By Larry Teren
Congratulations, Baby boomers! You are on the cusps of making a strong political as well as economic statement in the United States. Of course, it all depends on whether social security benefits will be there when we are ready to take it.
Recently published is the news that senior citizens are now at their largest share of the population than ever before. With more than three hundred million United States citizens, forty million, or roughly 13 percent make up a solid segment. For comparison sakes, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the figure was 4.1 percent and the total population was less than half of now.
We baby boomers are not senior citizens yet- but we are closing in on the ranks. Pretty much everyone agrees that the baby boomers period started in 1946, just after so many soldiers returned home from fighting in World War Two. It was time to build new lives and families. Some say that the boomers period ended with the death of President Kennedy in November, 1963 while others list it as 1965. Either way, the first of the baby boomers are now officially registering for their medicare cards.
By the time many of us get to that magical time, the age at which senior citizens may collect social security pension benefits may be more like 67 and continue to inch up higher in the next 10 years. It is also quite possible that in 10 years, senior citizens may represent 20 percent of the population.
During the past ten years, the number of senior citizens grew by 15% while the entire population grew only 10%. In fact, there are more people in their 90’s than ever before. As would be expected, Florida has the largest concentration of senior citizens among all citizens with 17.3%.
More and more, as people get older they migrate to warmer climates. We may see a a further shift in the balance of the population as the Southeast, Southwest and southern California coastline continue to be the choice of destination.
In the past, when there was a large percentage of blue collar workers in manufacturing jobs, it was commonplace to retire at age 65. Now that the paradigm has shifted to service and white collar, more and more senior citizens are choosing to stay working at one type of job or another. There are two good reasons:
1. The cost of living is higher and the benefits paid from social security old age pension is a pittance. At best, right now one can expect to receive anywhere from 1400 to 2000 dollars a month. With punishing rules in place for surviving spouses, many older people opt to live together in so-called sin and pool their social security benefits. This way, if one dies, the other does not get a reduction in their payout as the remaining marriage partner.
2. We are living longer. Forty years ago many thought of retiring at 65 and collect social security because they didn’t think they would make it past 80. They wanted to wind down gracefully and get something out of life in the meanwhile. Today, most boomers are contemplating working until at least 70 and then playing it by ear depending on their health.
I’ve noticed a curious (but not surprising) trend in the small sample of businesses I consult to. It seems that companies run by older folks tend to feel more comfortable hiring older people as well while those run by younger, eager beavers, tend to hire younger staff that they can relate to. If this trifle observation plays out in a lot of other places, this may bode well for baby boomers. As we get older, we may find it easier to keep working by connecting with job sites run by fellow boomers.
In the meantime, feel the power!