4 Ways Baby Boomers are Changing Retirement

The projected tsunami of baby boomer retirements that captured our attention a few years ago may still come, but if the experience to date is any guide then this may turn out to be more of a gentle wave than a disaster for the modern workplace.

That’s because instead of retirement and daily rounds of golf, many boomers are continuing to work, albeit in a much different fashion than their previous careers.

Here are four ways that boomers are changing the face of retirement.

1. Working a Reduced Work Week

Many retirement age boomers and even some of those beyond the normal retirement age of 65 are continuing to work, but have reduced their hours or days to part-time status.

They have found that this allows them to ease into retirement rather than face it cold turkey. And they like the fact that they don’t have to face the morning commute every day of the week and can get in a few extra rounds of golf when the weather cooperates.

For employers this is almost an ideal situation. They get to reduce their costs substantially and still have an expert and experienced employee to call upon.

The best employers utilize these older workers as coaches and mentors for younger workers and thereby have the corporate knowledge transfer that allows their company or organization to flourish.

They are maximizing their resources at both ends of the experience scale and are ensuring a smooth transition to the next generation of workers and managers.

2. Contracting and Consulting

Some people who are still in good health and spirits are continuing to stay attached to their old workplace, but in a new capacity. For highly skilled or technical workers like engineers or for those with senior management experience, setting up a contracting or consulting arrangement with their former employees makes sense; dollars and sense.

They continue to earn income to supplement their retirement accounts and can remain productive in their chosen fields.

Employers like this type of arrangement as well because they free up the overhead and benefits costs of housing these still-needed employees and they can still access their expertise.

They can utilize these employees to fill gaps or holes in their organization on a temporary or contract basis and they only pay for what they actually use. Like the practice of using coaches or mentors, this approach can also allow the organization to retain corporate knowledge and experience at a fraction of the previous cost.

3. Starting Their Own Business

One of the biggest trends for retiring boomers however is literally something completely different. A lot of boomers have pension plan security for their retirement (the last generation that may have such a benefit) and have benefited from a massive transfer of wealth to their cohort from the savers of the last generation.

So they have money, and with retirement they also have time. They have energy because they are in better health than ever for people at their age. And most importantly they have ideas and dreams that they want to fulfill.

One of those ageing boomer dreams is to start their own business. From 1996 to 2010 Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had the highest rate of entrepreneurship of any age category, and twice as many founders of high tech companies during this period were over 50 as were under 25.

Over 10 percent of all new businesses in the United States are now being started by people over 65. According to Inc. Magazine, the top choices for small businesses by retirees are: consulting, public speaking, on-line business, blogging, starting a franchise, opening a bed and breakfast, and setting up a senior care service.

4. Volunteering

Another way that the new seniors are changing retirement is by volunteering their time and energy. This is not a new phenomenon but the numbers are substantial.

61 percent of seniors in the United States and 58 percent of all retirees in Canada are now actively volunteering in their church group, neighborhood schools or community associations. And almost all experts expect these numbers to grow substantially in the next ten years.

Retirees are valuable to social and community agencies, not just for not just for their manpower, but for the expertise and skills they bring to a sector starved for both. There are also many benefits to the seniors themselves.

According to the Home Instead Care Network in the United States, senior volunteers experience significant health and emotional benefits from volunteering, including gaining a sense of purpose and feeling better physically, mentally and emotionally.

So expect to see many more grey heads among the formal and informal workforce of the future. They may not have the same job, title, or location, but boomers will still be out there working and continuing to make a valuable contribution to our economy and our society.

How do you envision your own retirement? Lying on a beach somewhere, or staying actively involved in the work/business world?

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of Change the Things You Can (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit: Change the Things You Can


  1. Diana Schneidman on the 18th September


    I agree with your observations . . . kind of.

    I have a fundamental question: what is retirement? Is it when you start to collect Social Security? When you turn 65 or 62? Is it when you leave a place you have worked at for 25 years?

    I can’t wrap my head around the concept. For me, it’s when I temper my work goals and cease to dream bigger. I don’t plan to retire though I’ll eventually collect Social Security.


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