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How Older Workers Staying Employed Longer Helps Younger Workers, Too

By Motley Fool Staff – Jun 24, 2019 at 11:10AM

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The idea that seniors who don't retire are blocking the next generation's careers is a myth.

Americans in general are living longer, which is good news almost any way you slice it. And since we're more likely than our forebears to have jobs that don't involve much physical labor, many of us intend to spend some of those added years working. But with baby boomers not "moving out of the way," what does that mean for the Gen Xers and millennials coming up behind them?

In this segment from Motley Fool Answers, cohosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are joined by Susan Weinstock, the AARP's vice president of financial resiliency programming, to talk about how the growing cohort of older workers is impacting U.S. business and society. They dig into the reasons why the truth is the opposite of what you might think -- an age-diverse workplace actually benefits all parties.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on June 18, 2019.

Robert Brokamp: What about the implications for younger workers? Every once in a while I've heard people say, "Well, the good thing about retirement is it opens up roles in a company. If everyone keeps working then it will harder for people within the company to move up."

Susan Weinstock: That's not true. That's called the "lump of labor," and it's a fallacy. The research shows that having older people that are active in the workforce and productive actually benefits all age groups and spurs the creation of more jobs. I mean, think about technology. Technology keeps changing. Yes, there are jobs that we're going to lose, but we're also going to gain new jobs, and so the idea that there's this "lump of labor" that's sitting with the older people and they're keeping all the younger workers from moving up is not true.

Brokamp: When people think about working longer, we've read several reports over the last year or two that have come out from various places saying there's a mismatch between how much people say they want to work. A certain percentage want to work beyond age 65; but, then when they get older, it turns out they are not able to for all kinds of reasons. For example, health might be one of them. It could be age discrimination. I think one report found that something like more than 50% of people who are over 50 or 55 end up losing their job involuntarily for one reason or another.

So how should people think of that? They want to work longer, but how do they prepare themselves for the possibility that they may not have quite the options they thought they were going to have?

Weinstock: I think the most important thing is to really be proactive in your career. Make yourself invaluable as much as you can. Build mentorships, both as a mentor yourself, but as a mentee. We know that multigenerational workforces are very powerful. Having teams that work together in multigenerational groups means more productivity. Absenteeism goes down.

BMW did this really interesting experiment back in 2007 where they actually picked people, based on their age, and had them work on a production line together. Productivity went up, absenteeism went down, and the error rate for that line moved to zero. And they compared it to where they had all just young and all just old and this was much better.

There is a lot of good stuff that comes out of building those multigenerational teams, so put yourself in there. Make sure that you're part of that. I think the health piece is really important. Manage your health. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, manage your stress. All those things that we should all be doing anyway, but it's also going to make you hopefully able to stay in the workforce for a longer time.

Robert Brokamp, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BAMXF. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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