Baby Boomer Insights: Purpose is MIA
Recently we ran a survey of a small, anonymous sample of business professionals (age 50+ lawyers, accountants, business consultants, bankers and the like) who were working full time, asking them to rank various concerns (some of you may have participated, so thanks!). We then compared that to the realities in a much larger survey of retirees by the Bureau of Labor Statistics published by the Wall Street Journal in December 2014. While a lot of Boomers may ask about the purpose of life, figuring out how to develop a purposeful life after their full-time career can be a challenge.
Top Concerns of pre-retirees: When asked, aside from having “enough” money, what at your top five concerns? (since multiple studies have shown that this is usually the number one concern of all pre-retirees) – people said:
1. My Health
2. My spouse or partner’s health
3. Will I still work? (full or part-time)
4. Where will I live?
5. Will I be bored?
Nothing shocking there. When we asked people to comment on other concerns, nearly all said “having enough money”, but that it would be ranked second to health.
Maybe your health isn’t your wealth – When we asked what advice people would pay for, it was all about the money (investments, taxes, legal and insurance), little interest in health. Hmm. Most people know that if you have good health you’ll live longer, but getting help to be healthier may not be worth spending money on. So much for the saying “your health is your wealth”.
Boomers’ vision of their “post-career life” – We asked people to rank some adjectives that would best describe their future post-career life, here are the top five:
All of that sounds great, but they ranked “frugal” and “poor health” as their least likely descriptions. I get that no one wants to imagine they will have poor health (although a number of studies often point to that reality), it’s funny to me how money and health are the highest concerns, but somehow people think that they wouldn’t actually be affected in retirement. Hmm.
Carpe Diem – Despite the stated concerns of Boomers on having enough money, when we asked for other thoughts and attitudes about life in retirement, the consensus was best summed up by one respondent, “We are against waiting until the “usual” retirement age if we can retire early because we have seen too many people wait too long, only to retire and suddenly become ill or frail or dead. Carpe Diem!” (Seize the Day!)
Realities belie the myths – The Bureau of Labor Statistics asked retirees their primary activities measured in minutes per day.
521 – Sleeping
223 – Television and movies
89 – Eating and Drinking
48 – Reading for personal interest
39 – Washing, dressing, grooming oneself
34 – Socializing and communicating with others
34 – Food and drink preparation
30 – lawn, garden, houseplant care
24 – Interior cleaning
23 – Shopping, except groceries, food, gas
Ugh – So we expect to be purposeful, inspired, and joyous in retirement, but the reality is sleeping, TV, eating and drinking – Where is the “purpose” in all of that? Why have we been working so hard, for so long, and saving so much money? While sleeping well is associated with good health, I have never read a study that said watching more TV is good for your health.
Getting some help may be worth the money after all – My question is, now that we know about our likely future, how many of us will spend some time and money creating a framework for a purposeful and meaningful future, versus just blindly hoping “it will all work out”?