In 2001, the first of the Baby Boomer generation reached what used to be known as retirement age. Between 8,000-10,000 baby boomers will be turning 65 every day for the next eighteen years. Rumor has it over half the Baby Boomers in America are going to celebrate their 100th birthday and beyond. The social and economic impact of this data makes me seriously question whether 65 will really be the magic retirement number for Boomers.
Case in point — my husband. Jim is turning 65 next May. He has headed up our market research firm for the past 35 years, conducting survey research for political campaigns, environmental initiatives, and corporate clients. This business provided well for our family up until the 2008 recession hit. Our previously steady clientele virtually became non-existent over the past few years. It was a shock to our wallets and our spirits to witness how rapidly our business dwindled.
But, we are Boomers after all, and Boomers have resilience built into our very DNA. Jim decided to completely change careers. Within a few months, he has gone from being a Ph.D. expert in the field of communication and survey research, to being the owner of a property management franchise. He is now managing a staff of five and learning an entirely new industry. He has no illusions about retiring next May nor does he want to. The past four years have been a struggle, as has been the case for many families. Jim has reinvented himself at 64. He loves being productive and the mental stimulation of learning a new field.Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser suggested in a recent New York Times article that, “Retirement seems out of the question for increasing numbers of Americans who are saddled with debt and whose savings evaporated during the recent bust.” This description applies to a lot of people in our generation. But all does not have to be bleak and scary. If we are going to live to be a hopefully healthy 100, let’s try something new. Entrepreneurship is exploding in areas like West Palm Beach, which have historically been retirement communities. So come on, this is your chance to try out that business concept you’ve thought about for years…. This is not your mother (or father’s) version of retirement. It’s all yours to define.