As the oldest Baby Boomers hit 60 this year, one might anticipate an upcoming stampede out the company door. But don't order that sheet cake for the retirement party just yet. Boomers aren't likely to retire in the same manner -- or on the same schedule -- as previous generations. For many reasons, experts say, they intend to hang around the job indefinitely.
"This generation's different across the board. They've always molded society to fit them, and the same thing is happening with the workplace," said Laurel Kennedy, of Age Solutions, a Chicago workplace consultant.
"They absolutely reject the idea of retirement. They're going to work until they die," said Myril Axelrod, a New York City marketing consultant who has studied boomer preferences.
An AARP survey found that more than two-thirds of workers 45 to 74 plan to work in some capacity past retirement. Even AARP -- the "R" stands for "retirement" -- now calls this stage " so-called retirement."
The average retirement age today is 63, while the official age for collecting full Social Security benefits is 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. Yet, the 55-and-older category of employees is growing at four times the rate of the overall labor force, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the time the oldest boomers hit the conventional retirement age of 65, nearly one out of every five jobs will be held by a worker over 55.
Why will boomers remain yoked to the plow at a point in their lives when their parents would have been golfing? Will they work because they want to -- or because they have to?
Boomers can keep their noses to the grindstone in part because many jobs are now less physically arduous. While their parents might have yearned for retirement from back-breaking factory jobs at 60, boomers are more likely to have jobs requiring nothing more grueling than e-mailing a spreadsheet.