The New Post-60 Career Paths
Researchers and workplace experts are figuring out what late-in-life careers could look like.
Researchers and workplace experts are figuring out what late-in-life careers could look like.
When I turned 60 a couple of years ago, friends started asking about my retirement plans. This was shocking, given I’m just as healthy, energetic and curious about the world as I was at age 40. My parents lived until their 90s, so why on earth would I give up the most stimulating part of my life if I hope to live three more decades?
At the same time, my priorities were shifting in this later chapter of life. I wanted less stress and more time to process, create and mentor. I couldn’t see another decade in the pressure-cooker management job I’d had for years. I wanted to focus on what I loved most about the profession: reporting, writing and making an impact.
Like me, more people over 60 plan to continue working in the future—the share of workers 65 and over in the U.S. is expected to increase faster than any other age group between now and 2030—but no clear roadmap exists for how to do it. While I was lucky enough to have bosses who let me create a new reporting job, most companies don’t offer a choice between charging up the career ladder with full-time employment or jumping off the retirement cliff around age 65.
As life spans now extend toward 100, demographers, gerontologists, neuroscientists and employment experts are studying how to overhaul the workplace for the future to encourage people to work into the later stages of life. Companies are devising ways to taper down and deconstruct jobs by task, role or project to offer more options to older workers looking for more meaningful and flexible work. Benefits would be tailored to the needs of older workers—think unpaid sabbaticals and home grocery delivery—rather than just matching 401(k) funds. High-tech tools such as exoskeletons and robots are emerging to assist older workers in physically demanding jobs.
“The way we’ve set up employment is on Friday you’re at 100% and on Monday, after you retire, you’re at 0%. That’s not good for the person, and it’s not good for the company,” says Chip Conley, founder and CEO of the Modern Elder Academy, a school in Baja California Sur, Mexico, aimed at helping with midlife career transitions. “Why not create a staircase that allows people to ramp down over time?”
During the pandemic, a disportionately high number of older workers have retired early, aggravating a labour shortage. Many say jobs and salaries will need restructuring if employers want them back.
Employers need to acknowledge that older workers who have achieved life milestones have different career goals and motivations than younger people, Stanford University’s Center for Longevity found in the report “A New Map of Life: Work” published last year.
“Purpose is crucial for older workers,” says Alice Milivinti, a demographer and co-author of the report. “Younger workers will learn something new because they are told to, but older workers need to know, ‘Why should I take the time to do this?’ ” Older workers want flexibility in both the number of hours worked and the choice of tasks they perform. Some 60% of nonworking Americans in their late 60s or 70s said they’d be willing to return to work if they had flexible schedules—and about a fifth of those would take a more than 20% cut in hourly wages to do so, according to a study published in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics in 2020, which cited a survey of 2,772 respondents.
Vanessa Liu, an entrepreneur behind SilverLife, an incubator for businesses addressing the aging demographic, is developing a platform that would break down jobs by tasks or roles to make them more attractive for older workers in the future. For example, a supervisor job at a manufacturing plant could be deconstructed into three separate roles: A troubleshooting job identifying problems on the assembly line, a team-management role and a product-development job. Hours and pay could be adjusted accordingly, allowing workers to move from 100% employment to 60% to 30% when they’re ready.
“Companies are realizing there’s just not enough new blood coming in, and they’re losing decades of experience walking out the door,” Ms. Liu said.
“This is a way to create a flexible arrangement for experienced workers to stay on and keep working at 65, 70, 75 and 80.”
Kerry Hannon, a workplace researcher and author of the upcoming book “In Control at 50+,” says intergenerational projects and teams that pair young workers with older ones will be important in the future. One way to do that could be through products like Mentor Cloud, which provides training and software for businesses to develop programs aimed at helping older workers transfer knowledge to younger people.
Working with young entrepreneurs as an adviser and investor has kept Linda Fayne Levinson, 80, fully engaged in the tech world while giving her the flexibility to set her own schedule. The first female partner at McKinsey & Co. in 1978 and later a venture capitalist and public-company director, she shifted to mentoring startups and serving on boards of directors for several private companies about eight years ago. “This lets me give back, but now I only work with people I really like and trust,” she says. “I say what I think, and I keep people calm in a crisis.”
The shift to more contract and gig work will require a new benefit structure for all workers who want to work independently by project but need benefits that are generally only available to full-time employees, says Kathleen E. Christensen, a social scientist and authority on the changing nature of work. Workers rights are still governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, established in 1938 and set up for traditional full-time work. New laws and organizations will be needed to provide benefits for future contract workers perhaps by project or role. “We’re in transition right now in the social contract with the infrastructure that will be needed to support contract workers in the future, both old and young,” she said.
Benefits will also need to be more in sync with older workers’ priorities, which can be far different than those of younger workers. Pam Jeffords, an employment expert who advises companies on diversity and inclusion for Sapient Insights Group, envisions a new range of benefits and incentives where workers will be able to choose options such as grocery delivery, long-term-care insurance, unpaid sabbaticals and the option to be a consultant for various projects throughout the year.
Despite years of discussion about accommodating an aging workforce, the topic is still taboo for many. “People don’t want to self-identify as older. They don’t want to be stigmatized as slowing down,” Dr. Christensen says. A 2020 AARP survey of 5,598 employers in 36 OECD countries found 53% of global executives don’t include age in their diversity and inclusion policies.
In his new book “The Super Age,” demographer Bradley Schurman says emerging technology for physical labour will help the aging population extend working lives. A powered exoskeleton “Muscle Suit” for the lower back developed by Japanese company Innophys Co. is designed to help older workers in fields like farming, nursing and manufacturing to lift heavy objects.
Evidence continues to grow that working longer is better for mental, physical and financial health. Postponing retirement until at least age 67 resulted in a one-third reduction in cognitive decline compared with those who retired at ages 61-67, with positive effects lasting until age 74, according to a study published in September in the journal SSM-Population Health. The study used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal project of 20,469 people sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.
“We shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed for making a conscious choice to take a path that may be less traditional but may actually, in the long run, allow us to stay in the workplace longer,” Mr. Conley says.
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: February 7, 2022.
Following the devastation of recent flooding, experts are urging government intervention to drive the cessation of building in areas at risk.
Private club memberships and luxury cars are some of freebies on the table.
When Ryan Wolitzer was looking to buy an apartment in Miami Beach late last year, several beachfront properties caught his eye. All were two-bedroom homes in high-end buildings with amenities aplenty and featured glass walls, high ceilings and an abundance of natural light. But only The Continuum, in the city’s South of Fifth district, came with a gift: a membership to Residence Yacht Club, a private club that offers excursions on luxury yachts ranging from a day in south Florida to a month around the Caribbean. Residents receive heavily discounted charters on upscale boats that have premier finishes and are stocked with top shelf spirits and wine. Mr. Wolitzer, 25, who works for a sports agency, was sold.
“The access to high-end yachts swayed my decision to buy at The Continuum and is an incentive that I take full advantage of,” Mr. Wolitzer said. “It’s huge, especially in my business when I am dealing with high-profile sports players, to be able to give them access to these incredible boats where they experience great service. I know that they’ll be well taken care of.”
Freebies and perks for homeowners such as a private club membership are a mainstay in the world of luxury real estate and intended to entice prospective buyers to sign on the dotted line.
According to Jonathan Miller, the president and chief executive of the real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel, they’re primarily a domestic phenomenon.
In the U.S. residential real estate market, gifts are offered by both developers who want to move apartments in their swanky buildings and individuals selling their homes. They range from modest to over-the-top, Mr. Miller said, and are more prevalent when the market is soft.
“When sales lag, freebies increase in a bid to incentivize buyers,” he said. “These days, sales are slowing, and inventory is rising after two years of being the opposite, which suggests that we may see more of them going forward.”
Many of these extras are especially present in South Florida, Mr. Miller said, where the market is normalizing after the unprecedented boom it saw during the pandemic. “The frenzy in South Florida was intense compared with the rest of the country because it became a place where people wanted to live full time,” he said. “Now that the numbers are inching toward pre-pandemic levels, freebies could push wavering buyers over the finish line.”
Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a real estate salesperson for Douglas Elliman in Miami and New York, said that the gifts that she has encountered in her business include everything from yacht access and use of a summer house to magnums of pricey wine. “One person I know of who was selling a US$5 million house in the Hamptons even threw in a free Mercedes 280SL,” she said. “They didn’t want to lower the price but were happy to sweeten the deal.”
A car, an Aston Martin to be exact, is also a lure at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Buyers who bought one of the building’s 01 line apartments—a collection of 47 ocean-facing residences ranging in size from 325 to 362sqm and US$8.3 million to US$9 million in price—had their choice of the DBX Miami Riverwalk Special Edition or the DB11 Miami Riverwalk Special Edition. The DBX is Aston Martin’s first SUV and retails for around US$200,000. It may have helped propel sales given that all the apartments are sold out.
The US$59 million triplex penthouse, meanwhile, is still up for grabs, and the buyer will receive a US$3.2 million Aston Martin Vulcan track-only sports car, one of only 24 ever made.
“We want to give homeowners the chance to live the full Aston Martin lifestyle, and owning a beautiful Aston Martin is definitely a highlight of that,” said Alejandro Aljanti, the chief marketing officer for G&G Business Developments, the building’s developer. “We wanted to include the cars as part of the package for our more exclusive units.”
The US$800,000 furniture budget for buyers of the North Tower condominiums at The Estates at Acqualina in Sunny Isles, Florida, is another recent head-turning perk. The 94 residences sold out last year, according to president of sales Michael Goldstein, and had a starting price of US$6.3 million. “You can pick the furniture ahead of time, and when buyers move in later this year, all they’ll need is a toothbrush,” he said.
Then there’s the US$2 million art collection that was included in the sale of the penthouse residence at the Four Seasons Residences in Miami’s Brickell neighbourhood. The property recently sold for $15.9 million and spans 817sqm feet. Designed by the renowned firm ODP Architects, it features contemporary paintings and sculpture pieces from notable names such as the American conceptual artist Bill Beckley and the sculptor Tom Brewitz.
But it’s hard to top the millions of dollars of extras that were attached to the asking price in 2019 of the US$85 million 1393sqm duplex at the Atelier, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. The list included two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a Lamborghini Aventador, a US$1 million yacht with five years of docking fees, a summer stay at a Hamptons mansion, weekly dinners for two at lavish French restaurant Daniel and a live-in butler and private chef for a year. And the most outrageous of all: a flight for two to space.
It turned out that the so-called duplex was actually a collection of several apartments and a listing that went unsold. It did, however, generate plenty of buzz among the press and in real estate circles and was a marketing success, according to Mr. Miller.
“A listing like this that almost seems unbelievable with all the gifts will get plenty of eyeballs but is unlikely to push sales,” he said. “Empirically, it’s not an effective tactic.”
On the other hand, Mr. Miller said that more reasonable but still generous freebies, such as the membership to a yacht club, have the potential to push undecided buyers to go for the sale. “A nice but not too lavish gift won’t be the singular thing toward their decision but can be a big factor,” he said. “It’s a feel-good incentive that buyers think they’re getting without an extra cost.”
Examples of these bonuses include a membership to the 1 Hotel South Beach private beach club that buyers receive with the purchase of a residence at Baccarat Residences Brickell, or the one-year membership to the Grand Bay Beach Club in Key Biscayne for those who spring for a home at Casa Bella Residences by B&B Italia, located in downtown Miami and a residential project from the namesake renowned Italian furniture brand. The price of a membership at the Grand Bay Beach Club is usually a US$19,500 initiation fee and US$415 in monthly dues.
Still enticing but less expensive perks include the two-hour cruise around New York on a wooden Hemmingway boat, valued at US$1,900, for buyers at Quay Tower, at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. The building’s developer, Robert Levine, said that he started offering the boat trip in July to help sell the remaining units. “We’re close to 70% sold, but, of course, I want everything to go,” he said.
There’s also the US$1,635 Avalon throw blanket from Hermes for those who close on a unit at Ten30 South Beach, a 33-unit boutique condominium; in Manhattan’s Financial District, a custom piece of art from the acclaimed artist James Perkins is gifted to buyers at Jolie, a 42-story building on Greenwich Street. Perkins said the value of the piece depends on the home purchase price, but the minimum is US$4,000. “The higher end homes get a more sizable work,” he said.
When gifts are part of a total real estate package, the sale can become emotional and personal, according to Chad Carroll, a real estate agent with Compass in South Florida and the founder of The Carroll Group. “If the freebie appeals to the buyer, the transaction takes on a different dynamic,” he said. “A gift becomes the kicker that they love the idea of having.”
Speaking from his own experience, Mr. Carroll said that sellers can also have an emotional connection to the exchange. “I was selling my house in Golden Isles last year for US$5.4 million and included my jet ski and paddle boards,” he said. “The buyers were a family with young kids and absolutely loved the water toys.” Mr. Carroll could have held out for a higher bidder, he said, but decided to accept their offer. “I liked them and wanted them to create the same happy memories in the home that I did,” he said.
The family moved in a few months later.