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. YourEncore.com, Senior JobBank.com, Seniors4Hire.org, 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.