If you're a boomer like me, you know that you've never done anything that you didn't do in a crowd.
Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup and a boomer himself, pointed out that the large number of post-World War II births from 1946 to 1964 were "like a pig moving through a python, having an impact on society at every stage of their lives."
And now as they pass the age 65 benchmark, the age at which people have traditionally embraced retirement, he predicts boomers will continue to have a dramatic effect on virtually every aspect of American life. Here are 10 areas that he thinks aging boomers will turn upside down, changing retirement planning forever.
- Social Security and Medicare. Boomers are living longer than any generation before them and actuaries believe the number of people claiming benefits from these two programs will double in the years ahead. Since both of these programs are pay-as-you-go, relying on younger generations to pay for those who are already retired, Newport says this isn't great news for the younger generations who will be supporting boomers in their old age. Who will pay more or who will get less?
- Health care. The pharmaceutical industry will find it profitable to make more drugs that treat the ailments of aging, such as Alzheimer's, hearing and vision problems, heart disease and cancer. Nursing homes and other care facilities will expand. Physicians and others who specialize in gerontology, the treatment of elderly people, will be in demand. Also, funeral directors likely will be very busy.
- Religion. If boomers are anything like the generations that have come before them, they'll grow more spiritual the older they get, creating an increased demand for religious and spiritual leaders and experiences.
- Travel and vacation. People without full-time jobs or other commitments often have the urge to travel. It is unlikely that the boomer generation will be any different, creating opportunities in the transportation, hotel and tourism industries. Newport thinks that there will also be growth in the education market -- boomers will travel to take courses in things that interest them.
- The legal industry. Not only will boomers be making wills and setting up trusts, they'll also be dying off, leaving those behind to engage in legal disputes over what they have or haven't been left.
- Charities, legacies and volunteer work. Boomers will have time on their hands to work for no pay for the causes they care about, and some of them will leave those causes considerable sums of money.
- Promoting causes. Not only will boomers give time and money, they'll also give their votes and their emotional support to the causes they believe in. Newport speculates that because so many boomers grew up in a period of history when social protest had an enormous impact, many of them will again embrace this method of achieving change. "We could well see the new phenomenon of 'boomer protests' in the years ahead," Newport says.
- Housing industry. If boomers would all decide to sell their homes and move elsewhere, this could create a flooded market for suburban houses. The upside is that this could create a huge market for innovative retirement communities in attractive places, including college towns, warm weather havens and big cities.
- Dining out. With money to spend and nobody at home to cook for, empty nesters will be filling their bellies at restaurants and carry-out establishments.
- Financial advice. Lots of boomers aren't poor. In 2013, Gallup calculated that boomers ages 50 to 64 spent an average of $93 a day. Younger seniors who are 65 to 74 years old spent an average of $87. This is much more than millennials, ages 18 to 29, who spent just $73 a day. Helping boomers figure out how to manage income in retirement will undoubtedly be a great industry in which to work.
Newport concludes, "It's a brave new world ahead for boomers as they age past 65, and also for the U.S. as a nation."