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THE BOOMER SHIFT

Want to work longer? Better have a backup plan Add to ...

This is part of The Globe and Mail's week-long series on baby boomers and how their spending, investing, health and lifestyle decisions could affect Canada's economy in the next fifteen years. Is Canada ready for the boom?

For more, visit tgam.ca/boomershift and on Twitter at #GlobeBoomers.

Early retirement is based on the idea that you should flee the work force at the earliest opportunity.

Baby boomers are all about their work. Also, some haven’t saved enough to have the kind of lifestyle they want after leaving the job market. So expect to see a lot more delayed retirement by boomers than early retirement.

We have six boomer retirement profiles to share with you here and four of them involve working longer for either financial or lifestyle reasons. Brenda Dusome, the 58-year-old Vancouver condo owner with the maxed out registered retirement savings plan, intends to work to at least the age of 70. Bruce Alger, the 61-year-old in Calgary with a paid-off house and an investment portfolio valued in the millions, plans to work as long as he can. Deborah Robertson, the 60-year-old legal assistant in Ottawa, needs to keep working to make the house she lives in affordable. Ray Noyes, the 59-year-old from Ottawa, would like to work into his late 60s.

“I hear all the time that people want to keep working,” said Lee Anne Davies, founder of a consulting firm called Agenomics. “The boomer generation related more to their job and the status of that job much more so than the prior generation.”

Advice for boomers who plan to work longer: Have a backup plan. As Ms. Davies tells it, some workplaces don’t want older employees around. “One of the things that older people face in the work force is ageism,” she said. “It depends on the role you have in the workplace, but what you start to see is being pushed out in some ways or being abandoned – not invited to certain training courses or meetings.”

Mr. Davies said older workers may also encounter a form of bullying or harassment in which they’re asked to perform to handle tasks that others don’t have to do. She describes this treatment as a “subtle way of saying we really don’t want you here.”

Boomers do have a career’s worth of experience and some employers will value that and want to hang on to it as long as possible. Ms. Davies’ recommendation for boomers who want to keep working is to stay flexible in terms of the work they do. Be prepared to work part-time or on a contract basis rather than as a full-time employee.

Ms. Davies thinks boomers are a bit too work-obsessed and encourages them to consider what else retirement has to offer. She sometimes finds that a gung-ho attitude about working in retirement is a cover for a lack of ideas about other possibilities. She also sees people sometimes overestimating the need to bring in income once retired. “They find other ways to enjoy themselves that don’t require much money, or they simplify their lives in ways that aren’t as costly – by focusing on family or friends.”

Our profiles highlight how boomers will work longer for reasons tied to lifestyle and finances. But there are some economic, social and demographic trends driving this shift as well:

Longer lifespans: It’s increasingly common to live into your 90s, which means you could work until 70 and still have 20-plus years of retirement.

Changes in family dynamics: People are having children later in life, and that means they may still be supporting young adult kids in their mid-60s.

High debt: Debt levels among seniors are fast-growing, which suggests a mismatch between retirement incomes and the lifestyles people want to lead; working longer helps address this.

A tough investing environment: Low interest rates and choppy stock markets may not be delivering the returns people need to retire at the usual age.

More women are working: If they temporarily leave the work force to raise children, women may want to work longer to reach their career objectives.

Working longer isn’t for everyone. One couple featured in our profiles will ease their cost of living by retiring to Costa Rica. Provided you can find a cheaper place to live that has access to friends, family and good health care, relocation makes sense in retirement.

Diligent saving is the best way to prepare for retirement, though. If you can manage it, you’ll give yourself the option to keep working in your senior years, or take it easy. You may even find you can retire early.

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