As I delved into this subject, I was a bit nervous. Statistics can be brutal and I’m not above living in denial. And wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a young teeanger on Santa Monica beach with my girlfriends listening to KHJ on my transistor radio as we promised each other that we would never trust anyone over 30? It was, in fact, 45 years of yesterdays.
Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) have been labeled a financial drain to our economy and a burden to our society. Our aging bodies filling up emergency rooms with our ailments, collecting our social security checks; the picture is not a pretty one. It’s also not factual.
The baby boomers of today are over 80 million strong, representing over 35% of the population. That’s not chicken feed, and I don’t see a long line of retirees buying floral shirts and condos in Florida. No sir-ee-Bob!
Whoever set the bar for our “prime” clearly didn’t see us coming.
This generation of “aged” (whoever thought up that term should be taken to the woodshed) has changed every single phase of life they have migrated through. It’s hard to argue with the numbers. Someone turns 50 every 8 seconds in our country. By the year 2015, over 45% of the U.S. population will be over 50. Staggering.
Interestingly enough, Americans in their 50s and 60s have the highest rate of entrepreneurship than any other age group. Yes, any other age group. Are you paying attention pip-squeaks? If you’re not there yet, you will be soon enough. There is nowhere to go but up. In years, I mean. It would probably be a good idea if you started taking notes. If we’re lucky, aging is a game we all get to play.
There is an assumption that our generation is becoming a pillar of budding entrepreneurs because we haven’t saved enough money to comfortably retire. You would only be partially correct.
The truth is that 70% of us do not feel that we have enough money to retire and live the lifestyle we want for ourselves. Baby boomers have never been good at settling for less than they think they deserve. Retirement is not an exception to that logic.
People past the age of 60 have listed these reasons for opting to continue working (often as new entrepreneurs) vs. retiring:
- They want to maintain a certain lifestyle and have no inclination towards downgrading.
- They are living longer than their grandparents (approximately 18.6 years) and healthier lives.
- They have tired of corporate life and the rat race that goes with it.
- Given their druthers (yes, it’s a real word), they prefer to self manage their time, rather than have their work hours dictated to them.
- They long to use their creative minds and want to implement their ideas and passions.
- They view remaining active as a way to remain current, tuned in and youthful.
I find all of this very fascinating. When I was a kid (horse and buggy days – that was joke, why aren’t you laughing?) I witnessed my elders retiring, receiving a gold watch and spending their retirement years sitting on the couch watching television waiting for their arteries to harden. When you reached 60 you were too old for pretty much anything mainstream.
That was then. This is now.
Baby boomers are hip. We account for over one-third of all online sales in the United States, spending up to $7 billion a year for our purchases. Since we represent 70% of all U.S. disposable income, we are America’s largest target consumer audience. We are tech savvy; texting, Skyping, blogging, conducting webinars and checking our Wall Street stats from our smart phone and laptops, and we account for one-third of all social media participants.
Are we too old to run a business, have an active sex life, travel, drive? Don’t count on it. Today’s 50, 60 and 70 year olds have experienced failure, tasted defeat and survived about 5 economic crashes. We’ve been cleaned out, checked out, started over, watched as our President was assassinated, gone to the moon and back, witnessed numerous wars and saw our way clear through the purple haze of drugs, rock and roll and AIDS. We have been unfazed by gas rationing, killer bees, acid rain, and the atom bomb. We are not easily scared or intimidated, and the fact of the matter is, this isn’t our first rodeo.
The biggest obstacles we boomers face in our quest for longevity are cancer, obesity, heart disease and suicide. The first three were sadly no surprise to me. Suicide was. The rate is not insignificant. In 2009, there were 11.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 lives.
The generation that was known for its need for massive consumption and personal gratification is settling the score. Giving back and helping humanity is on our to-do list as massive numbers of boomers donate their time and money to healing causes. Boomers give more total dollars to charity than any other generation; roughly $47 billion a year.
This past decade, I have found my way to myself. Interesting, since I never really knew I was lost. The years have a way of delivering patience, understanding and purpose. I’ve always thought of myself as a force (of some kind), but it’s only until recent years that I have had the utmost confidence in what I do. Perhaps it’s because I have earned my stripes, know my stuff, have learned and recovered from my failures and I no longer feel the need to take any guff from anyone. That’s a tough combination to beat.
I don’t buy in to the idea that 60 is the new 40. But I also don’t buy in to the thought process that 60 is too old to do any damn thing I want. I believe that, for many, our best years are ahead of us. We’ve still got a lot of fire in the furnace and the will to maximize our time. This time in our lives we actually know what we’re doing and have no shortage of courage to do it. We also have no problem moving someone out of the way if they try to stop us.
It all comes down to how long it takes you to learn what you need to know to live a full and rewarding life. I can’t imagine that anyone younger than the age of 40 could possibly master it.
It is clearly obvious to me as I approach 60, that I am not the woman I used to be.