Preconceived notions about the Baby Boomer generation abound, but many are merely myth, according to the third Quarterly Boomer Report from AARP Services and Focalyst, titled “How Well Do You Know Boomers? Counting Down the Top 10 Boomer Myths.”?
“Contrary to many common assumptions, Boomers are making retirement obsolete, are very savvy about advertising, and are experimenting with new products,” said Howard Byck, VP of corporate development for AARP Services.
“Within this generation are diverse segments that must be recognized and addressed differently,” added Jack Lett, executive director of Focalyst.
Below, the top 10 Boomer myths – and corresponding facts – according to the report.
Myth #10 – Boomers are retiring early
Contrary to much of the attention given to the first Boomers’ turning 62 this year and being eligible to take Social Security benefits early, in reality very few Boomers are planning to stop working entirely when they reach retirement age – only 11%.
And of those Boomers who know what they are planning to do when they reach retirement age (some two-thirds), 72% plan to work either part (65%) or full-time (7%) after they reach retirement age.
Myth #9 – Boomers are downsizing their homes
Despite the image of older consumers “winding down” as the years progress and simplifying their lives and homes, just 6% of Boomers are planning to be living in a smaller residence five years from now.
Moreover, 76% plan to live in either a same-sized (their current home or a new home of the same size) or larger home.
Myth #8 – Most Boomers are married empty nesters
Most are actually not Empty Nesters. Only about one in four Boomers fit the profile of married with adult children who have left home. 37% of Boomers still have children under 18 in the home – and one-third of Boomers are single.
Myth #7 – You can capture Boomers with mainstream advertising
Boomers are paying attention to advertising, but they do not always like what they see. 66% say that ads have gotten more crude in recent years and another 67% say they are less likely to purchase a product if they find the advertising offensive. 23% say they consider ads that are geared toward their age group insulting.
Myth #6 – Boomers are brand loyal and will not switch
Commonly thought to be set in their ways, Boomers are just as likely as younger cohorts to experiment with new products. They are actually paying attention to advertising for new products, and 61% of Boomers agree that “in today’s marketplace, it doesn’t pay to be loyal to one brand,” compared with 62% of those age 18-41.
Myth #5 – Boomers are all wealthy
Collectively Boomers are the wealthiest generation in history, but only 9% are truly affluent (defined as having pre-tax incomes of $150,000 or more if working, or $100,000 or more if retired). In fact, one quarter of Boomers have no savings or investments at all.
Myth #4 – Boomers are winding down with age
Actually, they are quite active, as the typical Boomer regularly participates in an average of 10 activities and the participation extends beyond going to church or gardening. They are traveling (60 million took at least one trip last year), attending live sporting events (22 million) and bicycling (11 million), among other activities.
Myth #3 – Boomers are technologically challenged
Contrary to many assumptions, Boomers were in the workforce during the evolution of computers, email and the internet, and were the first to understand the value of technology. Some 82% of Boomers use the internet and 64% have been online. Their online activities include instant messaging, downloading music or movies, financial transactions and online gaming.
Myth #2 – Boomers are the “Me Generation”
Boomers have typically been portrayed with the self-centered label the “Me Generation,” but from their actions in later adulthood, the report says, a label of “We Generation” is more accurate. They are caring for others and caring for the world, with 70% saying they have a responsibility to make the world a better place, and 57% saying they try to buy from companies that give back to their communities.
Myth #1 – Boomers are all the same
Often portrayed as a monolith – 77 million people thinking, acting, behaving and buying all in the same way – Boomers more than other segments undergo more major life events, which occur in greater frequency between the ages of 50-65 than in any other time in a person’s life.
The typical Boomer experiences an average of two major life events around career, family, finance or health each year. These life events can have a major impact on attitudes, life goals and consumer behavior.