age is the only way for Boomers to prevent a decline in their own standard of living and not drag down U.S. economic growth. The report estimates that a two-year increase in the median retirement age – from 62.6 to 64.1 over the next decade – would add nearly $13 trillion to real U.S. GDP during the next 30 years while reducing by almost half the number of Boomers who would find themselves without enough money for retirement.
Extended years in the workforce, however, will not mean "business as usual" for Boomers. They will want a new phase of work – one that is purpose driven, dynamic, flexible and radically re-structured. Many may pursue lifelong dreams previously seen as unrealistic or untenable but now ideal for mature individuals seeking new challenges. Encore careers and new business ventures may flourish. Recent Civic Ventures surveys found that more than 5 million people ages 44 to 70 have begun encore careers and of those not already in encore careers, half say they want them. Whether driven by the need to work for economic security or for meaning and purpose (or both), Boomers may retire "retirement" from our vocabulary and reinvent "work" in their second half of life.