Baby boomers are turning 60 years old at a rate of 330 people per hour in the United States, but they don’t feel old, and most have no interest in sitting in a rocker on the porch. They're intellectually restless, worried about money in the wake of the financial meltdown, and they aren’t counting on social security to prop them up in their later years.
And as far as they’re concerned, chronology be damned. Today’s boomers proclaim to feel 15 years younger than the date on their birth certificates, and they think of “old age” as a life change that sets in around 80, according to the latest generational survey by Harris Interactive for Pulte/Del Webb, the preliminary results of which were announced earlier this year at the International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas.
On the job front, 60 years old is no longer the homestretch to retirement. Try closer to 70. Fifty-year-olds participating in the latest poll said they expect to retire around age 67. That’s four years later than those surveyed in 1996, who saw themselves retiring at 63.
Moreover, in a grim sign of the times, a whopping 84% of those hitting the half-century mark this year said they do not feel financially prepared for retirement at all, whereas only 16% expressed that fear in 1996.
But financial straits aren’t the only force compelling boomers to remain gainfully employed. Three-quarters of those holding down jobs today said they plan to continue working in some capacity, even after they officially retire from their current careers. Many say they will do so to “ward off boredom and keep busy” or for the “self satisfaction and enjoyment.”
“Several decades ago, nearly 80% of our residents would be fully retired,” said Deborah Blake, creative director for Del Webb, which currently has homes for sale in 50 active adult communities in 21 states. “These days many of our communities have about 50% still engaged in the workforce. They’re either working part-time, starting new businesses or starting a new full-time career. They want to stay connected.”
Others are going back to school. Nearly a third of the younger boomers in the latest poll said they were pursuing additional educational opportunities, citing “re-education” and “expanding employment” as reasons for hitting the books.
“People are retiring, but they’re not checking out,” demographer Brooke Warrick concurred during an April 20 real estate trends conference hosted by the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC. “Some are launching not-for-profits. Some are starting for-profit businesses. And they want to be near educational institutions,” he said, noting a proliferation of “naturally occurring retirement communities” popping up around major universities.
Boomers’ general restlessness may also be taking a toll on household makeup, in that fewer of today’s boomers are married than they were 14 years ago. In 1996, 76% of 50-year-olds surveyed by Del Webb were married or part of a civil union. In 2010, that number dropped to 59%.
Which may explain, at least in part, why half of those responding to the latest poll said they exercise regularly and feel that they are “in better shape” as they get older. Hey, if you’re single, you wanna look good--especially since 60 is the new 45.
Jenny Sullivan is a senior editor for BUILDER.
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