10 Ways Baby Boomers Will Reinvent Retirement

Boomers’ retirement won’t resemble that of their parents.


Slide Show: 10 Ways Baby Boomers Will Reinvent Retirement

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Staying active. These days, baby boomers don't see retirement as a withdrawal from activity but as a new adventure. Many seniors will travel, volunteer, consult, and remain active, in addition to leaving some afternoons free for golfing and spending time with grandchildren. "It is a generation that is far more comfortable and even addicted in some ways to change and newness and adventures," says Dychtwald. "They are going to pioneer a lifestyle where people reinvent themselves again and again and again." 

Sandwich generation. Some baby boomers are facing large college tuition bills for their children at a time when they need to be ramping up their own retirement savings. Meanwhile, boomers may need to care for aging parents. "Caregiving also has a cost in terms of lost wages and stress and sometimes even creates the basis for illness in caregivers," says Eric Kingson, a professor at Syracuse University's Center for Policy Research. Baby boomers will need to find a way to balance caring for aging parents, helping their adult children, and tending to their own retirement needs. 

[See 10 Things You Didn't Know About Baby Boomers.] 

Lower Social Security benefits. Those born before 1937 were able to collect their full Social Security benefits at age 65. But the full retirement age was gradually increased to age 66 for workers born between 1943 and 1954. After that, an even older retirement age was phased in. For example, someone born in 1956 can collect their entire due at age 66 and 4 months. The age is 67 for those born in 1960 or later. People who sign up for Social Security earlier will receive lower payouts. "When you raise the retirement age, it represents a serious cut in benefits," says Kingson. "Because the retirement age was raised, the value of benefits is less as a result." 

Retiring with debt. The days of mortgage-burning parties are over. An increasing number of Americans are entering their retirement years with debt. Some 63 percent of U.S. families headed by someone 55 or older still owed money on their home, credit cards, or other debts in 2007, up nearly 10 percentage points from 1992. Carrying debt into retirement means seniors will have to cut back on discretionary expenses. 

Diverse locales. Most boomers will retire in the same town where they spent their final working years, as did most previous generations. Those who move may no longer flock to seniors-only retirement communities. "It's not the dream of the boomer generation to live in an age-segregated retirement community," says Dychtwald. Future retirees are likely to choose walkable communities with lots of amenities, recreational opportunities, and residents from all age groups. "The best and brightest of this generation are going to want to live in an area that doesn't put them on society's margin but allows they to stay fully engaged," says Dychtwald. "Boomers want to be where the action is, and they are going to want to be where the jobs are."