80 Is the New 65: What the US Economy’s Employment Bottleneck Portends for the Future

We’re headed directly into a predictable employment gridlock – moms and dads competing with their children for jobs.  A study conducted last month revealed that a quarter of American citizens believe that they will need to work until age 80 before they can retire comfortably. Many also don’t intend to retire, though they’d like not to “have” to work.

To put that number in perspective, people anticipate that they will be working a full two years later than the average American life expectency, which hovers at nearly 78. While this is a distressing picture, based on the ways Americans used to work, it gives us a new perspective on the “flow” of employment and the ways in which talent will come and go in the workplace.

With fewer older Americans willing to give up their steady working incomes, the traditional cycle of employment grinds to a halt. How can future generations take the reins of companies at proper times in order to enact sufficient and seasoned leadership if their predecessor is strapped into the office chair? Or simply doesn’t want to budge?

The bottleneck quickly establishes itself, as promotions become less frequent and upward mobility becomes less of a given and more of a lottery. Even if older Americans pick up part-time work in place of their full-time jobs, the younger generations may be stunted in their work options. In short, the age-old expectation that retirement is what everybody wants. If retirement remains an unattainable goal, or a choice elders just aren’t interested in, the trend may force the young creative minds to build the new layer of industry for our country. Change tends not to happen unless it has to, and this may just be the impetus for generations of youth to dig deeper.

This conundrum is indicative of an old and long-established employment culture, but could be transformed with the culture of young entrepreneurship. Only time will tell if a grass roots change and creative new industry growth can breakthrough the coming blockage, but the essential nature of work might just stretch us to new, tenuous heights.