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Research on boomers shows values — and financial needs

By Barbara Whelehan ·
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Posted: 1 pm ET

Baby boomers have received a lot of attention in the media lately. Tom Brokaw narrated a TV show called "BOOMER$" that aired on CNBC recently. It celebrated a generation of 78 million, many of them former hippies who experimented with drugs and expected to change the world.

The world did change a lot since the 1960s -- thank goodness. We grew up and became conspicuous consumers. Some footage from Woodstock 1969 and the subsequent Woodstock 2009 contrasted in sharp relief the attendees at the two festivals. Boomers have gotten older, paunchier and, by the looks of the concession stands at the more recent festival, organized.

Like the TV show, a new study also indulges in some navel gazing. Called "The MetLife Study of Boomers in the Middle," the study focuses on the demographic segment of boomers born between 1952 and 1958. According to the study, middle boomers put more emphasis on family (67 percent), personal well-being and wellness (66 percent), financial security (64 percent) and finding meaning and purpose in their lives (48 percent). The two key historical events that most affected boomers were the Vietnam War and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

OK, enough of the ancillary findings. Let's get down to brass tacks. Near as I can tell, the purpose of the MetLife study was not so much to understand the psychological makeup of middle boomers but to determine how many retirement and financial products they own (six, on average) and how insurance and financial companies can market their products to them.

The upshot: Boomers are great candidates for long-term care insurance. Why? Providing care for their own living parents will sensitize them "about the issues and challenges of elder care, many of whom will not want to have this be part of the legacy they leave to their own children."

About 18 percent of middle boomers spend more than 20 hours a week providing care to their parents, while another 14 percent devote 10 hours a week to care giving.

Another important finding: About 21 percent of middle boomers have received an inheritance from their parents' estate, averaging $120,000. One-third of boomers expect to get $181,000 on average. "Together this amounts to almost $2.6 trillion in wealth transfer between middle boomers and their parents," according to the study. "This anticipated wealth can have a significant impact on the financial security of these boomers and their families if used wisely to ensure both a secure source of retirement income and funding for long-term care needs. It can also potentially help address the middle boomers' biggest concern about their own retirement -- being able to afford health care coverage." 

On the Senior Living blog at, one writer commented that Tom Brokaw's "BOOMER$" program "completely missed the 30 million of us who are caring for our greatest generation parents. In the past there were multi-generational households for sure, but in today's economy and with the health insurance options as they are, boomers are quitting jobs and merging households in order to spare their parents the death sentence of a state-run facility. The economic and emotional impact of these choices is hard to fathom."

That writer seems a prime candidate for long-term care insurance.

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Barbara Whelehan
April 16, 2010 at 9:19 am

There are hundreds of financial services companies who would love your business. Consider the big mutual fund firms with discount brokerage arms such as Vanguard, Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Schwab. I suggest you talk to a fee-based certified financial planner for direction, but don't give the planner custody of your assets unless you're willing to pay an asset-based fee on top of fund fees. Also, read Bankrate's story "Cash out, roll over or leave 401(k) behind" for information about how to do a trustee to trustee transfer of funds.

April 16, 2010 at 5:53 am

need to move 401k from old employer but where