What Boomers Think … and Marketers Should Know

Ad Age Insights - 50 and Over: What's Next50 and Over: What’s Next?

Baby Boomers have defined each life stage they pass through, so it’s no wonder that marketers and organizations like AARP study their needs, struggles, fears and attitudes. Highlights of this Ad Age Insights white paper are presented below.

  • There are 78 million Boomers in America with disposable income totaling $3 trillion. (Do I have your attention yet?) They are particularly open to new products and services as they move in and out of life stages.
  • The youngest Boomers turn 46 this year; the oldest turn 65.
  • A 50-year-old has a life expectancy of 79 (for men) and 83 (for women)
  • The recession forced many out of the workforce and depleted the retirement savings of others, making it hard for them to see a brighter future.
  • Most Boomers never had a large nest egg to begin with, but the recession made it worse.  Many had to focus on survival rather than retirement planning. They stopped putting money into retirement accounts and withdrew funds to pay living expenses.
  • Even though most saw their net worth plunge 45-50%, the majority of Boomers remain optimistic. 60% of working Boomers were either “very optimistic” or “fairly optimistic” about retirement and looked forward to it.
  • Unemployed older workers, however, face age discrimination and being overqualified. This led many of them into becoming entrepreneurs.
  • Boomers are changing their lifestyles as they realize that neither an employer, recovery in the housing and financial markets, nor the government will rescue them.
  • Younger Boomers are understandably more concerned about Social Security, Medicare, and things like that.
  • The gap between the poor and super rich continues to widen. Only about 10% of those surveyed earned more than $100,000 a year.

Health implications

  • Many younger Boomers find themselves financially squeezed, taking care of both children and older parents. Two thirds of them reported missing work because of care giving, and many worry that care-giving might postpone their retirement.
  • It’s not just younger Boomers. Roughly 40% of Boomers have become responsible for the care of a parent. That responsibility pits Boomers up against the healthcare system, often for the first time, causing them to face their own mortality too and consider long-term health insurance.
  • Health and healthcare are mounting concerns, particularly for those already retired. 50% of working respondents said their health was good or excellent, compared to only 35% of retired Boomers, 43% of whom said their health was fair or poor.
  • Only 20% of working Boomers think poor health or a disability will force them to stop working before planned retirement, but actually 43% of retired Boomers had to.
  • Boomers plan to retain a healthy lifestyle during retirement, so health and wellness are priorities. About 80% said they get regular medical checkups and generally eat right. 91% said they take prescription medicines “exactly” as prescribed. 60% said they get regular exercise. And more than 75% said they’re always looking for new ways to live a healthier life. Only one in four admit to not doing enough to maintain their  health.
  • Even with advances in medicine and healthcare technologies, over half of working Boomers believed they’d have a healthy retirement than their parents, even though they agreed they’d likely live longer.

Financial Implications

  • A full one third of working Boomers said they envisioned struggling to make ends meet when they retire. Another third didn’t think they’d be able to afford retirement at all. They’re scared to death about outliving their money. On top of that, many Boomer grandparents are being called upon to help their kids, or their elderly parents.
  • 49% of working Boomers (30+ million) now think a lot about their retirement years, but only 34% (21 million) spend time discussing retirement plans with family or friends.
  • 61% of working Boomers expect to be able to rely on their diminished savings after retirement, but just half of all Americans receive any income from stocks and savings accounts. Of these, half receive less than $2,000 a year, which is not nearly enough to sustain retirement.
  • The 50+ age group is seeing ultra-fragmentation, where a minority will retain their spending power during retirement, but most will not. Their standards of living will decline.
  • Financial and financial-planning companies aren’t doing much to help. They’re still selling the old dream of a lifetime of relaxation and long strolls on the beach. What Boomers need is more authenticity from  people who can tell it to them straight.

Lifestyle Implications

  • Most Boomers look forward to being grandparents and want to spend more time with family during retirement, but curbed travel and relocation plans coincide with recession-caused cutbacks in lifestyle. 40% of working Boomers expect to scale back their lifestyle as they retire.
  • Because they give life at home a priority, many will spend money on their homes to make them age-friendly. This opens new opportunities for home-renovation businesses, as well as home delivery services and transportation companies.
  • When Boomers retire, they’ll likely do what other retired folks do. They spend more time cooking, reading, exercising, watching TV, and surfing the Internet than before. Actually Boomers already spend more time online and watching TV movies than any other group, including Gen X and Millennial generations.

Work Life

  • Defined by their jobs and what they do, some Boomers find the idea of retirement terrifying. They don’t associate retirement with sitting on the front porch, hitting the golf course, or going on extended vacations. They envision working part time or starting new ventures to address unfulfilled passions.
  • To others, thanks to the recession, retirement is now less about the freedom to work or not to work and more about necessity. Many see themselves as having to work until they die, and this introduces new challenges in the workplace. Possibly for the first time in history, four generations are working together.

For more details on this study and the various sources cited, please read the Ad Age Insights white paper.