Bloated. Broke. Sick. Depressed.
It’s a shocking but accurate portrayal of how much of the boomer generation are living their golden years.
Baby Boomers that once helped shape popular culture and societal norms are facing tough, often impossible, life choices… grappling with financial and personal hardships unimagined in their idealistic youth.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, during a period of dramatic change, the first wave of boomers had joined the charge for social justice, fighting against war and racial, gender and economic inequality.
But the more money they made, the older they got, the more establishment they became, the Woodstock Generation shed its rebellious nature.
The “Shop Until You Drop” boomers not only settled into McMansions to indulge in the comforts of modern life, they seeded the path of rapidly deteriorating ethical values that would help foster Wall Street greed, the utter absence of anti-war movements, declining liberties, media and political polarization and far lower aesthetic standards.
THE BOOMER STATE OF STATE
Just two years ago, the first wave of baby boomers, about 2.5 million of them born in 1946, turned 70. Instead of easing into a life of porch naps and walks at dusk on the beach, today, about a quarter of seniors between the ages of 70 and 74 are working – that’s the highest rate of senior employment in nearly 60 years.
Since the Panic of ’08, when a wave of boomers lost their homes, their savings and many were laid off prematurely from their life-long careers … a sustained downward income trend has taken hold and it’s not abating, only worsening.
Today, in the U.S., about 9 million senior citizens are in the work force, the vast majority of them in service jobs and many of those being progressively replaced by technology. That’s more than double the 4 million seniors working in 2000.
Across the globe, economic conditions of the last decade have forced many aging boomers out of the work force early. Just a few years shy of retirement, those boomers found themselves without work, without work prospects and with depleted savings, pensions that ran dry with the demise of unions and 401k accounts drained by the recession.
And nations hit hard by the Panic of ’08 were penalized by their politicians, who bailed out the Banksters who caused the crisis, by being forced to pay higher taxes, suffer loss of benefits and increase the retirement age.
In the U.S., some 79 million adults, 32 percent of the senior population, live in a “shared household” to make ends meet. Half of those are living with their children. TJ
FOR BOOMERS: WHAT RECOVERY?
The nine-year economic recovery that ensued following the Great Recession was built on unprecedented cheap money – Quantitative Easing and zero/negative interest rates. While those schemes generously fueled equity markets and further enriched the world’s one percent (eight billionaires have more money than half the world’s population, according to Oxfam), little trickled down to boomers and much of the workforce.
And as evidenced by the generous tax cuts initiated by President Trump, that trend continues. According to the Tax Policy Center, the privileged one percent gained 82 percent of the benefits.
Moreover, closing in on a decade of zero to very low interest rates, boomers who had some savings earned no interest at all. And the dire financial straits of many seniors are hitting at a time when 10,000 baby boomers in the U.S. are turning 65 every day and Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.
Recent surveys found that only about half of boomers entering retirement age had any savings at all and three quarters of retirees are well underfunded for retirement. And about 20 percent are fully dependent on Social Security.
THE UNHEALTHY GENERATION
Among the aging boomers that need to work, many can’t because of poor physical health. Many of the jobs that are available – those that have not yet been replaced by automation – often require some level of physical ability seniors can’t attain…like standing on their feet for hours as cashiers, fast food workers and housekeeping attendants.
And this incoming generation of retirees is expected to be less healthy and more dependent on others to get through daily routines than any retirement generation before it.
America’s once “Peace and Love” generation that fueled Wall Street greed, political and cultural divisiveness, and one war after another, also loves its fast food, indulgent lifestyles and love of Big Pharma to sell them a pill for every ill.
While cultivating those virtues during the last 40 years, boomers have ushered in an era of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and related illnesses at record pace. Study after study, confirms that the generation of boomers entering retirement age today suffer a record number of chronic diseases.
For example, about 25 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with diabetes; the actual number is projected at 7 percent higher. Some 70 percent of boomers are overweight. And nearly 40 percent are obese.
By any measure, this trend is worsening, and it is hitting at time when many seniors are having serious struggles covering basic expenses, like food and rent, let alone covering medical costs.
In the United States, public health care expenses are expected to rise 5.3 percent this year as a direct result of increased spending necessary to cover the escalating number of boomers enrolling in Medicare health insurance programs.
And with prescription drug costs expected to rise 6.3 percent this year – an increase fueled in large part by drugs for cancer, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. – the prescription drug addicted boomers will be further financially stretched, and many won’t be able to buy them.
While Medicare covers 80 percent of health care costs, a growing number of seniors are unable to pay for supplemental insurance coverage. And that 20 percent gap is hitting boomers hard.
The combination of these socioeconomic trend lines for seniors is resulting in a disturbing, rapidly intensifying trend: The number of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy in the U.S. has tripled since 1991, according to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.
Senior citizen bankruptcy filings have soared over 200 percent, while all other age categories either declined or stayed flat. Today, 12 percent of all filings each year are made by seniors.
Moreover, by all indicators, the financial determinants that are driving seniors to bankruptcy are – across the board – rising. TJ
Trend lines show an increasing number of boomers, including those who have children and don’t want to live with them, and for all those who have no family ties, are moving into shared residences … previously known as boarding houses.
The rising cost of health care, diminished government assistance and shrinking income streams have so tarnished the Golden Years for growing segments of seniors, that “coping” and “dependency” have replaced “healthy” and “carefree” as retirement goals.
Businesses creating services and products that take aim at these priorities will see handsome returns. If they do it right!
Therefore, OnTrendpreneurs® with the passion and expertise to publish a meaningful and actionable magazine with content that can inspire and elevate the quality of life of seniors is a mega-trend waiting to be mined.
Boomer Bust is a macro and rapidly expanding trend. How seniors will house, feed and heal themselves are the three categories that demand creative, broad thinking. From shared living options for seniors who are not in need of assistance and don’t want to live with family, to affordable, effective whole health healing alternatives, these are the OnTrendpreneur® golden opportunities.