Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Baby Boomers

On October 15,2007, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling went online and applied for Social Security retirement benefits. This would have been a non-event for anyone else but Kathleen and her family had she not had the distinction of having been born on the first second of January 1, 1946 making her the first American baby boomer to transition from the workforce to retirement. This event was not lost to Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue who witnessed the event. Kathleen leads an expected 80 million Americans who will reach retirement age over the next 20 years, an average of about 10,000 a day, a phenomenon referred to in some circles as the "silver tsunami."

Baby boomer is a term given to people born in the post World War II era between 1946 and 1964. A fairly lengthy period, it is sometimes divided into two epochs the first from 1946 to 1954 and the second from 1954 to 1964. This generation has had defining moments such as the Vietnam War and the beginning and end of the Cold War, political initiatives such as civil rights, feminism, gay rights, handicap rights and the end of the military draft, technological advances such as the internet and the conquest of space, and cultural changes in music, movies and arts. It boasts of influential persons, the likes of Bill Gates.

The White House Conference on Aging ( September 2006) calls for formulating a proactive plan for anticipating the impact of aging baby boomers on the nation.. The sheer numbers of retirees are staggering and the nation has not yet come up with a plan for managing the retirement, health care and living needs of this group. On the one hand, many boomers are expected to live healthier longer and be affluent both from their own achievements as well as from transfer of wealth from their parents. On the other hand, with many persons living longer, it is anticipated that a good number of the elderly will be women and minority individuals groups that typically fall within the poverty level. Since the social security system is not a true retirement plan, funding of retirement benefits fall on the backs of those currently working. Boomers retirement also poses problems on the work force. It is expected that boomer retirement will leave gaps in skilled and specialized areas unable to be filled by a decreasing number of the younger working generation.

Boomers are expected to wield great political clout and are the target of marketing strategies of consumer product advertising. The good news is that many retirees are expected to return to the work force for different reasons. Many will need to supplement retirement income to meet living needs. Many who continue to enjoy life will embark on new careers. And there are those who are simply retirement flunkies who find working to be a very fulfilling part of their lives. Retirees might return to work for an employer full-time or in creative variations of part-time work. Some might choose self employment and entrepreneurship. Some might work as permanent part-time or part-time intermittent employees. Still others might choose to work full time for a few months out of the year.

Clearly baby boomers will be influential in their old age as they have been in their younger years and will continue to contribute wisdom and experience.

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