The Washington Times

May 7, 2005


Boomers say retirement a is drag

by Jennifer Harper

The restless generation that once feared 30 is now fearlessly facing 60. Baby boomers are set to redefine retirement, with most vowing to keep working to keep happy, a new study says.

Working is the "new retirement," in fact, according to J. Walter Thompson, the Manhattan advertising agency that has tracked the whims and tastes of Americans for decades.

"Fully retired has evolved to mean working in some capacity," the agency notes in a survey of 1,680 employed adults over 40 released yesterday.

It found that among those toying with retirement, 70 percent plan to keep working, a notion that would likely find favor with Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican who has proposed raising the retirement age to 68 to help shore up the Social Security system.

Boomers may not keep working to pay the bills, though. Many of the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 aspire to stay active, be productive, learn new things and simply be around people -- perhaps a nod to the cheerful ideals of the 1960s.

"The mature work force will transform the workplace for generations to come," J. Walter Thompson spokeswoman Lori Bitter said.

The research also had good news for seniors. Among workers 65 and up, the survey says 58 percent say their employers valued their contributions and 63 percent say their job was personally rewarding.

AARP research concurs: 80 percent of boomers hope to work at least part-time.

Demographers have already given this vast, feisty group a designation: They are "Third Agers," according to Third Age Inc. -- a New York-based marketing company plumbing the souls and desires of consumers over 40.

Employment consultant William Sadler agreed. He established the Center for Third Age Leadership in Massachusetts and insists that the three decades past 50 is the age of "fulfillment." Just to be safe, Mr. Sadler says there's a "Fourth Age" too, meant for "successful aging."

Financial planners are also warming to the touchy-feely approach. According to a recent "New Retirement" report released by Merrill Lynch, boomers will revolutionize retirement and "create a whole new life stage."

Rather than plodding in a straight line toward old age, this stage is "a new cyclic paradigm of blending work, leisure time and continued learning." Merrill Lynch also went so far as to define the five "new flavors" of retirement.

The survey of nearly 3,500 adults from 40-58 that accompanied the report finds 76 percent say their retirement would include working -- with 56 percent saying it would be something brand new.

Survey author and gerontologist Ken Dychtwald -- who is also president of Age Wave, a "mature population" research group -- calls Boomers "generally optimistic, innovative and hopeful."

The hippie generation still has a few tricks up its sleeve, apparently.

"We asked boomers for their hopes, fears and thoughts about retirement and what we got was the systematic dismantling of all our preconceptions about the future," he said on the report's release in late February.