Why Do Baby Boomers Worry?
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 Into Competition
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.
The Main Concerns For Baby Boomers
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.