John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

Header

Leno’s Forced Retirement Is a Cautionary Tale

Posted on February 7, 2014
JayLenoJul08

You are at the top of your game.   Your jokes are as funny as ever.  You are easily beating your competition.  You make a lot of money for your bosses.    And you are over 60 years old.

If you are Jay Leno, you are forced to retire in a humiliating fashion.

You would think that what happened to the late night comic is somewhat unusual, but it’s not.  It happens all over the country, all the time.

Many big-time corporations have a mandatory retirement age of 65.  Jack Welch was forced to step down, as was Bob Wright.

With life expectancy now averaging around 90 years if you are able to survive until 65 (I think that’s about right), what the hell are able-bodied Americans supposed to do in those golden years if they don’t want to play golf?

Mandatory retirement made sense when the average life span was around 70 years old.

It makes no sense right now.

If you have energy, insight, experience and ability, you shouldn’t be forced to step down when you are at the top of your game.

65 is the new 45.   And 50 is the new 30.  (I say that because I just turned 50).

Ageism is a real problem for America.  It is especially problematic when you consider entitlement reform.

Many policy makers believe that raising the retirement age is one of the best things we can do to solve our long-term budget situation, and I generally agree with that.

But we can’t raise the retirement age without having an appreciation for how hard it is for older Americans to keep working.  Often, those difficulties arise not from the desire of the graying set to stay in their jobs, but a demand from younger executives to ditch them and their high salaries in favor of less experienced but less costly replacements.

I am all for the free market.  But when the free market ditches older but very productive workers in favor of young but less expensive workers, it gives me a reason to pause.

Jay Leno was at the top of his game but he still got dumped for a younger man.  His experience should be a cautionary tale for everybody over 50 (including me).