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The Long Goodbye


Fewer hours, telecommuting allows Baby Boomers to retire in stages.


If demography is destiny, the Baby Boomers may have lucked out again as they approach geezerhood.

The Boomers, often defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, benefited from post-World War II prosperity and attended college in numbers far beyond their parents' generation. The result: hippies, perpetual graduate study, bad music, crummier poetry and endless self-congratulation.

Along the way, the Boomers never set aside much for retirement. The subsequent Baby Bust, which will create a paucity of skilled workers as the Baby Boomers retire, may save those with gray hair, burgeoning guts and a fondness for the 1960s.

Many companies are developing plans to allow experienced workers to retire in stages by telecommuting or working fewer hours each week. The goal: Retain the experience of the Baby Boomers and pass it on to younger employees.

A study by Hewitt Associates found 61% of U.S companies have or plan to develop programs to let employees leave their jobs in stages.

About two-thirds of the companies surveyed found that offering shorter hours year round was the most effective way to retain Baby Boomers. Other companies are experimenting with giving workers access to some retirement benefits while still employed.

The survey looked at workers in the aerospace and defense industries, so Boomers employed by the likes of Boeing (BA), Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Northrup Grumman (NOC) could be direct beneficiaries of its findings.

Nevertheless, phased retirement will be good for companies and good for younger workers who can pick up job pointers from the Boomers. It will also mask one of the greatest shortcomings of the Boomer generation: Failure to save enough money for a comfortable retirement.

Didn't Credence Clearwater Revival say something about this?

Big wheels keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keeps on burnin'
Rollin' rollin' rollin' on the river
Rollin' rollin' rollin' on the river

Some generations have all the luck. Of course, the Boomers will be the first to tell you they deserve it - and more.

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