Redefining Retirement

In 2011 as the first Boomers turned 65 and were eligible to retire, it was expected that 10,000 people would retire each day. What happened instead suggests that Boomers are not ready to follow in the steps of earlier generations, as the expected surge in retirees simply hasn’t happened.

As with everything else Boomers have encountered, retirement is being re-envisioned. To find out what this looks like a survey was commissioned to see how over 2000 middle class pre-retirees planned to approach retirement. Their answers had them grouped into four categories: dreamers, calculators, second careerists and rat racers.

  • Dreamers, 40% of the group planned to follow a fairly conventional route of leaving work completely, then using their time and money to pursue all the things work had prevented them from doing.
  • Second Careerists, 20% of the group planned to leave their jobs and develop a second career around a passion project they had been nurturing for many years.
  • Calculators, a further 20% planned on working until they had accumulated enough money to retire, and would postpone the decision as to when that time was on purely financial considerations.
  • Rat racers, the final 20% of the group simply loved working too much to ever want to stop working, and so planned to never retire.


Each group had several additional subcategories, but it seems that less than half of the Boomers surveyed plan to have a traditional retirement. Even those who plan to have a conventional retirement, may find themselves recalled to work on short term contracts as needed, so even after “retiring” the lines are blurred between “work” and “retirement.”

Given that Boomers are choosing to continue to work for longer, what does this mean for the businesses that hire us?

Studies have provided some interesting data about the work habits and beliefs of Boomers:

  • Workaholic: Boomers are a group who love to accomplish ever more and more. Because of this younger workers are perceived as being less committed or hardworking.
  • Achievement oriented: Boomers are a loyal bunch, and want to work hard so the business will succeed. To do this we will take on projects that challenge us.
  • Self-reliant: Having battled conventions for decades, Boomers will come up with different ways of doing things and don’t conform to conventions.
  • Competitive: Through hard work and striving to achieve ever more, Boomers equate themselves with their position at work, so can be very competitive. Boomers like to know their place in the pecking order, and can find younger workers less eager to acknowledge their contributions.

working longer

People are living longer and have better health until substantially later than did earlier generations, Boomers have the energy and mental fitness to continue to be productive well in to their 80s.

With such a sea change in the way our generation is approaching “retirement” it will be fascinating to see how Boomers live – and work – during their “Golden Years”. What do you plan to do at 65?