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Go ahead, baby boomers – do what you like

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Last week in the New York Times, I read another of those “baby boomers are deluded” stories that I find increasingly annoying. You know – not savings enough for retirement, refusing to act their age, holding younger people back by clinging to their jobs, thinking it's all about them and so on.

I'm pretty much in the middle of that pack, and I don't see us as a uniform bunch of lemmings moving in egotistical lock step to the Cliff of Doom. (But if you must stereotype us, I'll take the "still exploring our options and pursuing opportunities" label, please.)

But the article was written by one of the leading labor and workforce reporters in the country, so I gave it my attention. In the end, I came away happier than such reports usually leave me – because it was clear the "experts" making the sweeping generalizations about a generation comprising some 79 million people today in the United States alone were pretty confused.

The story, titled "The Gray Jobs Enigma," pretty much dismantles the idea that baby boomers want to/need to/continue to work beyond retirement age. That's not the primary reason I find it interesting, though.

The real point is that while the people who make their livings studying topics like this were scratching their heads, the actual baby boomers mentioned were all over the map. Their reasons for not working after or for delaying retirement are as varied and individual as you could possibly imagine.

What do I want you to take away from this?

It's what I used to tell my writing students: Stop thinking about "all" and "every" and start considering "this" and "that." While it's true that if you have enough data points, patterns and trends will emerge, you can't ignore the dots that don't fit.

For you and your business, those dots could be your gems.

There are lots of ways of winding up a career – it depends on the individual's interests, abilities and needs. While it's true that some baby boomers get behind on technology, not all do. While some can't adapt to the changing pace of today's workforce, some do. Some can't fit in with a younger work team, but others do.

And while some can't wait to get out of the office permanently and hit the beach, others want to keep contributing and still possess the skills and -- dare I say it – the wisdom of experience that your business may be lacking.

Don't assume a lengthy resume, gray hair and wrinkles equate to rigid or over the hill.

But on the other hand, don't assume that the employee who just turned 50 doesn't have a hankering for something new and can't afford to give it a try.

It's like we tell our preschoolers: We're all snowflakes. Appreciate the difference and don't let stereotypes blind you to a person's individuality and ability to contribute.

The week ahead

One plant closes, another announces layoffs, still another is excited about innovations it's adopting – welcome to the packaging industry in the midstate, a usually quiet, behind-the-scenes sector experiencing dramatic change. Reporter John Hilton finds out what's going on for the March 21 issue.

Also coming up this week, new York County reporter Joe Deinlein identifies signs of life in a retail fixture some have written off. The pessimists may be wrong.

Our Inside Business feature focuses on trends in construction, engineering and architecture, with lists on engineering firms and electrical contractors.

Find the week's networking opportunities here.

The rewind

Here's a little more stereotype-busting: Did you know baby boomers still make up a third of the workforce? And that of the states with the fastest-aging retired populations, Pennsylvania isn't one of them?

Can't get enough of the Bitcoin drama? Are you still wondering why you should care? Dickinson College in Carlisle will present its annual Poitras-Gleim lecture on Bitcoin and the future of what it terms in its news release "decentralized, peer-to-peer digital currencies," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 26, in Allison Hall, 99 Mooreland Ave. The speaker will be Alec Ross, a former senior adviser on innovation to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Judging by his bio, Ross is a power hitter when it comes to finance, global markets and the impact of technology.

Last month, I referred to an article on annuities and the role they can play in retirement. Here's a cautionary view. Like mortgages, annuities used to be plain-vanilla financial instruments; like mortgages today, annuities can be incredibly complex and tricky – the opposite of what an annuity should be.

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