Baby boomers could never learn to sit still. They were the original rock-and-rollers and campus activists when they were younger, and later morphed into the success-obsessed Yuppies that re-shaped the economy. They were the tech pioneers that pushed the boundaries of computing into the mainstream of society.
Now, a new study out of MetLife suggests that they may actually be slowing down, and at a faster rate than previously expected. The study of 450 baby boomers born in 1946 finds they “are retiring in droves,” according to MetLife. (Baby boomers are defined as members of the generation born immediately after World War II, between the years 1946 and 1964. They comprise the largest demographic bulge to come out of the 20th century,)
The study reports that 59% of the first Boomers to turn 65 are at least partially retired — 45% are completely retired and 14% are retired, but working part-time. Of those still working, 37% say they’ll retire in the next year and on average plan to do so by the time they’re 68. The average retirement age for the 1946 Boomers is 59.7 for men and 57.2 for women. The study is a follow-on of a report on the same 450 individuals MetLife published in 2007.
Half (51%) of those who are retired say they retired earlier than they had expected. Of those who retired early, four-in-ten say they did so for health reasons.
What does this mean? Perhaps for a generation that prided itself on “dropping out” of the establishment, exiting the workforce is the latest act of rebellion. Perhaps its part of an ongoing search for meaning in life beyond the 9-to-5 routine. Perhaps they are making the move to post-retirement careers that they see as making more of a difference in the world, such as teaching, social work, or arts and music. Perhaps they’re joining the entrepreneurial wave and launching new businesses off the cloud. (Only 4% say they are “self-employed,” however.) One thing is certain: despite the recent rocky economy, the study’s subjects have enough wealth on hand that makes retirement possible.
Are the newly retired Yippees-turned-Yuppies-turned-Techies getting bored yet? Almost all (96%) retirees say they like retirement at least somewhat. Seven-in-ten (70%) like it a lot. Regarding the attitude of these respondents, the data shows that 43% of those polled are optimistic about the future. Of the 19% who are pessimistic about what’s ahead, 49% fault the government and 21% blame the economy.
What does this mean for business? A retiring workforce may mean skills going out the door faster than expected. For example, the average age of a mainframe programmer is 55. Ten years from now, there may be far fewer people that can run mainframes, which still process 80% of the world’s information. It means ramping up efforts to capture their knowledge, perhaps through collaborative social media. It means formulating new working arrangements that will enable older employees to stay on in more flexible, part-time, or telecommuting arrangements. It means devising training — designed interactively — that will bring members of Gen X and Gen Y up to speed faster.
Almost two-thirds, 63% of respondents, are already collecting Social Security benefits, and on average began doing so at the age of 63, defying the conventional wisdom that people would choose to wait to receive benefits until a later age in order to receive a higher payout.