Downturns Fuel Bridge Jobs, Retirement

Posted Wednesday, April 30th, 2014  | Comments (2) rule
The following is reprinted with permission from Squared Away Blog.
Kimberly Blanton
Boston College Center for Retirement Research


Older workers may have every intention of deciding when they’ll retire, but economic conditions can undermine their well-laid plans.

A new study investigating whether macroeconomic events “leave workers with less control over their retirement timing” found that various transitions from career jobs into retirement sharply accelerated during periods when more Americans, including more older workers, were losing their jobs.

The researchers analyzed whether periods of rising unemployment over the past 50 years have affected three specific retirement transitions made by older workers: 1) from full-time work to “bridge jobs,” which pay less; 2) from bridge jobs to full retirement; and 3) from full-time work to full retirement.

These transitions were tracked based on changes in individuals’ employment earnings documented in U.S. Social Security Administration data from 1960 through 2010. An individual was considered to have shifted to a bridge job after he experienced at least a 50 percent decline in his earnings with an existing or new employer – the earnings floor on this group was $5,000 per year. When earnings fell below $5,000, the worker was considered fully retired.

The researchers said that they focused on white men between the ages of 55 and 75, because their labor force participation patterns were more stable during the period studied than those of women and minorities.

They found that a 1-percentage-point rise in the U.S. unemployment rate increased the number of men moving each year from full-time work to bridge jobs by 7 percent.

Rising unemployment also pushed more men into full retirement. A 1-percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate increased the number of men who retired – either from full-time work or from a bridge job – by 5 percent each.

When they investigated whether the retirement timing of high-income Americans might be less vulnerable to economic conditions, they found very little difference among various groups on the income ladder.

Even when individuals carefully prepare for their retirement, a downturn can quickly disrupt their plans.


Full disclosure: The research cited in this post was funded by a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) through the Retirement Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the blog’s author and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA or any agency of the federal government.

Comments (2) for "Downturns Fuel Bridge Jobs, Retirement"

The Ultimate Legacy Challenge for Boomers

Posted Wednesday, April 16th, 2014  | Comments (4) rule

Lauren Stiller Rikleen
President, Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership
Executive-in-Residence, Boston College Center for Work & Family
Twitter: @LaurenRikleen

Millennials are entering the workplace with a variety of negative stereotypes attached to their generation. “They are entitled.” They don’t want to work hard.” “They are disloyal.” “They require constant praise.” And on it goes.

That narrative—as inaccurate as it may be—makes it easy for Boomers to disengage. Such a choice, however, would be a lost opportunity for all generations in the workplace.

There are many reasons why Boomers should actively participate in the career development of Millennial employees. The following offers five of the more compelling:

  1. Simple demographics should encourage Boomers to focus on the leadership development of Millennials. The intervening generation—the poorly named Gen X—is simply too small to fill the gap that will be left by the giant population of Boomers. Millennials, therefore, will be stepping into leadership roles sooner than predecessor generations were called upon to do so.
  2. Millennials are willing to work hard, but they want to work smart. Their notions of when and where work can be done are vastly different from the face-time culture that Boomers’ nurtured. Boomers often misread the Millennials’ desire to use their prodigious technology skills to make work more efficient as a challenge to Boomer authority and work practices. This reaction inhibits helpful communications about ways to develop a more efficient workplace with more engaged employees.

  3. The “entitlement” narrative has been part of the Millennials’ reputation since they started school—and it may be the biggest misperception of all. Millennials were raised by parents who studied child development experts so their offspring could be confident and secure. But when these children grew up and entered the workplace, that carefully nurtured self-confidence is viewed as entitlement. The questions Millennials were encouraged to ask as kids are now seen as a lack of respect for senior generations at work, and the desire for success that was imbued in them in their youth is interpreted as an unwillingness to “pay dues” as young adults. It is no wonder Millennials are confused when the adults in their lives at work respond so negatively to the self-respect that their Boomer parents helped foster at home. By pushing past this stereotype, Boomers can leverage the Millennials’ natural confidence in ways that promote their development at work.

  4. Millennials want meaningful feedback, not empty praise. They earnestly seek to learn from new assignments, and recognize that an annual review is not an effective career development tool. Boomers who take time to offer feedback as work is performed are cultivating loyal employees—and fostering retention.

  5. At some point, legacy matters. After decades of working hard, Boomers should be thinking about their own legacy. While there may be many accomplishments in which they can take pride, the gaping hole in most workplaces is the failure to adjust the model to the life circumstances of today’s families. Work-life integration and flexibility are not luxuries, they are workplace imperatives. Millennials will complete this undone work if they must, but do they really need to wait until the Boomers relinquish power to do so?

There are more similarities than differences in the characteristics of Boomers and Millennials. As driven, hard-working generations, opportunities abound to combine their collective energies to reform the workplace. It is the work that Boomers should have done years ago. By letting go of their defensive reactions, and seeing Millennials for who they really are, Boomers can add workplace reform to the list of social changes that have been the markers of their lives.

That should be the lasting legacy of the Boomers’ impact on the workplace. After all, they raised the Millennials – now it is time for Boomers to understand them at work and create an environment that nurtures the link between Millennials’ success and organizational sustainability.


Lauren Stiller Rikleen is the author of the recently released You Raised Us—Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams. She is the president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and the Executive-in-Residence at the Boston College Center for Work & Family in the Carroll School of Management.

Comments (4) for "The Ultimate Legacy Challenge for Boomers"

Why This Millennial Is Hanging With a Bunch of Boomers

Posted Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014  | Comments (3) rule

Cal J. Halvorsen, MSW
Director of Research and Evaluation, Ann Arbor, MI
Twitter: @calhalvorsen

Sometimes, it’s tough to imagine a bright future for members of the Millennial generation. A new Pew Research study reveals that high levels of student loan debt and low levels of wealth and personal income are paving a rutted road for Millennials, roughly defined as those now in their teens through the low 30s. Yet they are still optimistic about the future and, according to The Millennial Impact Project report, want to make a meaningful difference. Happy hour conversations with friends at a steadily increasing crop of Millennial-attracting whiskey establishments echo this trend. (In full disclosure, I too am a Millennial.)

With this unsettling news, it may seem pollyannaish to describe a future in which we’re incredibly passionate about our jobs while simultaneously managing to leave a positive impact on our world. Maybe we should just worry about having a job, period. But can’t I work to save the world and eat my cake, too? That may very well be the case, and we can look to baby boomers and older adults for part of the answer.

A recent report by Boston College and shows that honorees and nominees of the Purpose Prize, a program that celebrates the achievements of social entrepreneurs over the age of 60, describe their work as very close to an “ideal job.” These real-life trailblazers are defying the notion that innovation is the sole province of the young. They are working as changemakers in education, health care, social services, and the environment, among others, and report that their work is personally meaningful and an important part of who they are as individuals. Nearly 95 percent noted that if they had all the money they needed without working, they would still continue down the same path.

These notable social entrepreneurs are the most celebrated of a growing movement toward purpose in later life, but according to’s research, they are just a few of the 9 million Americans ages 44 to 70 who are already in encore careers that combine personal meaning, social impact, and for many, continued income.

However, it’s not always easy to get to an encore. In fact, more than two in three (67 percent) of those already in encore careers experienced gaps in their personal income during the transition from their previous careers to their encores, and nearly four in five (79 percent) of those experienced a gap of six months or more. A majority relied on personal savings alone to make ends meet.

It’s no surprise, then, that the encore stage of life is often seen as an elite institution, available only to those who can afford to labor without pay and take the time to reflect on personal goals and passions.

We should think carefully about how to make encore careers available to all those who want to use their later years to improve their communities and the bigger world. How about planning for our encores early in our careers, just as we do (or should) for retirement? Policies should encourage this. We need to re-imagine key stages in our lives, too. Why, for example, do we feel the urge to cram all of our education into the first 25 years of our lives? Wouldn’t it be better—for our creativity, for our mental and emotional capacities, and for our economy—if we engaged our minds in learning throughout our lives, refreshing skills as we and the world evolve, to help others in need?

Already, programs are cropping up that make this vision a reality and help people move into socially-impactful work past midlife. But we need more than those pathways. We also need to change our thinking so that social contribution is the preferred complement (or replacement) to the tired vision of traditional retirement. That way, the encore stage of life will become a true cultural norm, available to anyone who wants in, for years to come. Including, by the way, me and many of my twenty- and thirty-something friends. Which is why this Millennial is spending his time working with a bunch of baby boomers, looking for ways to make it easier for current and future generations to live, and not just leave, their legacies.

Comments (3) for "Why This Millennial Is Hanging With a Bunch of Boomers"

 A&W Blog Home



140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 — Email: agework@bc.eduPhone: 617.552.9195 — Fax: 617.552.9202