I've been vacationing in Florida for about a week. What surprises me is this: I've been looking and looking, but haven't found many baby boomers.
One fact is evident: The oldest baby boomers are turning 65 this year. And according to stacks of studies and piles of reports, the first waves of boomers are beginning to retire. Some have pensions, medical insurance and bulging IRAs and can afford to opt for early retirement. Others have left the workforce involuntarily. Some have fled the corporate world in terror.
In any case, while I have seen plenty of Snow Birds here in Florida, their hair is too white, and they have too many wrinkles, to count as baby boomers. I met an 82-year-old widower from Pennsylvania, headed to Sarasota to play golf with his buddies. A 70-something couple from Toronto looking to buy a winter retreat. A fellow from Illinois who proudly told me he went to work for John Deere in February 1963, and got a nice early retirement package in 1992.
Meanwhile, the few baby boomers I have encountered are hardly retired. A 50-something woman who moved from Boston to Florida about five years ago and became a real-estate agent. A woman from Denver who told me she'd originally followed her boyfriend to Tampa, then settled in Key West where she's been designing and selling jewelry for 15 years. The native-born baby boomer who grew up around Naples and still lives there, running a marina.
I've been to Florida many times before, with my kids when they were younger, and to see my parents after they retired to Florida's east coast. I always saw plenty of retired people, but also lots of loudly-dressed tourists and families with loud children, and teens with loud radios blasting across the beach. What seems different this year is the paucity of baby boomers and the plethora of old people.
I don't know. Maybe we baby boomers are not going to retire to Florida like our parents did. I wonder if boomers will favor other Sunbelt oases. Or, are boomers going to stay home after they retire? Or flock to different retirement meccas? Or perhaps never retire at all? After all, those early retirement packages aren't so generous anymore.
I used to joke that I would never retire to Florida. I wouldn't have to. With global warming, Florida weather was coming to me. Well, after this year I may have to change my forecast on that score. But I'm beginning to think there might be other winds that will blow baby boomers to different shores.