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Are You A Member of the Threshold Generation?

Diverse Workers

I came across an interesting research report I want to share with all of you. According to Pew Research, just over half of all working adults ages 50 to 64 say they may delay their retirement – but here is the surprise: another 16% say they never expect to stop working.

See box below:

Pew Data

Pew calls these folks the Threshold Generation, meaning those who are perpetually on the threshold of exiting the workforce. Even those Thresholders who do plan to retire some day say they will keep working, on average, until they are age 66 — four years older than the age at which current retirees report that they stopped working. This is certainly contributing to the shifts in workforce demographics as the participation rate of those ages 65 and older has increased from 12.9% in 2000 to 16.8% in 2008.

What’s driving this commitment to continue working? The Pew Research survey finds it may not be how much you earn but how much you lost in the investment market meltdown that determines whether you are re-thinking your retirement plans, with those that have lost 40% or more of their portfolio being firmly in the Threshold Generation.

If you are the head of HR or Corporate Learning and members of the Threshold Generation are employed at your firm, here are some questions for you:

  • Is your organization prepared to have an increasingly aging workforce?
  • Do these Threshold Generation members have the skills their employers need to win in the marketplace? If not, are they committed to building new skills in areas such as social media literacy?
  • How are these organizations preparing for managing a multiple generation workplace?

Share your thoughts here, in the comments section, via email, or send me a note on Twitter.

[tags]Threshold Generation, Multiple Generations At Work, Pew Research[/tags]

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About Jeanne Meister

Jeanne C. Meister is a best selling author of three books, internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker. Jeanne is Partner of Future Workplace, a consulting firm dedicated to assisting organizations in re-thinking, re-imagining and re-inventing the workplace. Jeanne was recently voted by her peers as one of the 20 top influential training professionals in the United States. Jeanne’s name is synonymous with the establishment and institutionalization of global corporate universities. Jeanne is the author of three books, Corporate Quality Universities and Corporate Universities. Jeanne’s latest book is, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Collins, 2010) is in its 10th printing.No information is provided by the author.


  1. barbara garabedian

    Interesting conundrum. I don’t disagree w/ the Pew research, it certainly confirms what I see around me. However, many organizations instead of concern over appropriate skills training for “Thresholds”, are “back dooring” the situation & solving the issue by reducing the # of “Threshold Generation EEs” as a cost containment measure. Many of those in that age group are mid to senior level mgr and considered expensive. Many American companies today, don’t want to contend with an aging workforce. As short-sited as that may be…it is the current reality. I’d be interested n your response.

  2. Barbara,
    It is very short sighted of companies to “back door,” Thresholds–Rather they need to recognize this segment of their workforce holds a lot of institutional knowledge so they need to develop processes for knowledge transfer, developing new skills in social media literacy and provide for opportunities for Thresholds to work on multiple generation teams.

  3. Glad to hear there is a category for me and many, if not most, of my generation of educational publishers. I bring a forty year experience publishing best selling textbooks but since I was RIF’d by the big software company in Redmond, I feel stuck. Who’ll hire a 66 year old regardless of how young I look, feel and think. Seems to me our parents’ concept of retirement is dead and gone and I’m simply in another career transition trying to figure out where to go next. Anyone need a consultant?

  4. I think there are a lot of people in the same ship with Bill….They hit their 50′s and find themselves working on their own and need to stay working to cover the high cost of health insurance. If you are within range of a large metro area you probably have a large real estate tax burden to also cover.

  5. Ronnie Grabon

    Many of the ‘threshhold’ generation would love to work part time or on a flexible schedule (w/medical benefits if possible). How do we help companies see that advantages of gaining a higher level person, at a reasonable price, who can continue to contribute and possibly mentor someone who will fill their shoes over the next few years.

  6. Inez B Jones

    I am a state retiree who was recuited to return to work by my former agency. While my organization views retirees as viable employees who can immediate contribute to the production bottom line, it does not tap into the instituational knowledge of retirees who could contribute to identifying solutions to some of the system challenges we face on a daily basis. Flexible work schedules that were an option prior to retirement have now been discontinued yet are the very options that employees, regardless of the number of years in their journey, need because of personal committments, interests, and quality of life choices. Where there is no vision . . .

  7. Members of Threshold Generation:
    Thanks for your comments– This has stirred up quite a bit of interest. Employing members of the Threshold Generation will only take off when the business value of doing so is clearly communicated. Such as engaging Threshold Generation as mentors coaches and faculty for corporate training programs.

  8. Kris Moser

    It’s interesting to learn about this Pew research. I agree with Barbara. Like Bill, I was RIF’ed earlier this year due to the recession. I’ve been producing and creating art for educational children’s computer games and casual games for 29 years. The games industry is growing but it’s looking to save by hiring less experienced workers. I have many friends who have been laid off in the past year and virtually none of those over 50 have found new positions yet. The fastest growing area in gaming is social gaming and the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is people over 50. There are many new social gaming companies popping up but as far as I can see, they are not hiring people over 50. Ironic!

  9. Thank you for bringing this information to light. When I started working (in my 20′s) I thought that I would never retire. I tried it once in my 40′s but it wasn’t for me. I was laid off 18 months ago (at 54) and never imagined that I would not be able to get work but that is where I find myself. I do look forward to working again and working at a senior level. I am very optimistic that I will work another 20 years, at least.

  10. Leigh White

    I’m thinking that the problem folks over 50 are having finding jobs goes deeper in our culture. Our culture does not value older people.

  11. Geronimo

    Turned 65 yesterday, was head of HR for an S&P 500 company for 20 years. Here’s a politically incorrect observation that I came to believe after watching late-career employees all that time: the biggest favor that the legislators could do for near-seniors’ ability to stay in the workforce would be to allow willing seniors to sign a waiver of pay protections.

    We were a high-performing, hard-working company, but we were fine with mid- and even “relaxed” performance levels. Those folks were welcome, they just didn’t get the big rewards and promotions. Nevertheless, we often confronted a dilemma when someone in her / his late fifties was at a pay rate that just wasn’t any longer justified by her / his contribution. When those people resigned, we breathed a sigh of relief, even though we might have liked them to stay–if we could re-set the salary.

    This idea would leave the age discrimination law intact, except for a voluntary waiver–which would be binding, a true “safe harbor” for the company, and a major door-opener to continued employment for the senior employee. That way, those who really wanted (or needed) to stay in the workforce could set aside the threat that they were going to file charges if they got smaller salary increases or volunteered to re-set their pay level, to do a less-critical but still-valuable job.

    I’m 65, looking to get back to full-time or near it, and would love to set aside an employer’s fears that I need big bucks and lots of minions to get my job done. It seems to scare recruiters to see that I was a senior vice president at an S&P 500 company–they think I won’t be able to adjust to doing a director-level staff job.

    How’s that for a point of view you didn’t see anywhere else today?

  12. lisa mc

    What happened to the idea that we needed to keep the baby boomers in the workforce because we were going to have a shortage of knowledgeable workers? Did that get lost somewhere in this new administration?

  13. MJ

    What does this question have to do with any particular administration? This is not about politics but how “older” employees are viewed in the marketplace.

    I am in the 30-49 age group and not only do I not see retirement in my future, I worry about finding and keeping a job. Sandwich generation indeed.

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