Gonzo journalism and the British Open — well, no victory for mature workers

OK. Greg Norman didn’t win the British Open yesterday. Padraig Harrington did — for the second straight year. Good for him. He’s 36. So I guess we’ll have to wait for Tiger Woods to turn 50 for a senior to win a major golf championship these days. Whatever.

The point is this. If you consider Norman a “mature worker” in his field — golf — it’s not unrealistic to think that Norman or others like him could compete for years to come. The question is whether they want to or not. In golf, maybe the answer is no. But in a lot of other fields — including public relations — the answer is going to be yes.

Partly it’s going to reflect the reality that many baby boomers — me as an example — don’t want to retire. But they (me) want to do something that is more flexible and possibly personally rewarding than working in the corporate gulag for 40 or more hours a week. And partly it’s going to reflect the reality that many can’t afford to retire: many have no fixed pensions, income from Social Security is relatively modest, and personal savings — dependent to some degree now on a shaky stock market — doesn’t amount to much.

Here’s an article printed in The New York Times yesterday, “Who Wants to Retire Later? (Don’t laugh).” Here’s the opening paragraph, written by Harry Hurt:

WORK longer and retire later? The very idea sounds depressing, especially to overworked, underpaid, aging baby boomers like me. But we may have no choice if we want to avoid a precipitous decline in our accustomed standard of living. That is the basic thesis of “Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge,” by Alicia H. Munnell and Steven A. Sass (Brookings Institution Press).

There are plenty of issues here. How do we provide well-paying jobs for younger workers — while still accommodating both the needs of mature workers and the need of organizations to retain their experience and expertise? How do we manage organizations that have a workforce ranging from Generation Y to baby boomers? How do we communicate with this really diverse group of employees?

But on an individual level — how do you prepare now to retire financially? That’s a question that should give pause to baby boomers today. And it also should raise some red flags for those who are years — even decades — from retiring. Here’s why — from The New York Times article:

So what do we do about the looming retirement income crisis? Ms. Munnell and Mr. Sass recommend that people postpone their retirements from age 63, the current average, to 66. Interestingly enough, 66 was the average back in 1962. They also say that it is time to look at raising the earliest eligibility age for Social Security benefits. (It is currently 62.)The authors write that four more years of work alters the ratio of retirement to working years from 1 to 2, meaning 20 years of retirement and 40 years of work, to almost 1 to 3, or 16 years of retirement and 44 years of work.

The authors contend that working longer and retiring later can generate powerful benefits for aging baby boomers and the workers in their wake. First, it would delay the need for people to tap into I.R.A.’s and 401(k)’s, thereby swelling their total assets and increasing the future income they can produce.

Second, it would help maximize the benefits of Social Security, which are about one-third higher for recipients who are 66 than for those who are 62.

The authors concede that convincing people to retire later will be a challenge on sociocultural, economic and political levels.

A challenge on sociocultural, economic and political levels — oh, my. Golf anyone?

And by the way, over the weekend I saw the movie “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson.” Everyone who writes should read something by Hunter Thompson. But unless you have followed the career of Thompson — or are like me and have reached the stage in life where you’re trying to figure out how you ever survived the 60s — I wouldn’t recommend the movie. It’s pretty well done. But, well, I think you had to have been there.

Wonder if Hunter Thompson would have embraced blogging and bloggers. Probably not.


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