“You will not be retiring at 65”

Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, takes a –for some– scary look at the “extra” five years that most folks will work in their professional careers.

Everyone reading this should take 15 hard minutes to ruthlessly reassess the reality of the “new” final years of their future career. The finish line has become elusive; the goal posts have been pushed back. Based on your current skill set and competences, what do you think your workday will look like when you’re 70? Are you comfortable with the probability that you will be managing employees younger than your grandchildren? Temperamentally, do you think you’ll add more value as a mentor, a partner, or part-timer? More important, what will your (much) younger boss think? Do you honestly believe that, when you have to work five more years than anticipated, you can get away with not being more facile, adept, and productive with emerging technologies? The inevitable aging of the (for now) wealthier Western economies guarantees a surge of innovative device interfaces more compatible with slower fingers and tired eyes. You will, of course, be taking web-enabled professional/technical development courses at 58 or 62 or you will be fired for cause. Whatever your 70-year-old workday scenarios may be, what new or novel skills or experiences do they demand? Do they demand more travel or less? More time immersed in digital environments or less? More interactions with people within a decade of your age or fewer? Are there personal or professional development initiatives you should be undertaking now precisely because those five years present opportunities that the earlier deadlines don’t? The most important slice of those 15-minutes-for-five-more-years should focus on role models. Who are the 70+ year olds whose presence, energy, and effectiveness might profitably serve as the benchmarks for your own? Who are the two 75-year-olds who you would professionally emulate? Write them down. I know my two and why I picked them. But why have you chosen yours? What do your choices say about the kind of person you want to be at the end of your professional life?

I expect this to be less of a problem for me than some. I’m a little more technically savvy than the average 62 year old. I love my job and would love to be doing it when I’m 80. Or 90. But for people who still utter “I just don’t get this Internet thing,” those extra 60 months could be tough.

6 thoughts on ““You will not be retiring at 65”

  1. Well, bummer. Sounds like you have one of those “quiet desperation” things going on. I can’t imagine staying at a job I hated for 20 years. I’m reminded of the assembly line worker that urged me to forget college and start working on seniority at the GM plant in St. Louis. The beginning of The Tulsa Summer.

  2. I can not for the life of me believe you are, indeed, 62 years old, Steve. Next month I hit the double nickle, which is appropriate for me as that was the year I was born into this mad,mad world. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching as of late, and can not imagine living to 70, much less retiring from the horrible job I have had for almost twenty years now. I can not see myself working this hard in five years, much less fifteen. We were all handed a card at birth, and some of were dealt aces and eights. And some of us weren’t….

  3. Not that I’m counting, but eligibility for state government retirement is October 5, 2015. Reality-based retirement is more like 2020, minimum.

  4. 25 years and 2 months before I can retire from State Government. It’s sad I count down those days and months but I do.

    You’re lucky to have a job you love!

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