This course is especially for my fellow seniors who are either retired, or facing retirement. And for the younger people who need to know where they fit.
You know I worry about the seniors I see behind cash registers or at the end of the line bagging groceries. I worry that they are wasting all they’ve learned in a life-long career just to earn a few bucks to survive or to pay for all the stuff they wanted to do in retirement but can’t.
Baby Boomers Keep on Working
I’m guessing these older seniors been trapped in a career that peeked too soon and then discarded for reasons they had no hand in. As the pay flattened or declined, their retirement benefits tanked and they were unable to make up the difference by saving more because the cost of living kept going up and up.
I have a friend who retired from Disney recently and she said the many seniors who work for Disney part time appear prosperous and just want the free pass for themselves, their families and friends when they come to visit. She seemed to think that’s okay. Not in my way of thinking. These retirees have to keep working in order to earn the rewards they were supposed to get for working hard for decades. Those days are over with too few rewards in sight.
Baby Boomers are well into the years when they were expected to retire (the generation usually dated 1946 to 1964). Reports show that the earliest most Baby Boomers expect to retire is at the age of 68 and a sizeable number expect to continue working through their seventies.
They just like their jobs, right?
Some Seniors Don’t Have a Choice
More than 40 percent of them admit that they don’t have any retirement savings . . . not one penny! And the number is growing. If they do have some savings, they still see retirement bringing on a steep decline in lifestyle with nothing but Social Security and their meager savings to support them. Most of them will plunge from middle class to the lower class if they’re not all ready in it.
Other Boomers, despite their advanced years, say they crave a second act where they can finally make their wildest dreams come true.
Even if they’re forced out at 70, Boomers refuse to use the “R” word because they see it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Executives become “consultants,” and laborers become “self-employed.”
You understand this is a complex topic with many reasons. But the big issue in my mind is that these people were paid to do work. And when they no longer worked, they were seen as having little value. As corporate liabilities we are, after all, what we do. When we are no longer doing, then we are useless. Worse, we are a burden on the rest of society because instead of funding the safety net, we are in it.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to see myself in that profile. Neither do a lot of Boomers and neither does anyone who is still physically and mentally capable of work and eager to keep on doing it.
Let me make this clear. I do not think of people as laborers. Not any of them. Especially in the post-industrial age. They are knowledge workers and they are human capital. I repeat, people are human capital. Given a chance, they are a value in themselves, the producers of wealth, poorly compensated but containing a wealth of knowledge and potential that lives or dies as long as they are active.
Retirement Means a Loss of Human Capital
When people leave the workplace, I see a loss of human capital for the company, whether the company realizes it or not. When retirees fall below the status they once held, I see them as lost human capital.
Up until recently, people who were absent from the workforce for a long period of time were less wanted. Parents who left to raise their children found they were half as likely to get a job than someone recently unemployed. The value of people was assessed on what they did and how long it had been since they did it. A long lapse meant they were less valuable than another one who did it recently.
Seniors who were approaching their “declining years” were considered over the hill because they were disposable.
However, lately seniors are the hottest demographic in the labor market, men and women working past traditional retirement age and well into their 70s and even 80s. Just three years from now, it is predicted that 32 percent of workers in the 65-75 age group will still be working.
Unfortunately, most of those job opportunities are not at the level the senior once held. Not to worry. “Overqualified” is no longer a problem. Seniors are taking minimum wage jobs, regardless of their stored knowledge or skills. They are not selling themselves as human capital; they are hired as slave labor.
That’s not only bad news for seniors, it’s bad news on top of bad news for the Millennials. They all ready blame their parents and their grandparents before them for squandering opportunities at the peak of their careers, leaving the Millennials with little. Now they’re in the market for the opportunities the “olds” are taking!
Generations Face the Same Tipping Point
You might call this overlap a disaster long in the making. I call it what Malcolm Gladwell called the tipping point 20 years ago in his best selling book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference.
Enough is enough! All of us have reached our tipping point, young or old!
“The tipping point,” Gladwell wrote, “is that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”
The clash between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials is more than a calamity; it is a tipping point. When the generations from the Boomers through Xs, Ys and Zs understand that they are all at the same tipping point, the blaze will be set. All living generations will realize that economic injustice is what they have in common, not what separates them. And a grassroots movement to change the way economics works will spread like wildfire.
Steps Beyond the Tipping Point
Gladwell also wrote about “. . . the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.”
And, “If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior . . . you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”
I knew Malcolm Gladwell 20 years ago when he wrote the book. But I didn’t know he was describing the very goals I have set two decades later for a course that would show economic injustice for what it is and develop a plan to turn economics right side up.
In the Yellow Zone, we will grab that tipping point, develop our personal goals, objectives and strategies, revalue ourselves as human capital and start thinking of ourselves as indie capitalists and “companies of one.” We will make a difference.
Please move on to the next essay