If the Stones aren’t going to retire, why should anyone else?

What a summer it’s been so far. The weather has been amazing (a little too amazing at times!) and the Rolling Stones have played Glastonbury and Hyde Park (twice). Being a lifelong fan, I went to both Hyde Park shows. I can honestly say they were two of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Of course in 2013 the Stones split opinion. Some say they are money grabbing dinosaurs, relics of another age who are way, way past their sell by date. Then there are the people like me who think that the very fact that they are in their 70s and Jagger is still dancing and running around like a mad man is part of what makes the Stones live such an incredible experience. And of course, then there’s Captain Jack Sparrow’s old man, Keith Richards, and his shambolic opening riff to Start Me Up. Somehow it all adds to the magic!

So when you think about it, the Stones are only doing what I and many other ‘baby boomers’ are having to face up to – the fact that we’re going to have to work one or two decades longer than our parents did. And why not, you might ask? Most of us are living longer and, let’s face it, there’s simply not enough in the public coffers to pay for our pensions if we all pack it in at 60. There is also ample evidence that suggests early retirement can be bad for your health. Clinical depression is just one condition that the ‘early retired’ seem to be more prone to. Keith I’m sure would say the only reason he has survived this long and is in pretty rude health is precisely because he has kept ‘working’.

I’ve heard the counter argument many times before that enforced early retirement would be good for the economy. And with well over 1 million young people out of work and over 35 applications for every graduate job, you can see why that argument can sometimes gain a bit of momentum. I remember an idea that did the rounds on Facebook a few years ago which suggested everyone should receive £1 million on their 55th birthday. It came with some conditions. You had to give up work. You had to buy a new car that was manufactured in the UK. You could buy a house but you had to sell your existing property. And so it went on. It was like a different take on quantitative easing. And all the time new vacancies would be created in the workplace for the younger generations. There’s something in this, especially for someone who’s 55th doesn’t seem a million miles away! James K Galbraith argued the case for early retirement (not the million dollar give away) a few years ago in the States when the fiscal cliff was first being mentioned.

My view, and we talk to our outplacement delegates about this regularly, is that early retirement should be thought about very seriously. We talk about filling the void left by work. We explore the dynamic at home and, of course, we discuss the financial realities of retirement. The most important thing is that people make an informed decision and then make a plan for retirement.

But I think there is a big question for employers and HR teams. As workers stay in jobs longer and the age profile of the workforce begins to shift, what impact will this have on engagement, team harmony and performance? The answer could be quite a lot. KPMG have recently published a survey which suggests “Many of the UK’s youngest workers believe that older colleagues are in danger of stifling their career prospects by retiring later”. It’s an interesting piece that talks about the tensions that could arise between the Baby Boomers, the Gen Xs and their younger counterparts. It seems to me that employers need to think about how they can engage the different generations, each of which has a different set of aspirations and expectations. Recognising what is motivating your people right now is probably a good place to start.

Mike Burgneay
Client Development Director