Baby Boomer Retirement

Enter the year 2010, and many of us baby boomers can look ahead to a baby boomer retirement that might, quite likely be--NOT. At least that is the case for the 50% or so of us who have weathered divorce and all of its financial ravages. We now have the twin attributes of longevity and diminishing resources on our side, making for an unlikely retirement nest egg. If your divorce was recent, or you recently suffered from the stock market debacle, maybe you already have given up on retirement, seeing as it can take decades of working to recover the lost savings. For us baby boomers retirement is being reinvented.

On the other hand, not retiring may not be so bad. Consider that retirement is a relatively recent concept, and indeed a luxury, which accompanied the incorporation of the 20th century. Certainly farmers and factory workers in centuries past didn't retire--in fact, they probably died on the job. Of course, the average lifespan was much shorter. 

But now, studies show among other things, that the more active our bodies and brains are, the greater our longevity. Check out Daniel Amen's groundbreaking book,

A recent study by Merrill Lynch reveals how much influence baby boomers are already having on conventional notions of retirement, prior to the most recent economic downturn.

"The New Retirement Survey, February 2005, offers a complex and illuminating preview of the kind of lifestyles, workstyles and recreation activities that boomers envision for their future. With guidance from noted gerontologist and author Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., it offers unparalleled insight into the hopes, fears and motivations of this influential generation, as well as the coming impact on retirement, work, recreation, marriage, family, healthcare, housing, entitlements and the economy.

Highlights include:

The new retirement "turning point." While 76% of boomers intend to keep working and earning in retirement, on average they expect to "retire" from their current job/career at around 64 and then launch into an entirely new job or career.

Taking advantage of their "longevity bonus," boomers will create a whole new life stage. Since Social Security established the "normal" retirement age at 65, life expectancy for a 65-year-old has increased by over seven years and continues to lengthen. As a result of living longer, this generation plans to be "younger" longer and work longer. Most boomers (65%) will stop working for pay and retire in the traditional sense at some point. However, that phase is more likely to begin in the late 60's, than at age 60 or 65.

Boomers reject a life of either full-time leisure or full-time work. When probed about their ideal work arrangement in retirement, the most common choice among boomers would be to repeatedly "cycle" between periods of work and leisure (42%), followed by part-time work (16%), start their own business (13%) and full-time work (6%). Only 17% hope to never work for pay again.

It's not about the money. While 37% of the boomer generation indicate that continued earnings is a very important part of the reason they intend to keep working, 67% assert that continued mental stimulation and challenge is what will motivate them to stay in the game.

The transformation of the "me" generation into the "we" generation. The "me" generation has grown up — now with deep concerns for the well-being of their children, their parents and their communities. Boomers are now 10 times more likely to "put others first" (43%) than "put themselves first" (4%).

The unpredictable cost of illness and healthcare is by far boomers' biggest fear. They are three times more worried about a major illness (48%), their ability to pay for healthcare (53%) or winding up in a nursing home (48%), than about dying (17%).

Boomer women are better educated, more independent, are simultaneously juggling more work and family responsibilities and are more financially engaged than any generation in history. Married boomer women are more than six times more likely to share responsibility for savings and investments compared to their mothers' generation (33% now vs. 5% then).

Boomer women are dreaming of retiring to Mars while boomer men hope to retire to Venus. Boomer men are looking forward to working less, relaxing more, and spending more time with their spouse. While boomer women view the dual liberations of empty nesting and retirement as providing new opportunities for career development, community involvement and continued personal growth.

Financial preparedness is the gateway to retirement freedom and the antidote to retirementphobia. Accumulating the resources boomers believe they need for retirement freedom (81%), rather than age (56%) or any other variable, was cited as the most decisive factor for when they choose to retire. And, recognizing the growing uncertainty of government entitlements, boomers who have a plan and feel prepared are twice as optimistic and far less fearful compared with those who do not.

One size doesn't fit all. When it comes to retirement dreams and preparedness, there are five distinct and different boomer segments: the "Empowered Trailblazers," the "Wealth-Builders," the "Leisure Lifers," the "Anxious Idealists" and the "Stretched and Stressed." The survey revealed how each group is doing, their plans and ambitions for later life, their level of financial preparedness and how they intend to fund their future dreams."


With the global economic crisis, the global environmental crisis, and the global terrorist crisis looming large on our horizon, new ways of living and approaching the end of life are evolving. For a baby boomer, retirement could be a mid-life crisis of monumentally creative proportions. Living responsibly in all sorts of ways--environmentally, economically, personally, familially, and globally are challenges that can be exciting for a retirement. Going "green", recycling, engaging in ecotourism, considering fair trade as opposed to free trade, living in co-housing as compared to single family houses, and reviving the extended family are all ways to meet the many crises before us with innovation and hope.

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