The Trend of the Fluid Retiree

We hear a lot in the United States about the aging Baby Boomer population (those born between 1945 and 1964). In 2004 the youngest Baby Boomers turned 40. This year (2005) the oldest Baby Boomers turn 60.

So what are those Baby Boomers doing in their later years? About 1 million of them have taken to living on the road in their recreational vehicles “RVs.” (If you are from outside the U.S. and have no idea what an RV is, you can see some here and here.)

Not only are they living in their RVs at least part of the year, they are becoming a source of part-time and seasonal labor for businesses, especially small businesses. In the past seasonal businesses such as campgrounds, hotels and amusement parks hired teens and young people. But now they are increasingly looking to older, mobile workers who — turtlelike — bring their homes with them when they travel. Journalist Adam Geller explains in this Associated Press report:

“Most of the jobs on offer are from hotels, amusement parks and campgrounds. With the supply of seasonal workers limited in many rural areas, some employers have been pushing to draw RV-dwelling workers.

Last year, for example, Kampgrounds of America Inc. launched an incentive program designed to attract working campers, offering them free nights at member campgrounds as they motor between jobs, as well as discounts and sweepstakes drawings.

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Managers at Adventureland, an amusement park outside Des Moines, Iowa, also have recruited RVers. Until five or six years ago, virtually all the park’s seasonal staffing was done locally, and included mostly younger workers.

This year, about 400 of the 900 employees are RVers, most in their 60s, a boon for a park that was increasingly competing with retailers, casinos and other businesses for local employees. The older workers often arrive with an optimistic attitude and better work ethic than younger workers, said Steve Anderson, the park’s personnel director.”

I see this RV-ing senior workforce as part of a larger trend — a trend in which we will see much more fluidness between retirement, working and entrepreneurship. I call it the trend of the “fluid retiree.”

In the U.S., it used to be that someone reached the magic retirement age of 65 and stopped working. Period. Now many more people “retire” earlier, but their retirements are not traditional in the sense of not working. Retirees take jobs from time to time, and they even start and continue their own businesses during their “retirements.” Their state of employment is based not on some grand career plan set in motion 30 years earlier, but rather on their needs and desires this year or this month. If they need the money or if they simply want more challenge and social interaction, they may take a job or start a business.

I would love to hear from others outside the U.S. Is this trend of the “fluid retiree” something that other countries are experiencing? If so, what is driving the trend?

Tags: Business; small business; demographics; retirement; trends

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.