Friday, September 4, 2009

A Reluctance to Retire Means Fewer Openings

This article in the Times highlights one of the problems in the economy that isn't getting much attention: that on top of the primary reasons companies just aren't hiring (tight credit, drops in consumer spending, financial losses for businesses), people also aren't retiring. In many cases, this is due to the losses incurred by hopeful retirees in the stock market over the past few years. The story gives a brief but informative reason behind why this is: mainly, that 401(k)s have replaced the traditional corporate pension as the main retirement vehicle of workers. As the 401(k) is more closely tied to the fortunes (or misfortunes) of the stock market, this is a much more riskier proposition for working-class Americans. The Times contrasts our system with that of other societies, like Denmark, where workers are able to retire with a much more genorous package. Not to say that these systems don't come with their own sets of risk, but on the whole, they're much more idealized to people who don't want to work their entire lives. But the article ends with the American penchant of self-reliance remaining strong, even if a growing number of retirees end up losing everything. They'd rather work till they drop, then look to their community (including the big, bad "gubmint") for a hand. How sad.

Well, I forgot the point of my post. That is, that more of the potential retirees staying put in their jobs means fewer job opportunities for the emerging generation of Americans who are entering the workforce, many with freshly minted degrees. Part of the reason why I decided to forego a lengthier, more expensive education was that I'd read a really good book, "Generation Debt", and one of the stories was about a man with a Master's in Library Science (a field I came close to going into) who could not find a job because the older librarians were staying around longer, presumably to either make up for 401k losses or to add more to their nest eggs (I think it was the latter, since libraries are state jobs). This is yet another layer of this emerging story on how a growing number of educated young people with degrees (or "generation debt") cannot find work.

1 comment:

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