Baby Boomers Go Into Un-Retirement

Marketing Plan Example - A One Page Marketing Plan Anyone Can Use

Today in the United States there are 78 million Baby Boomers, i.e. people born in the post-World War II baby boom years between 1946 and 1964. That’s over one-quarter of the U.S. population.

Every seven seconds, a Baby Boomer turns 50. What’s more, a significant number (13 million) of Baby Boomers are over the age of 55 — a time we have traditionally thought of as retirement.

Well, it’s not your father’s retirement anymore (my apologies, Oldsmobile). Ours is a generation of striving achievers, with focus on ourselves, our desires, our needs. We’re living longer, and so we act younger longer. We Baby Boomers are too active to retire.

According to a retirement survey by Merrill Lynch, the trend is for Baby Boomers to not stop working altogether in a traditional retirement sense — nor do Boomers want to keep working full-time until we keel over.

Instead, Boomers are going into a new state I call “un-retirement.” A balancing of work and play is what many Boomers have in mind. Boomers are continuing to work, just perhaps not in the sense of staying in a corporate career or in the kind of job in which they have made a living for most of their lives.

While money is a key motivator to some Boomers in continuing to work, for a majority of Boomers it is about mental stimulation according to the Merrill Lynch survey. Fluid, flexible and non-traditional working arrangements are among the options older Baby Boomers are pursuing. For some, that may mean starting a business for the first time later in life. For others, it may mean getting part-time employment in a fun job they’ve always wanted to do, such as working in a bookstore or as a golf course starter. For still others it may mean starting a new career altogether, or securing short-term consulting gigs in the field in which they were trained.

Large corporations are starting to feel the pinch of millions of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce — and taking their valuable expertise with them. Society’s view of older workers is changing, and older workers are seen as having attractive qualities. For instance, today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about the growing number of job sites and resources targeting the over-50 worker., Senior,, and Dinosaur Exchange.

In fact, YourEncore was started by Eli Lilly and Proctor & Gamble, as a way to pull back in to those companies their retired workers.

How ironic that a generation that once had to fight in the courts for age discrimination protection, now has Fortune 500 companies trying to lure them back to work.

I can see this shift to un-retirement status as spawning all sorts of new business opportunities for services and products designed for the employment-seeking older worker.

Read the Wall Street Journal article on job sites for the over-50 crowd (requires subscription, but you can sign up for a free two-week trial).

For additional background, see also Greg Balanko-Dickson’s post about Baby Boomers becoming entrepreneurs.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

12 Reactions
  1. Dear Sir,

    I would like to translate this article into Chinese and put it in my blog. I have created a discussion group related to the bommers in my language and like to tell all about the boomers to the people who is concerning the issue.

    Your kind permission will be highly appreciated.



  2. Hello, Yes, you have my permission to translate into Chinese. Please link back to this page in your blog article.

    Thank you!

  3. “Instead, Boomers are going into a new state I call “un-retirement.” A balancing of work and play is what many Boomers have in mind. Boomers are continuing to work, just perhaps not in the sense of staying in a corporate career or in the kind of job in which they have made a living for most of their lives.”

    In today’s society of longevity, boomers have the opportunity to reach out and follow their dreams, whether in business, relationships or leisure. Un-retirement is great for this age group as there is so much to offer.

  4. I am a fifty six year old, male who, if lucky, has approximately three more decades of life to look forward to. I am part of the baby boom generation, and like many of my fellow boomers I have been given much. I now bring years of experience, wisdom and knowledge to the world.

    And, I am not alone. For every eight seconds someone in this country is turning 50.

    For 35 years I have worked in the nonprofit sector. I have been on the front lines of the social wars going on in this country. I have watched as our challenges loom larger and larger, and as resources are diverted to a war overseas. I’ve watched poverty rates increase (especially among children); and witness as everyone who watches the nightly news does-the rise in drug problems; violence; domestic abuse; the fear of individual differences and the growing gap between the rich and poor. I, along with thousands of other individuals working as teachers; nurses; social workers; and all forms of caregivers have struggled with lower wages; fewer resources; and growing needs.

    And yet, I feel incredible optimism, hope and energy. For I believe that we have an amazing natural resource that is growing and can be tapped for many years to come.

    I am part of the demographic which has the opportunity to change the social landscape of the future. I believe there is a great spiritual need and moral necessity for redefining retirement and our growing longevity with “returnment”. I define “returnment” as “the act of giving back or returning in some small way what the world has given you”. I like this new word because it captures not only our new age of life but the psychological and spiritual needs of this time of life, too.

    What I, and others face, at this juncture in our lives is a critical choice in values. Do I want to spend the last third of my life engaged in traditional retirement: pursuing solely self interests and individual desires, becoming a better and better consumer? Or would my life be more enriched through enriching the lives of others? I have come to endorse the words of Albert Einstein when he said “Many times a day I realize how much my own inner and outer life is built on the labors of other men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give and return as much as I have received”.

    I believe to live our later years uninvolved and unengaged is not only unrewarding but unacceptable. As Goethe said,” Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough. We must do.”

    Just imagine if only a portion of the three million people retiring each year were to pursue a life of “returnment”. What problems could be addressed? How many children’s lives would be different? What new kind of energy would be created? What level of hope?

    Perhaps through returnment, we boomers have one more social movement in us.

  5. I am 47 years old and starting my second life. I spent 20 great years at a major pharmaceutical company in various middle management positions until Feb 2005 when I was given a package.

    I was offered 6 months of transition coaching but in my ignorance, I figured that I did not need it. After all, I was now free to start my second life. For the next 2 years, I owned a rapidly growing single practice performance management consulting company.

    Even my consulting practice was rapidly growing, I felt like I had sold out because while I was still employed, I told my wife that if I got a package, I would do all the things I ever wanted to do and start a totally new career. Now that I had that opportunity, I went back to my comfort zone and was doing the same thing I did before but for other companies. In addition, the consulting work was not letting me move on because part of the reason of hiring me was getting someone with big pharma experience to work in the client’s business.

    This past summer, my wife and I went to Europe for 3.5 weeks for our 25th wedding anniversary and had a lot of time to talk about what the two of us wanted to accomplish in the second half of our lives.

    We decided that the best thing was for us not to do consulting and to get part time work selling in an area that I had interest.

    I now have a wonderful part time retail with a major wireless communication company and I love helping people.

    However, I have noticed that the number of phones, plans and add ons are limitless. I have helped many people resolve issues for which they had been on the phone for 5 hours trying to resolve. The wireless industry is unregulated and the bulk of information resides with the companies. This places consumers and businesses at a sever disadvantage.

    I am in the process of doing a business feasibility study of a business model that will result in balancing the information and helping consumers and businesses become better armed to make decisions that maximize the money and the time they have invested in their wireless communication.

    I will keep you posted.

    Mark Parbus

  6. Hi Jay,

    Your attitude is inspiring. Nothing aggravates me more than to hear Baby Boomers being treated as “seniors.” I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with being a senior. In some cases it can be an advantage — like if it means getting a discount or something (hey take whatever advantages you can get is my motto).

    But if we think of Boomers as being the way “seniors” are typically portrayed in ads or in print — as over the hill, ready for the assisted living home, winding down — then we miss out on the many years of accumulated wisdom and experience. We NEED that wisdom and experience — in business and in society.

    And I love your word “returnment.” It conveys so much in one word.

    My apologies for not responding to your comment earlier. I was traveling when it came in and I simply missed it.


  7. Hi Mark, good for you for coming to terms with what you wanted to do to make yourself happy. And it sounds like you have a supportive wife who helped you see the same.

    Well, I can certainly see a need for information about wireless plans. Telephony is an industry undergoing massive technology disruption today. That makes for some incredible deals — and a very confused marketplace. The decision making process for telephony choices today is unnecessarily complex. Anything you can do to help businesses make informed choices more intelligently, faster and easier, will be welcome.


  8. I talk with a number of baby boomer and your article is right on. Seems many boomers have a whole list of exciting things they want to accomplish and many have waited until retirement to do so.

  9. Sarah Maciejewski

    I just turned that baby boomer age and my retirement is nothing like I thought it would be. Instead, of relaxing and doing things for myself, I’m the caregiver for my mother who is 88 with Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. We are in that sandwich age also. I know I will not regret my choices but it really is depressing. I would love to find a job that I can do and still care for mother, however I’m still searching for that and yearning to have time for me.

  10. I fully agree with Jay’s optimism and idea of “returnment”. I am 53 years old, have worked for 36 years now, in various office environments and am stuck in retail. I was making a higher wage with the retail employer, left to “seek something else”, failed to do that, and returned to the same employer — back down the seniority ladder and a smaller level of pay. I am, however, intrigued by all the folks I see attending “senior job fairs” — the one last week did not offer very many job openings, though some of the “classes” were helpful. I would love to leave the physical world of retail, return to an office environment, and do the thing I seem to be good at — helping others. I always seemed to be the “go to” person; was personally chosen by a former office manager (200 employees) to organize the annual United Way campaign – 3 consecutive years! I want so much to start SOME KIND of foundation, organization, SOMETHING to help those of us who are experienced, conscientious, organized, and have a desire to get the job done efficiently and not have to hear about so many groups/organizations/companies not having enough people to get things done. There has to be something for all of us to do…:) Thanks for listening… can only get better with all of us Boomers —- greatness in numbers.