Is 48 Too Old To Be Working?

Jack Ma retires

Baby boomers aren't retiring. Recession-battered savings, and the prospect of a decades-long retirement, have left them clinging to their jobs, keeping our nation's youth out of the workforce and forever stunting the younger generation's career potential.

That's the story we often hear. But that's not the story of Jack Ma, the 48-year-old CEO/billionaire of China's largest e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group, who announced Tuesday that he was stepping down in the spring and taking up the mantle of chairman.

He wrote in an email to employees:

I want to encourage our young leaders to step forward to ensure a smooth transition. At 48, I am no longer 'young' for the Internet business. The next generation of Alibaba people are better equipped to manage an Internet ecosystem like ours. I believe they understand the future better than I do.

Although he's a few years shy of 50, Ma is convinced that he no longer has sufficient pluck to steer the ship. "When I was 35, I was so energetic and fresh-thinking," he said, "I had nothing to worry about."

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The news comes less than a week after Ma announced the most serious restructuring in his company's 13 years. He decided to break up the group into 25 units, to ensure that it can keep pace with the e-commerce industry. Ma emphasized that the move would keep the management team intact, reported TechCrunch, but in light of Ma's retirement plans, any manager over 50 may suddenly feel a little less than welcome.

Ma has lots of interests to fill up his post-Alibaba decades, as he told Bloomberg Businessweek: tai chi, traditional Chinese medicine, environment protection, and private equity investment, to name a few.

Of course, most Americans don't have Ma's net worth of $3.4 billion (nor do several countries). So most Americans don't have the luxury of retiring as soon as they feel their thoughts lose their freshness. Over half of adults 50 to 64 say that they may delay their retirement, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center poll, and another 16 percent said that they expect to be working until the end of their days. A Wells Fargo study found that 30 percent of middle class Americans said 80 was the new retirement age.

More: 7 Tips For People Planning To Retire In 2013

But Silicon Valley isn't like most of America. While younger minds might be more adaptable to the tech world's rapid flux, many in the industry also straight-out discriminate against older workers, preferring the sneaker-wearing wunderkind. It's "100 percent due to the new, young, tech startup mindset," one San Francisco employment attorney told Reuters, noting that he has received many calls from folks who feel like they're the victim of age discrimination -- who are in their early 40s.

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I started my last job before retirement a few months before I turned 50. I had been downsized from the previous job, and retiring at age 50 was not an option. I worked in that last job for 14 years before I decided I really could retire a couple months before age 64. I waited till I was 65 to collect Social Security.

May 04 2013 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Georgia A McD

48 is a good retirement age if he wants to sit on the curb and beg! He certainly shouldn't get paid though. We have a lot of Chinese friends and they are forced to retire early over there. I retired at 66 and I didn't want to retire before then, however, I also wouldn't want to go back or have worked any longer.

January 19 2013 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Do CEO's actually work for their money to begin with? Doesn't seem like it, overpaid office candy.

January 19 2013 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if this was one of a group of CEOs who recently said that the retirement age should be raised to 70 for Social Security and Medicare? The workers should keep working but CEOs should retire at 48. The obscene amounts of compensation for CEOs is exceeded only by their greed and hypocricy.

January 19 2013 at 7:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I was a billionaire at 48 I would have been retired sooner than that.

January 19 2013 at 5:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to flip33732's comment

Totally agree!!

January 19 2013 at 7:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
In My Opinion Only

Other CEOs are pushing retirement age to 70 including themselves, TV, computer games, facebook, twitter addicts; ipod users, causes people become too lazy to go to work, it's goin' down. Sorry CEOs your going down with half pay cuts or **** parachute packages; it's a new tread now.

January 19 2013 at 2:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you, WalMart shoppers for making this possible.

January 19 2013 at 12:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Me 2.

January 18 2013 at 10:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Brilliant business move. Will keep the company innovative and in touch with what's now. After about 40 you really don't care what new and trendy.

January 18 2013 at 9:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dude's comment
Georgia A McD

You aren't in the real world. I'm 79 and I keep up with it all. Get a life.

January 19 2013 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ET call home.

January 18 2013 at 7:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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