Survey of baby boomer society finds #1 priority

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BoomerCafé contributor Lorie Eber wrote a piece on Huffington Post about a study that took the temperature of the baby boomer generation. We asked Lorie to summarize the study for BoomerCafé. One conclusion: our priorities are different than our parents’.

Merrill Lynch and, which studies the effects on our society of an aging population (that’s us), teamed up to probe boomers about what we plan to do with our “longevity bonus.” They surveyed more than 6,000 boomers, questioning them about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. What they learned may surprise you

A Brand New Definition of “Retirement”

Dr. Lorie Eber

Dr. Lorie Eber

First, boomers have a whole new attitude toward our later years and”retirement.” We view the traditional retirement phase of life as an exciting opportunity tostart a whole new chapter rather than as an entrée into the “leisure class.” More than 70% of us plan to work during retirement, mostly in flexible arrangements that allow time to also pursue leisure interests. We plan on being adventuresome. One-half of those surveyed intend to make a foray into an entirely different line of work.

What’s driving boomers to continue to strive? Most value the stimulation and satisfaction they derive from staying engaged. The workplace is also the source of many personal connections. Recent retirees report that they missed theirwork-related friendships more than the income.

Health is the #1 Concern

legs-upOur biggest worry is our health, yet just 1 in 9 pre-retirees is confident thatthey will be able to meet anticipated health care expenses as we age. Boomers identified health related issues as our most pressing retirement and financial concern. 71% identified “serious health problems” as their predominant worry, closely followed by the related desire of “not being a burden to my family.” For those who took early retirement, the chief reason was a personal health problem.

From Sandwich to Cube

lady-brick-stepsBoomers have been labeled the “sandwich generation” since many of us are tasked with caring for our children and our parents simultaneously. But family life has achieved a more dynamic form, which the study authors characterize as a “family cube,” to indicate that support extends in a multitude of directions.

Multigenerational households have doubled since 1980, and now account for one in five households. Remarriage and the resulting blended families have changed traditional family relationships. In short, boomers expect to be “sharing the wealth” with our families well into our retirement years. Today more than 50% of boomers expect to continue to provide support to adult children, while another 35% anticipate assisting their grandchildren as well. This largesse includes not only financial support, but also housing, paying school tuition and covering medical expenses.

Leaving a Different Type of Legacy

GardeningThe Greatest Generation focused on leaving a pot of gold as a legacy to their children. Now, in light of the continuing financial support boomers provide to our own children and grandchildren, our nest eggs are now hummingbird-sized. Sowhat type of a legacy do boomers hope to leave? Three-quarters want to passalong “values and life lessons” to the next generation, while only 32% believe our legacy lies in bequeathing financial assets or real estate.

Searching for Peace of Mind

Boomers have more tempered financial goals than previous generations. Almost 90% ofthose queried are just hoping to save enough money to have “financial peace of mind.” The study attempted to quantify the extent to which boomers feel we have achieved this goal by devising a “retirement peace of mind index.” When asked a series of questions to establish our emotional equilibrium on the continuum from anxiety to contentment, most ended up in the mid-range between worry and serenity.

This survey should send a strong message to boomers. To paraphrase the 1980s Ford Motor Company advertising slogan: Health is Job One.

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    1. Bob,
      I agree. I have an individual health plan and after ACA when complete coverage had to be provided the premium went from $233 to $474. Now it’s up to $547. All for a catastrophic policy with a very large deductible. I’m also worried!

    1. Leslie,
      Every survey I read finds that the biggest worry about aging is getting sick. We really do have a choice! 80-90% of how is age is based on the lifestyle choices we make every day.

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