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Baby boomers and retirement time will mean the largest generation ever to leave the active work force and thus affect changes in their lifestyle and in the economy. With 10,000 “golden boomers” reaching 65 each day for the next two decades, many adjustments will prove necessary.
“Baby boomers” and “retirement” are terms that are beginning to be synonymous. The largest and possibly best known of American generations is transforming into a group becoming known as the “golden boomers” as they approach and enter retirement age.
Beginning in 2011 and continuing for 19 continuous years, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day. With more and more people living longer as a result of improvements in health care, this means the numbers of the elderly will be the highest in history.
Baby boomers were named as such by journalist Landon Jones in describing the soaring birthrate that followed the end of WWII and the long lasting relative peace and prosperity that followed in the United States, Canada, and much of western Europe. For America, this period of increased births began in 1846 and did not decline until after 1964. Jones also gives his own name to the group of boomers born in the last half of this time span, who are not only called baby boomers but also the “Jones Generation.” A famous member of that group is the current U.S. President Barack Obama, born in 1961. The immediately preceding former President George W. Bush, born in 1946, is also a baby boomer.
Several factors concerning baby boomers and retirement are especially significant. One is the large size of this generation which different estimates place at between 77 and 79 million individuals. This size alone will create a phase shift in the age demographics of the United States with the percentage of senior citizens higher than ever before.
Another factor is the role that the baby boomers have played in the economy as representatives of so much wealth and purchasing power. Baby boomers in the U.S. currently account for not only half of discretionary spending, but more than half of total consumer spending. The prospect of decreased purchasing power on retirement incomes which may be far less than before will undoubtedly affect what and when retired baby boomers buy.
Another concern for retiring baby boomers is the stability and viability of their sources for retirement income. Private savings plans, 401K plans and IRA programs have suffered both from low interest rates and losses from plunges in the stock market during the last decade. In addition, questions are being raised about the health and long range adequacy of important government programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
Baby boomers and retirement will bring changes to this generation itself and to the country as a whole. It will be necessary for baby boomers and for the government and society to make adjustments to deal with changing needs and finances. On the positive side, the baby boomer generation has always been resourceful and on the whole is well educated. They have endured massive changes during their lives and are well suited to cope with what retirement may bring.