*Truthiness was first used, in its satirical sense, by Stephen Colbert to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively without regard to evidence or facts. Our Wizardly friend and co-author of Return of the Boomers, Phil Newbold, offers examples of truthiness as it relates to many people in the American workplace.

Phil’s examples of truthiness: “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Older workers can’t keep up with younger workers. Older workers cannot adapt to new technologies.”

Are you or your colleagues caught up in “knowing intuitively” about mature workers without regard to evidence, intellectual examination, or facts? Myriads of examples of truthiness are to be found in our myth cards. For instance, in the card deck, we confront the long-held, but mistaken, truthiness that is held by many such as “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks and older workers cannot adapt to new technologies.” The cards offer the well-examined facts to rebut these myths.

Here’s another example of truthiness. In light of recent events in the economy, are you finally coming to the realization that much of what you once believed was, and is, simply illusion, myth or truthiness? Do you now realize that you have been misled by truthiness when spun by government officials, politicians or Wall Street bankers? Does it sink in, each and every day, that a billion dollars is a thousand million dollars and trillion dollars is a million million dollars? When this sinks in, payback will be, truthfully, incomprehensible, won’t it?

Well, if you have come to that realization that truthiness is not truthfulness, then don’t believe that these folks who so readily spend your money have the answers to solve our economic crisis. Believe instead people like Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, when he writes about mature workers and what they must do to regain a foothold on a good future for themselves.

“The only way that they're going to be able to come out OK is if Boomers can work later in their lives.”

Believe the wizards who promise you that we will have to work our way out of the economic and societal mess that we, ourselves, have created. Ask the S-AGE for truthful evidence to support the following statement:

“America cannot compete without the contribution of the mature workforce.”

As to the Future - embrace truthfulness – It will set you FREE! Almost exactly one year ago, we wrote about the coming housing bust as record rates of mortgage defaults began piling up. We wrote about the stock of unsold new homes and the backlog of sales of existing homes as foretellers of economic trouble that was waiting for us around the corner in 2009. We linked this truth to the need for mature workers (now 47.5% of the workforce) to continue to work much later in life than ever before. We wrote about a decline in consumer spending as the nation ages and about the impact of out-of-control credit and low savings on the continued need to work later in life. We said more than this but suffice it to say that we predicted the economic downturn based on facts – especially those facts that impacted the mature workforce, people whose time to recover was, and is, more limited than the time given to most younger folks.

More truthfulness peers at you from around the next corner of time!

For the past several years, we have been telling you that there is a “next economic shoe” scheduled to drop soon that will further test our economic fortitude. So far, we have concentrated our message on underfunded pensions in the public sector, but allow me to shift emphasis to the U.S.’s top private companies that still offer defined pension plans. Their pensions are also underfunded to the tune of $409 billion at the end of 2008 reversing the previous pension surplus of $60 billion at the end of 2007 (Mercer).

We have written about the “at risk” medical benefits for retired civil servants. According to USA Today, state and local governments have “set aside virtually no money to pay $1 Trillion or more promised to retired civil servants.”

Let’s assume the truth of this research even if the numbers vary slightly with changing times and in certain communities. With bills coming due for states, cities, school districts and other government agencies, America will be forced to raise taxes, cut benefits or both — a task made especially difficult in the current economic times. Big debt looms in the billions, especially in our largest states, such as New York, New Jersey, Texas and, of course, California.

What does all of this it mean to the workforce? Well, more existing benefits are being cut as you read this!

Even more truthfulness coming to a town (or organization) near you!

A growing number of employers are challenged with communicating 401(k) cuts. They are very concerned with imparting the correct legal terminology – let’s hope they (and you, if you are tasked with this painful job) can still send a clear, compassionate message in the midst of the usual legal jargon.

What does all of this mean to you? Even if your organization is not cutting matching 401(k) benefits; even if you are not covered by a pension plan and medical retiree benefits (underfunded though they may be); it is probable that you’ve seen your retirement investments decimated. Now that’s painful truthfulness.

Retirement, as thought of in a traditional sense, may be an example of truthiness that you should think very carefully about. Why? Because you may not have counted on the probability of funding your much longer lifetime. For these and other reasons, it is likely that retirement will become a word for another time; a time that is long gone but has yet to be buried.

If you are an employer, think about your role in helping people to work, save and spend over longer lifetimes. Think about this as truth we need to embrace if our economy is to return to better times.

If you are an individual in mid-life, think about the truth of the importance of becoming better prepared to work later in life than you might have imagined.

Finally, a few words from The Buddha on living up to truthfulness:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

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