Boomers Don’t Want to Retire – But Do They Get to Choose?

Boomers Don’t Want to Retire – But Do They Get to Choose?

“I’m trying for Freedom 95” says a friend explaining his retirement plans. It’s a joke, sort of. Some people try, or used to try, to save enough to get out of the labor force a good ten years ahead of the norm, and maybe they do manage it (London Life has a financial planning division called ‘Freedom 55’, and they ran a series of famous commercials on it, which is why the term came into popular use). For many others though, they figure that the way that they will survive into retirement is to, well, not retire. It’s a plan – or is it?


Maybe not, according to a couple of new studies quoted in this article from Marketwatch. One from Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement, found that almost half of retired boomers in the U.S. (48 percent) would like to work for pay but are unable to. For over 70 percent of that group it is because their health will not permit it, but another 17 percent were not able to find work. Another chilling statistic? Sixty-nine percent of those retired boomers were ‘retired’ at a date earlier than they had planned to be, forced to leave the workforce for health reasons, layoffs, or to care for a loved one.

The other study comes from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, and focuses on a long-held dream of pre-retirees, which is to ‘ease’ into retirement by working shorter hours or taking less demanding jobs with their existing employers. About half of workers in their 50s and 60s say they have been able to make those kinds of arrangements, but the other half have not. And there is also little evidence that many people manage to stick around much past 65 anyway.

So we have a bit of a disconnect. Baby boomers slamming into their sixties with not enough saved and a fear of rocking chairs, and the reality that they may have to figure out something to do with their days besides go to the office. For those whose health will not allow them to work, the choices are a bit limited: they will have to manage on the savings that they do have (I could quote some statistics here, but we all know that baby boomer savings, by and large, are Not Enough). It is a maybe a wake up call to those who are a bit younger that they will not have the option to work as long as they would like.

Those whose health is fine but whose job prospects are not are sparking something of an entrepreneurship boom. According to a 2013 study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the share of entrepreneurs in the U.S. aged 55 to 64 rose from 14 percent in 1996 to 23 percent. It is yet to be seen whether this will turn out to be a good thing: a boomer tapping into their retirement savings to buy a yogurt franchise will certainly solve their need for something to fill their time, but is not guaranteed to add to their long term wealth.


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