Which HR Specialty Lets You Work Forever?

As we approach year-end, be prepared to hear alarming stats about how no one saves enough for retirement. ‘Tis the season for breathless stories about how underfunded we all are. Scary stuff, of course.

Most common proposed solution? Don’t retire. How many family members at holiday functions will trot out this gem? “Aw, I’m never gonna retire. I’ll work forever.” Sure you will, Uncle Larry. Solid plan.

Great article this week in Bloomberg, citing data from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. Overview below, then some highlights from the actual report data.

Among investors under age 35, more than…83 percent say they plan to work during retirement… And how many retirees surveyed actually have some sort of job? That would be (only) 17 percent.

From a financial perspective, working into your 70s or 80s can be a great idea. It’s also completely unrealistic for many workers, especially if they want to stick to their chosen profession. It’s not just blue-collar workers with physically demanding jobs who can’t work forever. Even office workers need to prepare for the possibility that their careers will have a natural shelf life. “As white-collar workers, we tend to believe we’re immune to the factors that cause blue-collar workers to retire early,” Boston College economist Geoffrey Sanzenbacher said at a recent conference.

…the Center for Retirement Research used U.S. government data to rate each of 954 occupations on the likelihood that its required skills will decline with age. The result was a “susceptibility index…” Why are some white-collar jobs more susceptible than others? The answer lies largely in the extent to which they require different types of intelligence. Fluid intelligence,” your ability to process new information and situations, tends to decline with age. Meanwhile, “crystallized intelligence,” your knowledge of facts and how to perform particular tasks, generally increases through your 50s and 60s, researchers have found, with little decline after that.

Out of 850+ jobs, which tops the list as the least susceptible job to age out? Compensation and benefits managers. #1 overall, not just in HR. Wow, good for the benes folks. Lots of spreadsheets, data tables and summary plan descriptions, but you can work forevah.

In ascending order, Labor Relations Managers, HR Specialists and HR Managers move towards more likely to have to retire early. Notice a trend?

The more formulaic, program-based and knowledge-focused the job, the more likely you’ll be able to do it for a long time. The more creative, ambiguous or fluid a role, the less likely you’ll be able to keep up and do it.

The article points out that stock brokers and designers top the list of white collar workers who have to retire early—hard to keep up with evolving dynamics in a rapidly changing environment. Comp and Ben people sometimes get a rap for being the nerdier side of HR. Who knew they were playing the long game this whole time?

FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at OutMatch who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our Talent Selection and Employee Development track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). 

FOT Background Check

RJ Morris
R. J. Morris is based in the STL as the Director of Talent Acquisition and Management for McCarthy Building Companies, a multi-billion dollar national firm. Like many others in the FOT clan, he’s a sports nut who can endlessly draw the parallels between athletes, sports and the talent management game. I know, I know, as if we needed more of that. He has 10 years of practitioner experience leading talent efforts in corporate HR and another 7 years in leadership roles on the agency side, so he gets both sides of the desk. Talk to R.J. via emailLinkedInTwitter...

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