The notion of retirement is in a state of flux. As more and more baby boomers choose to continue to work past retirement age, they're demonstrating a preference for a lifestyle that's full, active, and, at times, exhausting. If boomers are saying they would rather be tired than retired, what are the implications for those who are marketing to a life stage that's clearly in transition?
The definition of retirement has become fluid. Once upon a time, retirement was a period of reward that awaited workers after a long and dedicated career with a single employer. Since pension schemes guaranteed income in retirement, the popular choice was to sit back and relax, enjoying one's final years as a "life of leisure."
By contrast, many boomers will need to continue to work as a matter of economic necessity. According to the Pew Research Center, close to two-thirds of boomers, ages 50–64, lost money during the Great Recession, with 20 percent of them losing up to 40 percent of their retirement savings. This and other considerations (e.g., fewer pension benefits) have a full 60 percent of them postponing plans for retirement.
Many of these boomers also plan on working past the age of 65, due to a significant differential in Social Security benefits. An average worker retiring today at age 62 would receive a $2,639.00 a month benefit, versus $4,675.00 if they waited until age 72 — a compelling 75 percent increase worth waiting for.
But the dynamic of extended earning years is only half of the picture. More work means more income, which leads to more opportunities to spend that extra money on leisure activities. The proverb "all work and no play" might be giving way to something more like "work and play all day." If you're a marketer accustomed to serving a traditional retirement scenario, here's what you need to know:
Work Changes at Age
The boomers are in the process of exiting the traditional workforce at a rate of 10,000 workers a day for the next 15 years. As they look for alternative sources of income, many will take personal responsibility for their employment. This will give way to one of the most pronounced periods of entrepreneurialism and small business creation that our country has ever seen. As this is happening, technology will continue to transform how we work and where we work. After years of seeking work/life balance while being restrained by full employment and a physical workplace, boomers are finally starting to achieve the flexibility they've been yearning for. So, while they're still going to be working, expect their workdays to include a lot more than just work.
A Body in Motion Stays in Motion
When the prior generation retired, they exited full-time employment and a full lifestyle for one that was significantly more relaxed. By contrast, boomers are not only continuing to work, but they're also jamming as much as possible into any given day. They're choosing to continue to live a full life and, even though they believe they're ageless, most of them are behaving as if there's no tomorrow. This is a generation that has a fear of stopping, almost as if they're channeling Sir Isaac Newton — a body at rest stays at rest, while a body in motion stays in motion. While there's no scientific evidence to support it, it does seem that once people start stopping, they start getting old. The boomers have a game plan. They're getting more pleasure out of a full day and full days mean they're getting more out of a life that's getting shorter.
Busy Boomers Get Boomeritis
Boomeritis is a term widely used by the medical community to describe the physical consequences of engaging in activities that are inappropriate for your age. The generation that coined the phrase "weekend warriors" is fighting age every step of the way. They're taking to the streets, the gyms, the yoga studios, and their bikes by the millions, with hell-bent fury to defy aging by defining their bodies. They worship physical activity, as they've convinced themselves that there's a direct correlation between physical fitness and longevity; the shorter life seems to them, the longer the workout. It's no wonder so many boomers are tired and proud of it.
What do you do with a bunch of tired boomers? If this is how they see themselves, then this is the corresponding imagery that should be reflected in your marketing. It's time to retire the clichéd images of retirees gardening in the backyard or taking sunset walks on the beach and replace them with vigorous people living full lives. Many of these boomers have waited a lifetime to finally be able to choose their own path and live their ideal life. Now is the time, and every moment matters. So what if the candle burns faster when you burn it from both ends? The light is so much better.
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