Sunday, May 21, 2006

Over 55? You're toast.

Shocked, shocked I am to learn that workers over 50 have a 40% probability of involuntary retirement. NPR had a McKinsey spokesperson explaining this was an other reason to save more money. I assume nobody is credulous enough to buy that line any more. Very few people can save enough assuming they work to 67. Almost nobody can really save enough to retire at 55.

For years commentators have announced that the boomers, a healthy lot, will work happily into their 70s. For years I've been astounded that so many seemed to believe this was true. Clearly denial is a big part of the human condition.

It never made a bit of sense. The average healthy 55 year old human has dropped a cognitive grade since their 20s. Experience helps close the gap, but it's not enough for most workers. True, in more senior roles a few exceptional individuals can be very productive into their 60s. Beyond that time, however, even they start to show their age. (Often by curious choices in mates.)

Unless we find a way to slow the natural aging of the human brain we must acknowledge that most "knowledge workers" are past their prime by 50 to 55 (I'm pretty close to that, and really my brain is nowhere near as good as it once was). That doesn't mean one is going to keal over, but it's a good idea to have moved from being a solo producer to a manager.

Once upon a time companies allowed for this. Those days are past. The modern publicly traded company is much too efficient to allow a cohort of sub-optimal employees to accumulate. One way or another, by hook or by crook, the aging will move out.

What's to do? We have to start by getting real. Boomers may work to 67, but they may be bagging groceries. Let's start talking about what that world will look like. Topic one is universal guaranteed healthcare ...

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