Article - Susan Klopfer

Baby Boomers & Retirement

DO YOU HEAR a growing rumble in the distance? Chalk it up to the coming the Baby Boomer Express, an enormous number of older folks in this country getting ready to retire.

In fact, every 7 seconds an American turns 50 -- more than 12,500 people every day, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.
Just three years ago, Boomers began turning 65, took their IRAs and pensions (if they had them), and started quitting their jobs and drawing social security en masse.
Who are these boomer-people, and why do they seem to scare so many politicians and younger folks?
Add 65 years to January 1st, 1946 and you come up with January 1st, 2011 -- the moment when the first Baby Boomers started reaching retirement age. According to a report by the Pew Research Institute, on that very day, today, and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65.
What Are Boomers and Where Did They Come From?
So who invented the term Baby Boomers, and how are these Boomers shaping the world to come? When World War II ended, and after U.S. troops came home, they quickly settled down and started having babies.

You have most likely seen the classic advertisements and sit-coms: slender moms wearing aprons and tending to their young children, while dad and his briefcase are on the job.

You know, that June and Ward Cleaver look...
Boomers really have already changed America through every stage of their lives - education, family planning, employment - and now, Baby Boomers are Coming of Retirement Age, and making a bigger impact than ever before.
Here are several statistical facts from the U.C. Census Bureau to consider - facts that scare politicians and make younger people true believers in the power of the Boomer generation:
· Some 78 million people were born between 1946 and 1964, which is defined as the Baby Boomer era, the largest in American history.
· In 1957, alone, 4.3 million babies were born in the U.S. This is more than any year before or since.
· In 1965, 36% of the U.S. population was under 18 years of age; today 18% is under 18.
Here are still more fascinating boomer stats to consider. coming from the Census Department and other research organizations:
· As of 2009, 48 is the largest age group in the United States. (U.S. Census)
· By 2015, those who are 50 and older will represent nearly half, or 45% of the U.S. population. (Cohn and Taylor)
· Of the 72 million family households in the U.S., 34 million of them are baby boomer households. (MetLife Mature Market Institute)
· A 50-year-old female can expect to live 82.5 years; a male 78.5 years. (The National Center for Health Statistics)
AT FIRST, THIS may seem like a lot of raw numbers and statistics to make much sense of, but what do these numbers really tell us, and what do Boomers think and want?
First of all, and perhaps even most important, is that the United States is seriously about to change regarding its composition. For now, just 13% of Americans are 65 years and older.

But by 2030, only 18 years away from now, when all members of the Boomer generation have reached that age, fully 18% of the U.S. will be 65 years and older, according to Pew Research Center population projections.
(Even if it appears that we are talking about old folks, let me clarify--I am a 64-year-old Boomer, born in 1948, and like most of my cohorts, I believe that old age does not even start until age 72, a fact backed up by Pew. While about half of us might say we feel younger than our actual age, fully 61% of Boomers are feeling more spry than their age might imply. Most Boomers report feeling nine years younger than their true age.)
Things Are Seldom What They Seem
While the stereotyped image of a happy retired man on his way to the fishing stream or joyful retired grandparents on a jaunt to Disney World with grandchildren, this age group comes to mind when the word "retirement" appears, in fact, this age group is not as upbeat as one might think - even if most don't feel particularly old for their age.
"Baby Boomers are more downbeat than other age groups about the trajectory of their own lives and about the direction of the nation as a whole," report D'Vera Cohn and Paul Taylor, for Pew Research Center.
In fact, just two years ago (2010), Pew researchers found Baby Boomers to be a "pretty glum" group of folks. Some 80 percent said they were dissatisfaction with "the way things are going in the country today, compared with 60% of those ages 18 to 29 (Millennials), 69% of those ages 30 to 45 (Generation Xers) and 76% of those ages 65 and older (the Silent and Greatest Generations), according to an additional 20120 Pew Research Center survey.
Both Gloomy and Hopeful
Some of this pessimism is related to life cycle -- for most people, middle age is the most demanding and stressful time of life, report Cohn and Taylor, citing psychological research (Stone, Arthur A. et al, "A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States," PNAS, June 1, 2010, Vol. 107, No. 22).
Yet, it was Baby Boomers, who in the 1960s expressed high hopes for remaking society, while spending most of their adulthood "trailing other age cohorts in overall life satisfaction." (We wanted desperately to change the status quo, but this never happened.)
More Cohn and Taylor findings about Boomers helps others understand who they are, and what they want. These stats particularly stand out --
· Baby Boomers are more accepting of changes in American culture than adults ages 65 and older, though generally less tolerant than the young.
· Regarding personal finances, economic security and retirement expectations, Boomers feel more damaged by the Great Recession than do older adults.
· Late-comers to high tech, Boomers are beginning to close the Internet and social media gap with younger generations. Fully half of the younger Boomers (ages 46-55) now use social networks and than half (55%) of older Boomers (ages 56-64) now watch online video.
· In their core political attitudes about the role of government, they're more conservative than younger adults and more liberal than older adults, according to a comprehensive 2010 Pew Research report.
· But, a new Pew Research survey finds Boomers oppose legislations that would take a bite out of their own pocketbooks...some 63% (compared with 58% of all adults) oppose raising the age for qualifying for full Social Security benefits.
WHEN RELIGION COMES INTO the picture, Boomers appear to be less religious that people over 65, but more religious than younger adults. Less than half (43%) say the a "strong" members of their religion - higher than younger adults and lower than older folks. Less than half (40%) say they attend religious services once a week. Some 13% report having no religious affiliation, again - less than younger people but more than older adults.
As many baby boomers, like myself, quietly move into this over-60 group, we are often thinking about the quality of the rest of our days, the consequences of the decisions we have made and a legacy - even if it is unassuming.

I am reminded of a quote by the philosopher Nietzsche, "The consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claim that meanwhile we have improved."
We still do have time to make a difference, to improve the world, if our own gloom will not overtake us. I only hope that our last years are filled once again with hope matched by action.

Let us get going, and Occupy Retirement!