Retirement isn´t what it used to be. It is becoming far more varied, exciting, unpredictable, and, in many ways, more difficult than it was for prior generations. In 2002, Age Wave, working in collaboration with SunAmerica, completed a groundbreaking study of the past, present, and future of retirement. Based on comprehensive interviews with more than 1,000 individuals age 55 and over, the study has critical implications for 78 million baby boomers nearing retirement, offering insights into how these men and women, as well as younger generations, can reach their full potential in the retirement phase of their lives. Key findings included:
- The concept of retirement as a “winding down” or “extended vacation” is obsolete. Less than a quarter (22%) of retirees agree at all with the idea of relaxing and doing nothing in their retirement years. Rather, they see retirement as a whole new life (38%) or a continuation of life as it is (40%).
- Retirement no longer means the end of work. Approximately 95% of pre-retirees expect to work in some capacity during their retirement, either by choice or necessity.
- Satisfaction is directly linked to the number of years one saves for retirement. This correlation was true across all age and income levels.
Moreover, for the first time, this breakthrough research indicated that there are four distinct segments that now define the contemporary U.S. retirement experience:
- Ageless Explorer: 27% personify a new ideal for retirement. Ageless Explorers consider retirement an exciting new phase in their lives and would rather be too busy than risk being bored. Most seek new work opportunities and wish to contribute to their communities. They feel that they are extremely well-prepared financially and psychologically for retirement and when asked when they thought they would feel “elderly” inside, they responded “never.”
- Comfortably Content: 19% are living their “golden years.” Comfortably Contents are perfectly happy to live the traditional retirement life, in which they can relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Work in retirement is of no interest to this segment—they´ve already done that. They feel secure in their retirement and enjoy spending their money on travel and other leisure retirement activities.
- Live for Today: 22% enjoy life, feel young, and view retirement as a whole new beginning, with the opportunity for an extended era of personal growth. Unfortunately, after years of living for the “here and now,” they are burdened with regret and worry that they did not adequately financially prepare for retirement.
- Sick and Tired: 32% are living the worst possible retirement scenario. With fewer financial resources, they have low expectations for the future. Of all the groups, this segment is the least likely to be interested in continued education, community service, or spending more time with their family and friends.