Our work on the new career lifecycle follows from the understanding that we must redefine the concepts of “work” and “retirement” in order to reflect the reality of increased longevity. Although life expectancy has continued to increase, the average retirement age has remained flat at about 63 years of age since 1980, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. As a result, the number of years spent in retirement has increased greatly; for men, the number of years spent in retirement rose from eight years in 1950 to 19 years in 2000. Given this increase, people must now save more in order to maintain their standard of living through retirement. This new reality necessitates a change in the meaning and nature of work across the entire lifespan, particularly among older people.

We will begin by exploring how employees, employers, and policymakers can work together to rethink the traditional career lifecycle and encourage individuals to work longer, save more, and embrace alternative career trajectories. Some initial topics for consideration include: affordable employee benefits for an aging workforce, especially the impact of healthcare costs; extended and non-traditional career paths; and social and cultural changes in the workforce. We will also identify the barriers and disincentives that affect labor force participation rates among older people and investigate what incentive structures would encourage older people to work longer. We are particularly interested in identifying potential legislative policies that would provide incentives for both employees and employers to promote working longer, such as payroll tax changes that incent keeping older workers in the workforce.