January 25th, 2011
10:25 AM GMT
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An interesting group of people turns 65 years old this year, from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to Steven Spielberg, Cher and Sylvester Stallone. Add to that list Geoff Woodhouse.

Geoff recently retired as a maths teacher and like many of his “baby boomer” generation, he may have decades in retirement. He told me that his decision to take early retirement, at 64, came quickly and without much preparation. Five months on, he has to figure out what's next.

Yes, decades.

Welcome to the New Reality of retirement life. With men in the west happily (and many healthily) living into their 80s and women pushing into their 90s, the impact on health care, pension systems and the jobs market is profound. The UK government recently estimated that more than seven thousand Britons will hit 110 years old by 2066.

"As far as retirement is concerned, attitudes are stuck in the last century, while life expectancy and the way the job market functions to enable people to work longer has moved on substantially, " said Roz Altmann of the retirement-focused company Saga Group.

There are many factors here to consider. Older folks may want to work way past 65 even if companies don't want them to. Here in the UK, the government this year will outlaw “forced” retirement at 65, which currently is the norm. Employer groups are furious because they say this will increase their costs and lead to more employment tribunals. They want more flexibility to fire workers in the UK, not less.

Campaigner Andrew Harrop of Age UK disagrees. "Actually, when you look at people in their 50s and 60s, they tend to be paid less than earlier in their career - quite compatible to people earlier in their career but often with a wealth of experience as well," he said.

Some older people will need to work longer in order to enjoy their lifestyle. With many state pension ages being raised closer and closer to 70 in the next decades, younger boomers will certainly need to find part-time work or new employment after their peak earning years.

That sheer number of people will balloon, of course, as this first year of “baby boomers” is joined by millions more each year, all the way up to 2029 when I and the other last-year boomers hit 65. I dare not say the year we “retire,” because the state pension ages will be later than that and most of us will still be working, hopefully at a more leisurely pace, and hopefully with few health problems.

Geoff Woodhouse said, "I would imagine there would be a considerable element of volunteer work in that mix, to justify the singing and the acting and all the other things," along with some occasional paid teaching work.

This leads to the next debate. If older people continue to work, and if governments raise the value of pensions, then this generation will become a powerful consuming group. Altmann said, "If you don't have much money when you are older, you are not going to go out and eat - restaurants won't thrive. You are not going to get your hair done - hair dressers won't thrive." She wants to remind younger people that giving more disposable income to this group will create jobs.

Those companies that tap into this market with products and services that are modern and sophisticated will thrive, said Harrop. "The economy is going to change fundamentally with more spending power in the hands of older consumers," he explained.

I spent one afternoon in Southampton with 68-year-old Jean Rumbold. She will never "retire," she told me happily. "I've got my car, we've the MGB in the garage that goes on the road for six months in the summer, and we've got the motor home. There is no way, if I was not working, that we could keep the three vehicles on the road."

With her father living into his late 80s and his mother in her early 90s, Jean has plans to work and spend for years and years to come.

Previous generations may have saved more money to pass on to children. Both Geoff and Jean say their children are fine, so money earned will be money spent.

Good news for struggling economies.

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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Jackson Hackson

    Same BS as in the USA. They outnumber everyone so they can change all of the laws to their benefit. They didn't bother to save because they were too busy consuming, so they can't retire. In the meantime, the younger generation is still struggling to find jobs; a task only made more difficult by the fact that the older generation refuses to retire. I hope the UK <35 generations have found a way to keep the "boomers" from ripping them off.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  2. Sharon Englehart

    Whoa Jackson! Just because we were born into a big crowd doesn't mean we're out to rip off babies! Most boomers are actually good savers and good consumers. Many of us want to continue working because it's our generations goal to "change the world" and we're not done yet. Lack of regulation tanked the economy, not boomers with teaching jobs and used cars.

    January 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  3. Joseph Harrison

    No offence Sharon, but it does not seem as though your generation has changed the world for the better...

    January 28, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  4. Manuel Vilhena

    Very interesting. In Portugal happens the same. The doubt is the ability of older people getting on with new technologies.

    February 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  5. ed denoy

    And what of the blue collar or other workers who are getting on and cannot continue with an onerous and fast paced workplace.I don't think you are speaking for the average retiree. Only a select group of high level professionals.

    February 20, 2011 at 5:46 am |
  6. Biliyorum

    Well I'm contributing to my ermiretent fund, which will be sufficient, but so much can happen between now and the additional years I need to reach my goal. That's why I'm building my online business on the side that business helps to give me a great sense of control of my finances in the event things change and change is about the only constant in life right?Sharon McMillan recently posted..

    March 31, 2012 at 1:59 am |
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