Report: 85% of Baby Boomers plan to work into their 70s (and even 80s)

There’s no doubt about it: many Baby Boomers simply aren’t ready to retire. Either they don’t have enough money saved up yet, or they simply aren’t ready to leave the working world behind.

Deloitte Insights took a look at what this means for the workforce, which will now absorb five generations of workers. Some organizations will be more prepared than others for people working well past retirement age. Deloitte examined who our oldest workers are, what they need, what drives them, as well as how employers can create jobs that utilize the valuable set of skills they bring to the workplace.

“The current volume and rapid increase of people remaining well past traditional retirement age is unprecedented,” according to the report. By 2024, 1 in 4 U.S. workers will be 55 or older, a major increase in mature workers.

Eight-five percent of the Baby Boomer population plans to work until their 70s and even 80s, according to the U.S. Senate’s 2017 Special Committee on Aging report, “America’s Aging Workforce.”

While finances are a very real concern for Boomers, there are many older workers creating second careers, or working bridge jobs, simply because they value working and staying connected to the wider world. In a Deloitte survey of 5,000 U.S. workers ages 55-64, “making an impact” scored higher than money in the category of what motivated them to work hard at their job, with 52% choosing “making an impact, and 42% choosing “monetary rewards.” An additional 42% chose “having a flexible work schedule.”

Pushing past negatives

There are negative misconceptions around older workers that must be dealt with. One persistent idea is that Boomers are standing in the way of younger talent moving up in an organization. In Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report,  15 percent of respondents believed that older employees were “an impediment to rising talent.”

However, focusing on older workers’ very real, positive attributes can cancel out the negative messages.

Older workers tend to be more engaged, and engagement has been shown to increase with age. This makes them more valuable than Millennials in that category, who tend to have low engagement levels. Their long work experience means that their work product is generally better than their younger counterparts’. They also have better social skills and good “organizational citizenship”: showing up to work on time, listening, displaying a positive attitude, etc.

Deloitte described six “personas” that make up the over-60 workplace, based on their primary motive for working.

  • Bridge worker (25-30%): Part-time with a new employer. The bridge worker’s motivation is usually financial. This group represents the largest percentage of older workers.
  • Alumni worker (20%): Someone who comes out of retirement, or comes back to the company part-time as a mentor. This type of worker may need flexible hours, but still wants to do meaningful work.
  • Tenured worker (15-20%): Also called phased retirement, this worker often wants to leave something behind at their organization, and pass down knowledge to others, and retire at their own pace.
  • Gig worker (5-7%): Gig workers are most often motivated by flexibility and find jobs through freelancing platforms.
  • Encore worker (9-12%): Doing volunteer work or civic service as a second career, the work is the reward in itself.
  • Self-employment (9-12%): The self-employed are often either continuing an existing business, or chasing the dream of making something from nothing and the satisfaction of owning something.

For these workers and others like them, Deloitte suggests that employers use mature workers as mentors for younger workers, design phased retirement plans to allow workers to retire flexibly and intentionally, and find a way to re-skill older workers, like the apprenticeship model.