Company Culture
Company culture / Entrepreneurs

The ‘anti-retirement movement’ and the labor market

Four million Americans retired early during the pandemic. Employers have an opportunity in the “anti-retirement movement.”

Tina Lorenz. (Courtesy photo)

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You could say Tina Lorenz has been retired since her 40s. But that wouldn’t quite fit what we understand retirement to be. Lorenz, who calls herself then Renegade Boomer, wants to change that.

Lorenz, with dyed purple hair and an RV, transitioned from ad agency life into a copywriting, consulting and coaching practice. She has worked when she has wanted to work for decades. Now, she’s championing what she calls the “anti-retirement movement,” in which we rethink how we spend our later years.

That’s important because older workers are an increasingly vital part of the American labor force. Employers would be wise to take notice.

One of the biggest drivers in the country’s labor shortage is the aging Boomer population that is quitting and not coming back, according to a working paper published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research. During the pandemic, almost 4 million more Americans retired than expected, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve. They ranged in background: Many were low- and middle-income earners, but a critical sliver were professionals and executives, too. What happens late in life is highly determined by considerable factors, so Lorenz is cautious to note the significant privilege that comes with choice. But enough older Americans can choose that Lorenz wants to make sure we do what is best for us.

“The anti-retirement movement, in my mind, is just not bending to the rules,” Lorenz said. “Don’t give in to the message that you must just retire into oblivion.”

The aging entrepreneur, professional or executive might decide to build a consulting practice or take part-time work lending their expertise. Employers could find untapped expertise to battle a constrained labor force. But, according to Lorenz, who told me she is a “razzlin’ dazzlin’ 72”, many hiring managers overlook older workers.

“The most acceptable -ISM out there is ageism,” she said. A survey from lobby group AARP said 93% of those 55 or older say they feel age-based discrimination is widespread in workplaces. Find advice on building an intergenerational workforce here, and guidance on supporting older workers here.

Lorenz also notes that older professionals are showing up in the country’s surging entrepreneurship numbers.

“It takes some courage but as we’re approaching 50 and beyond, we are really very well-positioned to be able to go into an entrepreneurship mode,” Lorenz said. Better than half of US small businesses are owned by those 50 or older, according to SCORE. That might mean starting an independent advisory to coach or consult — or it could mean swinging big with a lifetime of experience.

The likelihood of an entrepreneur having a financially successful acquisition or IPO increased until the age of 60, according to an influential analysis.

For employers, this requires a mindset shift. Ageism looks today like an assumption that older workers can’t invent or innovate — despite data and experience demonstrating that isn’t true.

To accommodate and retain workers deeper into their 60s and beyond, the way the workforce views aging has to change, Lorenz argues. The anti-retirement movement is a way to challenge these traditional views and allow people to continue working, whether through entrepreneurship or through traditional employment — and regardless of their age.

“Anti-retirement is good for us as individuals, and the companies who need expertise,” Lorenz said. “We all want to contribute.”

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