It’s not your father’s retirement scenario — that’s for sure.
And for many aging baby boomers, "retirement" won’t even amount to a real cessation of work, because many of the generation of 76 million babies born between 1945 and 1964 are now saying they plan to keep on working, whether from enjoyment or because they must.
Del Webb, a builder that specializes in housing developments for residents 55 and over, has conducted 10 extensive opinion surveys on the boomers since 1996, and says the famous population cohort has changed significantly over the years. The 2010 Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey found them considerably less interested these days in heading for the traditional Arizona/Florida locales — if they’ll move at all. And their reasoning for pulling up stakes has changed, too.
Five things to know about boomers’ retirement plans:
1. The last day on the job is going to hit later than it used to. The younger boomers, who are turning 50 soon, plan to retire a median of four years later than 50-year-olds who responded to the survey in 1996 — at age 67 versus 63.
Their reasons for the change are mixed, according to Webb spokesman Valerie Dolenga, who says the survey found plenty of people who like to work and want to continue, whether in the same kinds of jobs, as consultants, or some other field, part time or full time. Then there are those who just have to work.
"I was looking at the comments of those who answered the survey," she said. "I was really surprised to see that it’s pure enjoyment for some of these folks.
"Then there are those who say, ‘Yeah, I need to work because my 401(k) has been hit so hard,’ or they can’t sell their homes," she said. "Clearly, those factors are working in tandem."
And then there’s this sobering admission: Boomers who are turning 50 this year are three times as likely to think they’ll never be financially prepared for retirement compared to older boomers — 41 percent today vs. 15 percent who said that in the 1996 survey.
2. The still-at-work decision will affect whether they’ll move, she said.
Among the older baby boomers (who started turning 50 in 1995), one-third plan to move in retirement; more than 50 percent plan to move to a different state, 25 percent to a different city within the same state, and fewer than 20 percent within the same town.
Younger boomers now are more interested in moving than their similarly aged predecessors were in the 1996 survey. About 42 percent of those turning 50 this year say they want to move in retirement, compared with 36 percent of 50-year-olds in the earlier survey.
3. But the ones who are planning to move some distance are changing the rules, the survey found.
"Florida has slid off the map," Dolenga said. In the survey, the top two destination preferences were North and South Carolina.
The boomers still are lured by the promise of warmer weather, but the Carolinas, with occasional glimpses of the climate Northerners have left behind, offer a compromise, she said. The "halfback" phenomenon — retirees who have wearied of Florida for whatever reason and moved back up the Atlantic coast to the Carolinas — is real, she said.
A major influence: cost of living, according to the survey.
4. What they want once they get there has changed significantly, also, Dolenga said.
Boomers aren’t seeking some armchair idyll — they’re drawn to urban amenities such as shopping, restaurants and cultural amenities. And access to health care ranks very high for them now.
Another attitude adjustment: The almost folkloric belief within the housing industry that baby boomers will retire to some spot that’s close to their relatives has gotten the heave-ho, according to the survey. Being close to grandchildren ranked second to last among their decisions about where to live.
5. The houses they’ll live in are changing, too, Dolenga said.
Reflecting what they’ve seen in the economy in the past couple of years, boomer consumers are more accepting of less square footage and are more interested in spaces that can handle multiple uses.
And builders who cater to them have changed tactics somewhat, with less of an "everything is included" approach in order to appeal to financially chastened boomers who are interested in a simpler, less luxurious house to start with and may add some of the fancier features as they go along, she said.
But Dolenga is starting to suspect that despite their loudly expressed financial worries, home-shopping baby boomers just recently have begun to display a little more willingness to crack open their wallets.
"I think we’re seeing some frugality fatigue, people weary of trying to save every single penny," she said. Her company, which tracks the number of visitors to its developments, says traffic is up.
"We’re starting to see people out there again," she said. "They’re out there. They’re shopping."
Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.
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