It’s been 14 years since the first wave of Baby Boomers turned 50, and suffice it to say their world has changed. The retirement lifestyle many are anticipating now, on the eve of their 64th birthdays, is somewhat different from the one they envisioned back then.
For starters, the chronology of retirement has shifted, and many boomers say they now plan to keep working well into their 60s, if not 70s, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Pulte/Del Webb, the preliminary findings of which were previewed at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas in January.
The study, which polled Boomers in two specific age groups--those turning 50 this year, and those turning 64--found that the average anticipated retirement age has been extended by about four years. Whereas a majority of 50-year-olds polled in 1996 said they planned to retire at 63, those turning 50 today said they expect to retire around age 67.
But what is retirement? The research also suggests that today’s definition does not necessarily exclude professional pursuits. In the latest survey, 41% of 50-year-olds and 18% of 64-year-olds who are still working said they don’t anticipate ever retiring. Boredom, self-satisfaction, and enjoyment were among the reasons cited for staying employed, but the No. 1 factor was financial stability.
Sobering as it may be, more Boomers are economically unstable now compared to a decade and a half ago. In 1996, roughly 11% of 50-year-olds reported they had not even begun saving for retirement; today that number is double. The study also found that nearly 40% of older Boomers who have already technically “retired” are continuing to work on some level.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the mindset of the so-called “Me Generation,” which remains anything but sedentary. Most Boomers, regardless of age, wish to stay active, and a majority see working or volunteering as part of that equation. Some 70% of respondents in the Del Webb survey said they plan to volunteer, or already do.
And Boomers of all ages now consider 80 to be the tipping point at which “old age” sets in.
The Del Webb findings further indicate that the desire to stay active has made more Boomers amenable to the idea of moving. Roughly 42% of the 50-year-olds surveyed this time around said they planned to move during retirement, versus 36% in 1996. Of those planning to move, half said they would relocate to a different state, while a quarter indicated plans to move to a different city within the same state.
The Carolinas are “the new Florida,” researchers surmised, with Boomers in both age groups ranking the twin states as the top preferred spots for relocation. Florida still remains in the top 10, though, along with temperate spots such as Tennessee, Arizona, California, and Virginia. Respondents cited “cost of living” and health care as the most important considerations in selecting where to move.
Then comes the question of the house itself. What do Boomers want in the new homes they move into? Consumer preferences data released by the NAHB in January (also at the International Builders’ Show) found 55+ buyers ranking the following items among the most important design features in a home:
Washer/dryer inside the home
Windows that open easily
Garage door opener
First-floor master bedroom
The NAHB survey also found, not surprisingly, that 55+ home buyers were more likely than younger buyers to care about universal design features in the kitchen and bath; home maintenance, repair, and yard work services; stepless front entries; access to public transportation, wider-than-standard doorways; and non-slip floors.
At the same time, older buyers are less likely than their younger counterparts to care about island kitchens, separate shower enclosures, private toilet compartments, sun rooms, wood-burning fireplaces, and exercise rooms.
Boomers’ technology preferences are on par with the general population when it comes to features such as security and energy management systems, structured wiring, and lighting controls. But they are less inclined to put a premium on home theaters, distributed audio, and home automation, the NAHB survey found.
Jenny Sullivan is a senior editor covering architecture, design, and community planning for BUILDER.