Many of our clients at OpenCircle are members of the “baby boomer” generation, so it was with great interest that we read a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post. Entitled “Five Myths About Baby Boomers,” the post was written by Sally Abrahms, a nationally recognized writer on baby boomers. As a service to our readers, we are sharing a condensed version here.
There are 75.4 million baby boomers in the United States, people from 51 to 69 years old. They are a far more diverse demographic than any of their stereotypes convey. It’s time to debunk some generalizations.
- Boomers are wealthy.
Many empty nesters are snapping up second homes or moving into bigger quarters, seeking more space for friends and relatives to visit.
But many boomers couldn’t be further from living that dream. While some benefit from multiple income streams, members of this sandwich generation often are saddled with their children’s college tuition payments and health expenses for their aging parents. Some have to leave their jobs to be full-time caregivers.
On top of that, there’s a mounting number of “gray divorce” couples who, in their 50s and 60s, have to divide assets. And given boomers’ longer life expectancy, that translates into a lot more bills for many more years.
Savings aren’t helping them much. Working Americans age 60 or older have median savings of just $50,000, about $250,000 short of their goal. Furthermore, about half of retirees leave the workforce earlier than expected, often because of health problems or an employer’s decision.
For many boomers, their financial situation is more precarious than others think, and they have a palpable fear that they will outlive their money.
- Boomers are healthier than their parents.
Boomers have the longest life expectancy in history. They have access to new screening tests and greater awareness about health issues. They track their fitness and count their calories.
But research shows that boomers are in worse health than their parents at the same age. They have more disabilities and higher rates of chronic diseases. They are more likely to be obese, exercise less and have higher rates of hypertension and high cholesterol.
- Boomers are selfish.
Detractors complain that boomers stay too long at their jobs and in their homes, not making room for the next generation, spending their children’s inheritances and running up debt.
But boomers have been far more generous than they’re given credit for. The generation is poised to lead the largest wealth transfer in US history. And over the next 20 years, retirees will make charitable donations of money and time worth an estimated $8 trillion.
The generation has also solidified the concept of the “encore career,” parlaying their experience and skills into volunteer roles or paid “second act” jobs that have a positive social impact.
- Boomers are technology-challenged.
The fact is that boomers have integrated digital technology into almost every facet of their lives – from banking and shopping to following news and watching videos. A large majority of them own a cellphone and a desktop computer.
They are also not media-shy. Users over age 55 are Facebook’s fastest-growing segment. And the 50-plus set make up 20 percent of all online daters.
- Boomers don’t have sex.
Surveys show that people in this generation don’t let their love lives die. The downside is that the rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the 50+ age group is increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At OpenCircle, we do not draw conclusions about our clients based on age, gender or any other factor. We treat each client on an individual and personalized basis. You should expect no less from your investment advisor or wealth manager.
[Photo credit: Flickr user Homini]