Baby boomers are rewriting the book on how retirement and transitioning to retirement looks. Are you a boomer who is anticipating or living retirement? Will your retirement look like a traditional retirement or be non-traditional? How will we change it up?
Let’s first look at who we are. Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 (though sometimes those years vary a bit). There are 76.4 million boomers in the United States. It is estimated that 10,000-11,000 boomers retire each day since that's how many turn 65, and some retire earlier and some later. The trend is to retire later.
There are actually two phases of boomers. The differences in these two groups may change up how retirement will look for each. Early boomers are those born 1946-1955 (approximately). Later boomers are those born 1956-1964.
Early boomers grew up during a time of radical change and a new beginning for many. It seemed that anything was possible. Key events when early boomers were coming of age were: Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, Woodstock, landing on the moon, and the Women’s Rights Movement. Early boomers tend to be more hopeful about the world. Their careers got off to more solid starts and they bought first homes when interest rates were lower. They have tended to remain with the same employer longer and tend to have more pensions and more expendable income. Early boomers may still have the desire to change the world through a collective voice.
Later boomers were teens when two-income households became more common and divorce was on the rise. They spent more time alone. As later boomers were coming of age, key events were: Watergate, stagflation, the oil embargo, Iran hostage crisis, and deindustrialization. Do you feel the difference in what influenced these two groups? Later boomers were more pragmatic. They have been referred to as ‘Generation Jones’ as they had to fight for themselves and were jonesin’ for something better (or to keep up with the Jones’). Early on in their careers, they encountered an economic downturn. The recession of ’08-’09 came during what should have been their best earning years. Many have struggled to recover career-wise and catch up financially. Later boomers learned to be more self-focused and competitive as there were so many of them at a time with more limited resources.
What Does that Mean for Retirement?
Retirement isn’t going to look any one way for boomers. Most of us grew up with parents who retired, did some traveling, took it easy and were not certain they would live a long retirement. Our boomer generation will have a greater variety of activities and for most of us, longer lifespans over which to spend our time.
How are you thinking of your retirement timeline? Is it based on the earliest date you can afford to do so? Or is the timeline based on when you feel finished with what you are doing? Or does it happen when you have something else you want to do or when you physically feel you need to retire? The point is, we will/do have a wide range of needs and a wide range of choices about how and when. What are you choosing? For most, it isn't simply a matter of sitting down with a financial planner who tells you that you can retire now because you have enough saved to do so.
Have you previously retired and are now going back to work, or hoping to, as it affords you purpose and community? Or better financial security? Some of us retire all at once and are done. Some take a couple of runs at it. Many work part time and others start a new job altogether. An increasing number start new business focused on something they have always wanted to do.
Fewer of us will simply indulge in leisure activities and spend time with family. While some will do so and feel perfectly fulfilled in that place, others will long for a cause to sink their energy into. Much higher numbers of retired people will get involved in activities to build community as their family lives a distance from them. Do you have family and community? Do you have something that lights you up and gives you purpose?
I am curious if we will see later boomers wanting to take on challenges or competitive activities because we did that so much of our lives. Will early boomers take on causes and work for change in the world as so many have earlier in life? Or will that all flip flop? And how many will just check out and not have a plan at all?
Now More than Ever
Whether you are a pre-boomer, early or later boomer, or a GenXer, the path of life past age 65 has changed drastically. Regardless of how it needs to look or you choose for it to look, it's crucial you are clear about one thing: Your time is more valuable now than ever! Spend it being intentional about pursuing what's matters most for you. This is your time to show up as you!
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.