The Great Retirement Deepened the Great Resignation

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Hope + Uncertainty

The Washington Post featured an interesting article in their February 18, 2022, issue: The Great Resignation is also the Great Retirement,[1] authored by Helaine Olen, columnist. The reality of aging is that people (boomers?) will eventually retire at some point in their advanced years.  However, as Olen suggests, it might be better for the economy if seniors could space their retirement evenly enough for it not to negatively impact steady employment across the board.

One of the effects that the boomers’ retirement triggered was the worker shortage that made employers increase incentive wages contributing to inflation – when wages go up so do prices.  There was a time not too long ago that many adults chose to continue to work, if not to supplement their retirement but rather to keep working for the fulfillment of working purposefully passed the typical retirement tradition of 65 and out with pension and social security, provided the work environment was satisfying.

If, however, work demands turned oppressive like “no sick leave or vacation time” or threat of being laid off during downtimes like the Covid pandemic, then older workers considered it was time to take leave of the workforce.  Covid did, indeed, push many elderly employees out of the workplace for a long enough time that going back to work was no longer attractive.  For many, it was long enough to call it quits and apply for Social Security.  When so many older workers found it difficult to be rehired if they chose to return, they basically “bit the bullet” and adjusted their new economic situation to a more modest way of living.

Their absence was more keenly felt with the labor shortage so employers were willing to raise wages and offer benefits like “working from home” or fewer hours at the office as well as paid leave.  Nevertheless, for many seniors, incentives were not enough to take on jobs that no one seemed to want like driving buses, being crossing guards, or janitors. Of course, the immigration situation along with lowered birthrates did not give much hope for replacements in the workforce, which senior employees filled up until the pandemic.  That’s when the “workplace exodus with the power to upend both the workplace and the U.S. economy” came crashing down.

Olen sets her narrative around the example of an employee she calls Mario Valdez, who was laid off at the restaurant he was managing. Covid prolonged the layoff until he felt he didn’t want to return to work.  Now with social security, he is enjoying life with his family. Due to the many needs of companies being short-handed, he can find temporary jobs whenever he wishes to supplement his retirement income.  Going back to full-time is not his focus. He is happily retired.


[1] Olen, Helaine, The Washington Post (02/18/2022): Opinion: The Great Resignation is also the Great Retirement of the baby boomers. That’s a problem. –