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For baby boomers, it's a new era of 'work until you drop'

Overseas competition, technological advances tighten job market.
By JOHN ROGERS Published: February 22, 2012
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“I always have the feeling that I have to prove my value all the time. That I'm not some old relic who doesn't understand social media or can't learn some new technique,” says Symons, who is active on Twitter and Facebook, loves every new timesaving software app that comes down the pike, and laughs at the idea of ever sending another fax.

“Ahh, that's just so archaic,” she says.

Meanwhile, as companies have downsized, boomers have been hurt to some degree by their own sheer numbers, says Ed Lawler of the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.

The oldest ones, Lawler says, aren't retiring, and more and more the youngest members of the generation ahead of them aren't either. It's no longer uncommon, he says, for people to work until 70.

“People who would have normally been out of the workforce are still there, taking jobs that would have gone to what we now call the unemployed,” he said.

John Stewart of Springfield, Mo., sees himself becoming part of that new generation that never stops working.

“No, I don't see myself retiring,” says Stewart, who is media director for a large church. “I think I would be bored if I just all of a sudden quit everything and did whatever it is retired people do.”

Then there are the financial considerations. Like many boomers, the 60-year-old acknowledges he didn't put enough aside when he was younger.

For more than 30 years, Stewart ran his own photography business, doing everything from studio portraits to illustrating annual reports for hospitals and other large corporations to freelancing for national magazines and newspapers.

As the news media began to struggle, the magazine and newspaper work dried up. As the economy tanked, his large corporate clients began to use cheaper stock photos purchased online rather than hire him to take new ones. Eventually he took his current job, producing videos of pastors' sermons and photos for church publications. He says he is glad to be one boomer to make a late career change and keep working.

“There were times when the money was really rolling in,” he says of his old business. “But somehow retirement wasn't really in the forefront of my thinking then, so saving for it wasn't an automatic thing.”


I think I would be bored if I just all of a sudden quit everything and did whatever it is retired people do.”

John Stewart

Springfield, Mo.

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