The first Baby Boomers will turn sixty this year and they will do what no other generation has done before them: Re-tyre.
There are a number of factors that are already causing futurists to look at the effects of this upcoming change. Many predict that it will bring about a societal change of Tsunami-like proportions. In America, 70 million Boomers will retire over the next twenty years. One of the factors that have changed the Boomer world is medical science. Many more people are living much longer. The generation behind the Boomers, the Xers, are not as large in number as their predecessors. In the States there are approximately 46 million in Generation X – 35% less than the Boomers.
These low numbers are causing much concern amongst actuaries who are trying to balance the pension fund cash flows of major corporations. Many Boomers have spent most of their work life at one company thus their pension fund has been the main focus of their retirement funding. As corporations have merged and been bought out, people have been retrenched or shifted. Many may have been retrenched early or will be surprised in the near future by such a change. These employment concerns have seen the Boomer generation looking at their future through new eyes. Watching their parents and older peers’ mode of retirement has also had a dramatic impact on their perception of the retirement life stage.
Many people in the Silent Generation retired into a life of golf, bridge and the joy of relaxation – but not necessarily found the happiness after which they have hankered. The Boomers have watched this process and many are already making changes early in their 50s to make sure that they do not repeat this pattern. They have realized that the cash and investments that they own will not be enough for the number of years they may live and that they need to take precautions to prepare for the high medical care costs. Many large corporations are also freezing pension benefits, which spells disaster for retiring workers as they do not have enough funds for retirement. In many countries the public pension system is inadequate to replace private plans when they disappear.
Due to these uncertainties, two major groups are starting to emerge amongst the Boomers. The first group will RETIRE at a prescribed age from their company. The second group will RE-TYRE. They are looking for new opportunities that may have no bearing on the work they have done for the past thirty to forty years. Professor Richard Johnson explains the change as follows: “The old retirement was a gradual slide away from the fullness of life whereas the new re-tyrement is an ever continuous cycle of exploration, mastery, mentorship and renewal.� The decisions that the Boomers make about their future will have an impact on society.
Due to skills shortages in the workplace, Boomers have the opportunity to return to the workplace as consultants, coaches and mentors to up the skill level of others and build capacity within companies. Many corporations have already increased the formal retirement age because they want to make sure that they have access to the skills and knowledge that they need so that they can compete in the global market.
Men and women may face these challenges differently. Many men who have focused on their careers and climbing the ladder of success may battle with these changes. On the other hand, many women in their early fifties may see a second career as an opportunity to be grasped with both hands. Their commitment to raising children is over and they now have the time and energy to focus on new interests. They have also done much of the inner excavation in their first adulthood and so they are more equipped to cope with these changes. In Gail Sheehy’s book, New Passages, this opportunity is called the “second adulthood�, a second opportunity at life.
At fifty, it is possible to still have thirty good years ahead of us. In the light of that, there are many opportunities for the Boomer generation to focus on if they choose to Re-Tyre instead of retire. Boomers will have worked for many years in a career choice that made financial sense. The sadness for many is that this means that it is not really an area of passion and they may regret the many hours that they have spent doing this type of work. In this second adulthood they now have an opportunity to choose a career or job that makes them happy. For some it may be dressmaking whereas before they were a bookkeeper. For another it may be picture framing whereas before they were an accountant. The greatest challenge here is not to use up all your savings on a new career but to supplement what you have with what you enjoy. The minute you start to look at using up your life savings to buy a guesthouse or coffee shop you may find yourself with no money and no second career.
One of the greatest human desires is to experience significance and make a difference. People in this second adulthood phase also have the chance to look at their lives and the skills they have, and to use them to leave a legacy. For those people who need to supplement their retirement income, opportunities will exist to earn money using their knowledge and experience. There will be some who will also be willing and able to offer their skills for free because they have saved what they believe to be enough to keep them comfortable in retirement. The true value is not the money received in exchange for your skills but the satisfied feeling of making a difference. Some groups who have a strong religious leaning may choose to work within their organization or join a short or medium-term mission group locally or in some other part of the world. The freedom to do this without having to consult your employer comes with this stage of life.
Today, we often read of people in there seventies who have just earned a degree or even a school qualification. Many people in Re-tyrement may choose to focus on learning and studying for knowledge and enjoyment rather than employment. Several scientific studies indicate that an active mind affords a person a much healthier outlook on life. The fact is a positive mindset will bring about change and encourage good health.
If we want to embrace re-tyrement we will need to balance many areas of our lives to achieve fulfillment and successfully navigate this period. Relationships and good health together with mental and spiritual development will enhance the cycle of continuous growth. Ultimately, the steps we take towards a satisfying future in our sixties will impact those who come after us. We are giving others who will follow the opportunity to choose a different future. Only time will tell if these new choices will benefit the Boomer generation and the ones who follow. Have you seen the wave coming? Are you ready for the change?

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