Un-Retirement

A penny saved is a penny earned. But as millions of Boomers across the country enter or prepare to enter retirement, the stacks of pennies are not nearly as high as Boomers need, or would hope to have. The worst may be yet to come, as it appears that Younger Boomers (born between 1955-1964) are even less prepared than Older Boomers (born between 1946-1954). These harsh realities are only starting to be realized, but the implications are serious, and will disrupt everything from retirement timelines and spending behavior to personal well-being.

The numbers are frightening: 29% of households age 55+ have neither retirement savings nor a defined benefit plan (US Government Accountability Office, June 2015). And, according to data from the Schwartz Center for Economic Analysis, 55% of households in which the head of the household is near retirement age (55- to 64-years-old) will have to subsist almost entirely on Social Security income or will not be able to retire at all due to negligible savings (Forbes.com, July 2015).

Boomers simply can’t retire yet. Being able to work longer is not a plan. It's a hope. Many are unable to find a job, are in poor health, or must care for a loved one. Even for those able to collect a paycheck, they will make less than they did before they “retired.”

Part of the reason Boomers are unprepared for the realities of retirement is likely because they’ve failed to recognize and respond to the fact that they’re aging.

The situation is actually worse for Younger Boomers. While 42% of 62- to 66-year-olds expect to live comfortably in retirement (pipe dream or not), just 25% of 50- to 55-year-olds feel the same, according to an Insured Retirement Institute report (MillionaireCorner.com, July 2013).

Attitudes and values of Younger Boomers offer some suggestions of what retirement might look like down the road. That senior village in Florida with the shuffleboard court and early-bird specials might not be particularly high on their bucket list -- even if they could afford it. Values such as simplicity, control and relaxation -- which many people might view as the core markers of traditional retirement -- have declined significantly over the years. What’s more important to them? Health, happiness and diversity.

So what does this mean to marketers?

The motivations for saving for retirement may not be the same for Boomers as they were for their parents. And, financial companies need to help them understand how their future plans may not be realistic.

(Photo by 401(k) 2012 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original)

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