My dad retired from his job of 35 years on Friday. He’s still quite young, but when he ran the numbers, the differential in retirement benefits between retiring today and retiring in 5-7 years simply didn’t add up. He’d be better off hanging up his hat right now and taking on almost any other job instead of staying on at his current position, given the relatively small increase in pension percentage. It’s not an uncommon scenario, and while I’ve (obviously) never gone through it myself, I’ve seen known quite a few senior-level people who have followed a similar path.
Two things interesting about that previous paragraph: first, yes, he actually draws that thing they used to call a “pension” but which is now called “mind your 401k, get a good financial planner and diversify your portfolio.” Second, he’s been at the same job for over 3 decades. I recall being told in one of my classes that the average tenure for a college grad today is something like 18 months (which, admittedly, I think may be based on misinterpretation/misquoting of this report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
However, according to that same report, the median tenure for someone in my age group–25 to 34 years–is only 3.1 years as of January 2010. Even if you go all the way up to the 55-64 age group, we’re still only talking a median of 10 years at a given job. Now, somebody in my age group is a lot less likely to have had the opportunity to work for the same company for 10 years–that would mean I’d have had the same employer since finishing my undergrad, and I would propose that even a relatively stable employee is likely to change jobs at least once in his or her twenties. But it also shows that having a truly long-term job is uncommon even if given the opportunity: in my dad’s age group, only about 28% stay in one place for over 20 years. I would imagine that keeping one job for life is practically a statistical anomaly.