August 23, 2021

Finding a New Job in Retirement – Part 1

How the Workplace is Changing 

Retirement has always been considered the big vacation. Workers have put in their time, saved a little for later years, and are now ready to sit back and relax. However, a number of factors are presently emerging that turn that idea on its head. Let’s take a look at why Americans may be staying in the work place longer, and then examine how that affects their career choice. 

The Aging of America 

There’s no doubt about it: America is getting older. As a country we’re quickly approaching milestones that can redefine our country, workplaces, and general outlook. The U.S. Census has crunched the numbers and has put out two amazing forecasts. 

  • A jump in people of retirement age – The Census states that in 2030 we should be seeing a population where 1 out of every 5 Americans will be 65 or older. The major factors contributing to this are growing life expectancies and falling birth rates. 
  • More seniors than children – It sounds hard to believe but the government is predicting that the aging tide will continue and soon seniors will outnumber children. In 2034 the U.S. population is expected to cross the age divide. At that time, it is projected that older adults will become more numerous with the 65+ population coming in at 77 million, while the under 18 population will drop to 76.5 million.  

What does this mean for the workplace? What can we expect future workplaces to look like and how will that affect individual decision making? 

Ageism in the Workplace 

Currently America still has a problem with age discrimination in the workplace. In a letter put out by Victoria Lipnic, the Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she states that it is still extremely difficult for older workers to find new positions. This has a detrimental effect on the individual, their family, and society at large. Employers also generally maintain a perception that younger workers are simultaneously more capable and cheaper, and therefore more desirable. However, this is a skewed perspective that can cost companies in the long run. Recognizing this, a number of institutions have started moving to a more age diverse workforce. 

Case Study in an Older Workforce: BMW 

In 2007 BMW started thinking about the advancing age of its plants’ employees. They realized that in ten years, the average age will have moved from 39 to 47. Management was now in a tenuous situation as they realized that advancing age can lead to a slowdown in productivity, but having an age diverse workforce offers a lot of positive benefits as well. To address this problem, they instituted an in-depth study to find a way to maintain productivity while at the same time maintaining their current employees. The results of that study led to a trial run in a BMW plant in Dingolfing, Bavaria. There they instituted the following changes in an effort to maintain productivity. 

  • Installation of more comfortable wooden floors for positions that require a lot of standing 
  • Better chairs in break rooms 
  • Height adjustable work spaces 
  • Job rotation across workstations to avoid physical and mental fatigue 
  • Guide-led stretching and exercising during the work day 

The results of this experiment were tremendously positive. The older lines experienced a 7% increase in productivity which rendered them as the functional equivalent to younger lines. Quality targets were achieved as defects precipitously dropped. And finally, absenteeism dropped to below 2% which was better than the company average. As a result of this success, BMW implemented this model worldwide. 

Benefits of an Age Diverse Workforce 

Why a company may be more productive with an age diverse workforce can be attributed to a number of reasons: 

  • Employee retention – Workplaces that exhibit stability for their employees are more likely to retain employees. A company’s HR policy that resembles a swinging door with an ever-rotating roster is not incentivizing employees to maximize their positions. Growth from within and stable environments can have a tremendous impact on employee morale and productivity. 
  • Project Dynamics – Different age groups bring different perspectives to work projects and that diversity can give a noticeable boost to project success. 
  • Expertise – Experience brings a type of expertise with it which can be invaluable. Older employees already know the ins and outs of various systems and how best to make them work. They are also not in need of what can be a very long onboarding process. Further, they will not be making the rookie mistakes that new employees are bound to make. From this perspective it becomes clear that a well-trained force would obviously be more productive than an ever-changing cast of new employees. 

Encouraging Trends for Older Employees 

One of the growing trends in major companies is that of the “returnship”. A returnship is similar to an internship, but it is aimed at those who are reentering the workforce after a break in their employment. Participants get paid to participate in the program and there they will learn new skills and reacquaint themselves with company culture. The benefit for the sponsoring company is that they get a personal look at experienced and potentially valuable employees without having to make an immediate commitment. If an older employee is looking to reenter the workforce, a returnship might be a great path to do so. Some of the companies that offer returnships include Amazon, Deloitte, and Accenture. 


Although it is still hard for older workers to find meaningful employment, positive steps are being taken to rectify the situation. With the proper research, seniors can often discover a path to regain entry into the workplace. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll take a look at the reasons why seniors may be eager to get back to work and what positions may be the best fit. 

If you’re interested in supplementing your retirement with a Self Directed IRA, please talk it over with a Madison specialist. You can send us a message here. 

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