Getting ready for the 'baby-boom bust'

photo illustration by Phillip Wooley

photo illustration by Phillip Wooley

In four days the first baby boomers will turn 60.

In two years they can begin to draw Social Security at reduced benefits. Some seniors will move to a "retirement destination." They will leave jobs and take up post-retirement careers, indulge in hobbies and travel.

Both the public and private sectors are preparing for the inevitable "baby-boom bust," the retirement of their most experienced managers and directors.

More than 50 percent of executives polled for an independent survey said their companies are concerned about losing key staff. Of the 150 executives who responded to the Robert Half International poll, 78 percent said their companies are taking action to compensate for the loss of baby-boomer employees.

More than 60 percent of the executives said their companies are implementing or enhancing succession-planning programs. Half of the respondents also indicated that they are providing professional development to those employees who will succeed the boomers.

This is the method practiced by Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

Barbara Durham, the center's director of human resources and employee services, said it helps to have a large staff when it comes time to fill in for those who retire. The medical center has 1,250 employees, about 300 of whom are nurses. The medical center is the third highest employer in Carson City, behind the school district and the state.

"For those in leadership positions, we encourage them to give us as much advance notice as they can so that we can groom subordinate staff members to be promoted into those leadership positions," she said.

The majority of America's population is getting older, and the number of people in the prime work ages will decline, according to U.S. Census projections.

The aging workforce is something that the state of Nevada - the No. 1 employer in Carson City - has been researching since 2001.

In five years, the state of Nevada is anticipating that 2,830 classified employees will be eligible to retire. That's 20 percent of all state employees. In 10 years, 5,815 employees will be eligible. That will be 40 percent of state employees, said Shelley Blotter, chief of technical services for the state department of personnel.

"The majority of those eligible for retirement are in the middle and upper levels of management," Blotter said.

The state decided to address future gaps in its workforce - such as the boomer retirement and hard-to-recruit jobs - by developing an accredited program that teaches managerial skills. The first class of 35 public employees graduated in November, she said.

In January, the state's Workforce Planning Committee will begin conducting training for each department on such things as recruitment and retention.

State employees are eligible for retirement at age 60, with 10 years of service, at age 65 with five years of service, or at any age after 30 years of service. Most firefighters and law enforcement officers can retire after 25 years of service.

"We are aware not just of the baby boomers, but everybody who is getting close to the 25-year mark," said Kim Evans, public affairs officer for the department of public safety.

Future law enforcement leaders are sent to the Northwestern School of Police Staff and Command or the FBI National Academy, she said.

Other organizations aren't anticipating a large amount of retirements in the next few years. Carson City Superintendent Mary Pierczynski said she has about 40 retirees a year usually. She says teachers stay beyond the 30-year mark "because they love what they're doing."

Other companies pick up their workforce when others retire.

"For us it (the baby-boomer retirements) might be a good thing because we tend to pick up people who've retired and are then looking for something to do," said Kelly Brand, spokesman for the Carson Nugget casino.

"Maybe that'll help because the employee pool has been tight," he said.

Carson City's unemployment rate in November was 4.2 percent - an indication of a tight labor market.

Most retirement savvy seniors know the longer they wait to retire, the more they'll get. For example, a person born in 1940 has to wait until age 65 to receive full retirement benefits.

Tax adviser Gil Yanuck said taxpayers should look at their Social Security Administration Annual Benefit Statement to see the age when they can start taking full retirement.

-- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.

An Aging America

• The majority of America's population is getting older, and the number of people in the prime work ages will decline, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.

• In 2005, 19.8 million Americans were 30-34.

• In 2010, it's projected that 20.3 millions Americans will be in that same age bracket. That's only a 2.5 percent increase.

• In contrast, 20 million Americans were 50-54 in 2005. By 2010 that's expected to increase to 22.2 million. That's an 11 percent increase.

• Those aged 40-44 are expected to decrease 7.5 percent by 2010.

• Americans aged 60-64 are expected to increase by 28.5 percent from 2005 to 2010.

In Carson City

• 15 percent of the population is 65 and older

• 19.5 percent of the population is 60 years and older

- Source: US Census 2000


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