Reality Sets In: Many Boomers Expect to Continue Working
Credit unions may continue to receive direct deposit of payroll checks from their baby boomer members for some time after those members would traditionally be expected to retire.
Deena Katz, associate professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University and herself a member of the post-World War II boomer generation, noted boomers have indeed been hit by the recession.
"It gave them a real good slap in the face," she said. "Part of the reason is the baby boomers got started on their families later, plus they are the sandwich generation taking care of their parents and their children."
Now, thanks to the current economy, a cherished dream may be out of reach.
"One of the things boomers had always talked about was retiring early. Now, not only can't they do that, they will undoubtedly be working in retirement."
But Katz sees benefits. For one thing, continuing to work will keep boomers mentally active.
"The fact is, we are living longer and we are living healthier lives," she said. "The people we're talking about have been taking care of themselves and are going to live even longer. An arbitrary retirement age doesn't make a lot of sense for them."
Working in retirement doesn't necessarily mean keeping their current job, Katz pointed out. Many people are starting their own business-for example, opening a flower shop because it's something they've always wanted to do. They're willing to take perhaps a less demanding job if it's something they like.
An older generation looked forward to paying off their mortgage, but that may no longer be the norm. While many boomers will indeed own their homes free and clear, some leverage is good, Katz said.
"It's not bad to owe something on your home as long as the interest rate is very low. In the current period of time, interest rates are pretty good. If you can make more with some investment than you're paying in interest, it's wiser to use your money for that. But you need to be very careful on how you do that and make sure you're not investing in highly risky things."
Although boomers have seen their 401(k)s shrivel, they have time to at least partially rebuild their financial portfolio. How much time depends on their age.
"I'm 60," Katz said. "While my generation was sitting around at Woodstock, [the youngest boomers] were in grade school. It's a different generation, and they have been a little bit better prepared. They have a longer period of time. They're probably going to work another 20 years, maybe 25 years. They didn't tend to have their children later in life. A lot of things are working differently for them than for my generation."
As for the older boomers, Katz's outlook is less sanguine. "Will they ever recover to where they were? I rather doubt they can do that in their lifetime," she said.
Are boomers lowering their expectations for life after retirement? Do they expect to live a more frugal life? Nobody wants a lesser quality of life after they retire, Katz said. But boomers are learning how to make their lifestyle more reasonable now so it will also be within their means in the future.
Where are boomers turning for financial advice? Many are looking in the wrong place, Katz said.
"A lot of boomers are getting things through books-one size fits all advice. I recommend they find someone in their community they can trust to get a plan that outlines what they need to do to get where they're going. I think the credit union has a perfect opportunity to do that."
Katz recommends that boomers make sure their advisers are fully qualified.
"I firmly believe in the CFP model," she said. "That's what I teach here at Texas Tech, and I've been a CFP for 30 years. It's a designation indicating I know how to work with individuals, and their individual life style, to help them plan for their future. If a credit union has a CFP on board, that's great. People might feel more comfortable going to their credit union."