Friday, February 4, 2011

A Surprise in Florida

     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.

     I suspect the media reports (like almost all media reports) are overblown. Maybe the first flurry of boomers have retired. But only the very oldest and richest. And perhaps even those ahead-of-the-curve boomers are not migrating to Florida. Early retirees in their late 50s and early 60s may have spouses who are still working, or children still in school, and they are not ready to pick up stakes and move to a distant location. Or perhaps Florida has gotten too crowded and polluted, and lost some of its sunny charm. Shall we blame it on Carl Hiaasen, who writes black comedy mysteries involving Florida lowlifes?

     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.


Kay Dennison said...

Sanibel I'd want to retire in Florida. That said, I can't afford to move anywhere. I was forced into retirement so I'm stuck in Ohio.

Dick Klade said...

Life is about much more than weather. I've come to believe that people with a large group of family members ought to retire where most of those folks are (assuming they are at least somewhat compatible). Those with small families do best where they have many friends.

You can travel to good weather for welcome breaks. You can't travel nearly as conveniently or economically to family and friends unless you like to be on the road a lot, and travel becomes less enthralling as we age.

Anonymous said...

Many of the Baby Boomers have landed in NC and VA for retirement. It has gotten so bad, that Virginians now speak with a New York accent. Dianne

June said...

My dream retirement place is somewhere in the mid-Atlantic states. Having visited the region only twice, I have no idea where, exactly, I would go . . . but a two month winter sounds juuuust right.

Anonymous said...

I thought of retiring to Florida but am slowly changing my mind. Again. I winter in Florida every year but after January and February, I want to come back home to NY and my adult kids.

Go figure.