Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Boomers Worry About


     The transition from the working life to the retired life can be difficult and disrupting, so it should come as no surprise that anxieties have blossomed among Baby Boomers concerned about the financial, social and physical challenges of growing older. Those anxieties begin to bud when middle managers realize their gray hair is no longer a mark of distinction, but a liability for the next job interview. And they grow as people suffer diminished physical capability, loss of control over their lives, and perhaps feelings of invisibility and irrelevance.

     Boomers were born during a time of post-war national prosperity. But the fact that there are so many of us has created a competitive world -- a battle for resources that we have waged throughout our lives, from college admissions to landing a job to buying a home, and now to the struggle for resources in retirement as we begin to put financial pressure on Social Security and Medicare.

     Recent surveys by the Center for Secure Retirement, AARP, and other organizations suggest some of the issues that worry middle class Baby Boomers.

     High Anxiety. According to a poll by AARP Baby Boomers are more worried than any other age group about retirement security. Over 70% of Boomers expect that they will have to delay retirement, and half of us fear we will never be able to give up the 9-to-5. The organization used a number of economic factors, from inflation to affordability of health care, to create an anxiety index. People between ages 50 and 64 topped 70% on the index, while younger people (too young and stupid to worry about it?) scored 50% and the 65-plus crowd (who are covered by Social Security and Medicare, and grandfathered into pensions) came in at a relatively contented 46%.

     Young at Any Age. Ironically, most Baby Boomers do not worry too much about how long they're going to live. Surveys suggest that Boomers feel as much as 15 years younger than people the same age a generation ago. Boomers peg "old age" somewhere around 78 or 80, and most Boomers without major health problems assume they're going to live to about 86. And that's a reasonable assumption. The life expectancy of a current 60 year old, according to government statistics, has reached a record 84 years.

     Health Care. Boomers believe that their health is pretty much out of their control. According to the Center for Secure Retirement, 65% of middle-age Americans think their health is mostly determined by their genes, as opposed to 46% who say it's largely controlled by diet and 44% who credit exercise as the key to health. However, we Boomers still do worry about declining health in our advancing years. Nearly four times as many Boomers worry about health more than they worry about finances or outliving their money. Most of us are concerned about escalating health care costs -- at the very time when we are beginning to have increased needs for medical services and costly prescription drugs.

     Money Matters. Yet, Boomers have very mixed emotions about their finances. Despite our worries, few of us have calculated the actual amount of income we will need in retirement, and fewer still have figured out how much savings we need to produce that income. But many Boomers say they already have downsized their lifestyle and curtailed spending so they will have enough money in their sunset years. Many have also come to terms with the prospect of delayed retirement, and say they are willing to either stay in their current jobs longer, or work at least part time in retirement in order to make ends meet.

     Message Delivered. Boomers in general cite a desire for a simpler, less expensive lifestyle. That dovetails nicely with the fact that many do not have enough savings to support their current spending in retirement. The Boomer desire to continue working in some way during retirement also helps. Still, with the mobility of modern life and the fraying of American families, many Boomers wonder who will take care of them when they eventually become old and incapacitated.

     Meanwhile, some 70% of current retirees rely on Social Security for at least half of their income. Yet almost 80% of Boomers worry that the future of Social Security is in jeopardy, and a third believe that in 20 years Social Security as we know it will be a thing of the past.

     So what are you worried about? To me, it seems that among all the different anxieties, one message rings out loud and clear:  Protect Social Security and Medicare . . . on behalf of all of us.


15 comments:

DJan said...

I am one of the post-65 crowd already on SS and Medicare. And you're right: I feel incredibly fortunate to have a reasonable amount of money coming in every month. Not that you'll see me going off on any European cruises, I don't have that kind of money. But then again, I got the travel bug out of my system during my working years. I do wonder about people who were forced out of the workplace before they were ready. I always enjoy your well-thought posts, Tom. Thank you. And have a very happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Stephen Hayes said...

Thanks for this informative read. I have a good friend who has worked thirty years for our city and she could now retire with the same income as she has working, but she can't afford healthcare. She's retire today and pass along her job to a younger person except for healthcare costs. Something needs to be done about this. Our Congress id fiddling while Middle Class America burns.

Anonymous said...

Being in the generation before you Boomers, I only worry that you Boomers aren't really ready for retirement. My generation pretty much grew up with little and with few expectations, so I think that I am very fortunate to not have to worry about where my next meal comes from, etc.

The long-term prospect for sustainability of any sort of acceptable lifestyle for human beings keeps me from wanting to travel.

BTW: It amazes me that healthcare costs have become such a bugaboo. Health insurance was unknown (at least to me) in my early years. I'm wondering if healthcare providers are still willing to barter or bargain with their clients.
Cop Car

Florence said...

I really don't worry much about any of the things you listed. I am very concerned about environmental degradation and our governmental impasse.

Olga Hebert said...

Of the things you mentioned, I worry most about money. Not for myself but for my children and their future.

Tom Sightings said...

Thanks DJan. Actually, I'm one of those people who were forced out of the workplace before they were ready. I don't see the big problem. I've cut back a little on my lifestyle, and will keep working my part-time job until about age 70. I like to work; keeps me busy. Life is good.

And Florence, I worry about environmental degradation as well. What bothers me is that young people don't seem to worry about it. Oh, some of them say they do; but I don't see them driving a Prius or turning down the a/c or giving up their laptops, cellphones or any other plus-ins that are powered by fossil fuels.

Anonymous said...

Many don't get to retire, they die before they can retire or just plain die...I have met many people in my lifetime and not one regretted retiring at 65 or much younger. Our world is not too great it is better to get something for the 40 years most people slave away at then nothing..This fellow we knew he died young and I mean 63 1/2 of stomach cancer, it came on like a hurricane and boom he was gone, he traveled a little with his wife, but nothing like he wanted to do, he did as much as he could with the small amount of time left from the cancer. One just never ever knows, I say live every minute like it will be your last because one day it truly will be..why wait on anything, you literally cannot take it with you when you go even if the funeral business tries to convince you otherwise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gigihawaii said...

Social Security, rental income, and cash in the bank -- that's all hubby and I have.

rosaria williams said...

You're right on the pulse! Yes, protect SS and Medicare and insure retirement savings from Wall-Street sharks. These three things might help the future of all seniors and relieve their families of future anxieties.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

All my life I have felt the hot breath of baby boomers, right behind me and wrecking havoc on the world I once knew. Now that they are the 'wrinkly boomers,' perhaps they will calm down a bit. Guilt and worry are useless emotions. And what exactly is enough?

The older boomers are pretty well off. Its the younger boomers who have greater concerns...like will SS be there when I need it.

My energies are focused on the kids under 30 who really do have too much to concern them in this brave new world created by the boomers.

I hope you saw the Jay Leno tribute on PBS. He is a classy boomer in his 60s and loved by many people.

Linda Myers said...

We are lucky - more than enough for what we need. I have family members in their late 50s who have only the equity in a house they can't sell, and the current job of one of them. They live in their RV on our property. It was going to be temporary until they found a place of their own, but they now realize their options are limited. The "community" of the four of us is doing pretty well, benefiting from our various skills, but they wouldn't be able to make it otherwise.

Laura Lee Carter said...

Two things I worry about: not living long enough and living too long! That's all...

Anonymous said...

Why plan out how much money the formulas will tell you that you need, when you already know you won't have it?!

Just came across this blog ... I expect to enjoy it, and get a lot from it -- thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this blog and have found the essays thought provoking. Although a boomer and born into a near-poor environment I'm now retired and have been for seven years. We reaped the advantages of our time and now live a comfortable and active life. Social Security provides 43% of our fixed income. Although we saved for many years we've been able to avoid touching any of it so far, spending about 82% of our fixed income annually (71% of total income). Our only real fear is that some health care crisis involving a nursing home will knock us down - other than that -we good ;-)

Anonymous said...

Life is good for now--- if you have health and enough money--- retirement is heaven.

The problem as I see it ----is the day health problems come to visit. Then I will worry --because then-- not enough money will cause stress and uncertainty -- the downward spiral begins.