Afraid of Technology? Not Us!

A leading consumer research organization, Wunderman Thompson, reports that Boomers are "turning to online tools, apps, and systems with increasing enthusiasm to stay connected and stocked." Two of the statistics the analysis cites are strong evidence:

  • The 50 to 64 age group uses Facebook more than the age groups just above and below them. (Pew Research Center)
  • Consumers over the age of 65 are the fastest growing group of online shoppers. (NPD Group)

Check out these additional impressive statistics from various sources as reported by Herosmyth:

  • 57 percent of Boomers use tablets as compared to 35 percent of Millennials. (Nielsen)
  • 60 percent of Boomers follow brands on social media for deals and promotions. (Sprout Social)
  • 70 percent of Boomers who use Facebook log into the social media network daily. (PRC)
  • 85 percent of Boomers research products on their web browsers. (Synchrony)
  • 66 percent of Boomers make regular purchases on web devices. (Immersion Active)
  • Over 25 percent of Boomers consume 20 hours or more of online content each week. (BuzzStream x Fractl)

When I wrote about the online shift in a previous post, I noted that the pandemic has encouraged Boomers to dramatically increase their usage of online shopping/delivery/meal prep apps as well as participation in video chatting and online education. The NPD Group says consumers 65 and over spent 49 percent more online in 2020 than they did in 2019.  Still, it isn't as if Boomers were shying away from technology previously -- during the pandemic, they just depended on it even more.

Computer technology phobia is one of the many myths used to marginalize Boomers. Persistent ageism is likely to lead to the perception that Boomers are intimidated by computer technology and don't embrace it as do younger generations. Lots of folks, including brand marketers, media agencies and the news media, seem to forget that the computer technology revolution started on our watch. If anything, we became comfortable with hi tech before it was fashionable. Sure, we need to keep current on the latest changes and advances, but no more than everyone else.

So my fellow Boomers, don't let others play the age card and paint you as a technophobe or worse, a doddering old Luddite. That perception couldn't be more wrong.

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Retirement: It's Personal

Senior-4466290_1920There are essentially two basic sides to retirement: Financial and Personal. For the average Boomer, the Financial side is the engine of the Personal side. If we have been diligent about funding retirement accounts, generally have made wise investments and live well within our means, we should be able to comfortably "retire." But most Boomers quickly realize that there is no universal definition of retirement, because it's really up to each of us to define it.

One way to look at the Personal side of retirement is to ponder how to design your "ideal" retirement. Joe Kesler, author of the book "Smart Money with Purpose", has some excellent ideas about that. In an article he wrote for Humble Dollar that also appeared on Marketwatch, Kesler shared these six suggestions:

  1. Ramp up creativity and learning. Kesler writes that learning during retirement "reminded me of the thrill of going to college, but without the stress of final exams."
  2. Redesign work. Kesler says a fulfilling retirement should include a combination of leisure, service and work. Working at something you enjoy, whatever it may be, is liberating because "we no longer have to put up with the nonsense of the workplace—because we aren’t doing it for a paycheck."
  3. Redefine identity. Because many of us were defined by our work identity, it's important to "fill the identity void with our new interests," writes Kesler.
  4. Build deep friendships. Work friendships also need to be replaced. Kesler advises, "Look for friendships where you find yourself most passionate."
  5. Capture Kodak moments. Without an all-consuming career, Kesler says you can "Use the extra time offered by retirement to reconnect with family."
  6. Eliminate the toxins. Free yourself from things that perturb you, advises Kesler. "Don’t waste a lot of time in this new season of life with toxic relationships or annoying red tape."

I think Kesler does a darn good job of covering the key areas of the Personal side of retirement. We all know the Financial side can be challenging, but the Personal side can be downright vexing, particularly for those of us who are transitioning from long, fruitful careers. The very notion of reinventing ourselves (or "rewiring," as I call it) in our later years can be an unsettling proposition. That's why it's so important to plan ahead for retirement not just financially, but personally. Your happiness depends on it.

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"Are We There Yet?"

Liam-pozz-yjmJBkKn26k-unsplashI'm betting most Boomers remember "Are we there yet?" from their childhood car rides and during auto excursions with their own kids. It's a common question that signifies youthful impatience.

In the context of growing older, though, "Are we there yet?" has an entirely different connotation. Boomers are not necessarily impatient about getting to our later years; in fact, old age sneaks up on us rather quickly. We may even be openly or secretly apprehensive about the aging process. "Are we there yet?" is a more difficult question to answer for Boomers today because "there" is such a huge variable. We are each likely to have our own personal definition of when we really enter "old" age.

Boomers who are in good health, financially secure and satisfied with their lifestyle may not get there anytime soon; they may be thriving into their 80s and 90s. However, those who have health problems or must continue to work due to inadequate retirement funding may get there a lot sooner; they may prematurely age, finding life downright painful even in their 60s and 70s.

"Are we there yet?" also applies to the worldwide pandemic. It's the question we've all been asking as we anxiously await a return to our pre-pandemic lives. While we seem to be turning the corner in the United States (especially those Boomers who have been fully vaccinated), COVID-19 has redefined "normal." It has further exposed the disparity in society between haves and have-nots. For example, as I observed in a previous post, this pandemic has led some better-off Boomers to rethink work and retire earlier than previously planned. In contrast, less fortunate Boomers who lost their jobs because of COVID-19 may have seen their retirement plans crumble before their eyes.

Experts tell us that the current pandemic is very likely to be just the beginning of a string of virus strains that will put a strain on all of our lives. Like COVID-19, future viruses will probably affect the elderly more severely.

As we march down the road to our later years, we face not just viruses, but other risks that are exacerbated by our age. All the more reason for Boomers to take the steps necessary to anticipate the challenges of getting "there." That's why we need to care for ourselves holistically -- physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. So perhaps a better question than "Are we there yet?" would be "Are we prepared for when we get there?"

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A "New Map of Life" for Boomers

Screen Shot 2021-05-11 at 4.25.46 PMThe aging population in the United States -- and around the world -- is motivating several brain trusts to propose creative, innovative ways for humans to successfully live longer lives. For example, the Stanford Center on Longevity, with the support of the Annenberg Foundation, is creating a "New Map of Life," a concept they've trademarked, which the Center describes as follows:

Stanford Center on Longevity’s New Map of Life™ initiative aims to envision a society that supports people to live secure and high-quality lives for a century or more. This new initiative will research and define new models for education and lifelong learning, redesign how we work, advise new policies for health care, housing, the environment and financial security, and promote more intergenerational partnerships. It will also advance a new narrative, which redefines what it means to be “old” and values people at different stages of life. Media outlets, advertisers and the entertainment industry will play an important role in this effort by sharing stories and creating new imagery and content about longevity and aging.

This ambitious initiative consists of three main components: a Research Fellows Program, a Communications Campaign and a Global Agenda. The New Map of Life is guided by six principles, each represented by the letters N-E-W-M-A-P:

  1. New roles and opportunities must be created so that people experience purpose, belonging, and worth at all stages of life
  2. Education is a lifelong pursuit
  3. Working longer will occur in multigenerational contexts
  4. Money. Opportunities to earn and save must be available throughout life to ensure financial security
  5. Advances in the science of aging must be distributed broadly in the population
  6. Physical health and the prevention of disease is critical to achieving the promise of longevity.

The New Map of Life is an excellent example of the kind of broad strategic thinking necessary to address the impact of human longevity on our society. In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the country's 90-and-older population tripled over the past three decades. Over the next thirty years, this population is projected to more than quadruple.

When it comes to living into the ninth and even tenth decade of life, Boomers are the cutting edge generation. A 65-year old woman today in the U.S. has an average life expectancy of close to 87 years. Given the above statistics, this is probably a conservative projection; good health could easily extend one's life well into the 90s or beyond. Boomers need to be physically, mentally and financially prepared for a second act that could potentially last decades beyond 65, formerly considered the traditional retirement age.

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Where Have All the Boomers Gone?

No-identity-1755089_1920The pandemic that laid waste to the American economy has led to an interesting paradox: Well-off Boomers started to disappear from the workforce not because they lost their jobs, but because they wanted to leave their jobs.

As I've mentioned in the past, the number of Boomers who retired in 2020 increased dramatically. In the third quarter of 2020, 3.2 million more Boomers retired than in the third quarter of 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. In Q3 2020, 28.6 million Boomers said they were now retired. A substantial number of Boomer retirees felt the detrimental impact of the pandemic. These unlucky working Boomers found that their employers were effectively using the economic downturn as a means of practicing ageism. Boomers were typically the first ones to get the axe when belts needed tightening as employers exhibited a preference for younger, less expensive staff.

Still, a different slice of the Boomer demographic has seen something of a silver lining in the pandemic. As reported by, according to Bloomberg, 2.7 million Americans age 55-plus have said that "Covid-19 fatigue" is causing them to consider leaving the workforce earlier than they had planned. This group -- mostly affluent white Americans -- is well-heeled enough to think about calling it quits. Returning to an office after more than a year of telecommuting may just be more than some of these Boomers can handle. They're following a "life is short" philosophy. In the story, one 58-year old "said he found himself spending more time about pursuing his other passions — including volunteering at the Salvation Army — and that staying home last year only reinforced his desire to leave."

Interestingly, Boomers may have really benefited financially during the pandemic recession because of a dramatic increase in the value of homes and stock shares. According to, "Assets for Americans between the ages of 55 and 69 reportedly spiked by $4.2 trillion last year, including a $2.2 trillion increase in corporate equities and mutual fund shares and a $250 billion uptick in the value of private businesses."

Boomers who have decided to exit the workforce permanently creates another problem: a labor shortage. Employers simply cannot fill open positions. Isn't it ironic that those employers who previously discriminated against Boomers because of their age may now actually be desperate to hire them.

Editor's Note: This post has generated several comments, which can be found in the "Comments" section below the post. I have also included two of them here:

Such an interesting article! My husband is 62 next month and one those boomers who is dreaming of retirement. After going through the pandemic and a booming construction business that has him drowning in work as a surveyor, he has had enough. I don’t know if it’s in the immediate future, but we’re working toward that goal. - Julie Gorges

As always, another provocative blog post from Happily Rewired. Of particular interest is the ironic twist in the last paragraph observing that previously youth age-biased employers “may now actually be desperate to hire” senior candidates. It is worth noting that the impact of the pandemic, aside from the economic effect on the general population, has also driven cultural transformation raising the value of older people. Fredrick "Rick" Manning,

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The Retirement Income Juggling Act

Juggle-1027144_1920A study by the Stanford Center on Longevity points to two troubling statistics for older workers approaching retirement: (1) one-third of them have NO retirement savings, and (2) for those who have savings, the median balance is about $200,000. The harsh reality associated with either of these scenarios is that they demonstrate why traditional retirement is a big stretch for so many Americans. Layer the economic impact of the pandemic on top of under-funded retirement savings and it's easy to see why many Boomers realize they'll need to keep generating income for the foreseeable future.

The average middle-income Boomer can't solve the problem overnight, but a plan developed by the Stanford Center on Longevity in association with the Society of Actuaries -- the "Spend Safely in Retirement Strategy" -- is a practical retirement income-generating strategy. Financial expert Steve Vernon, a research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity, discusses it in an article published in the January 2021 issue of Benefits Magazine. He suggests that most pre-retirees need to address the following five decisions:

  1. When and how to retire, including whether to work part-time for a period of time
  2. When to start Social Security benefits
  3. How to deploy retirement savings to generate retirement income
  4. Which living expenses, including the cost of housing (which is often retirees' largest living expense), to reduce in order to live on less income in retirement
  5. Whether to deploy home equity by realizing capital gains and and reinvesting the proceeds to generate retirement income or by purchasing a reverse mortgage.

In the article, Vernon describes five possible scenarios as an illustration of how such a strategy might work. The example uses a hypothetical 62-year old married couple with household earnings of $100,000 annually and retirement savings of $350,000. The scenarios are designed to show the differences in retirement income generated by the couple if they follow certain paths: (1) retire at 62, (2) Work part-time until retirement at the full retirement age of 66-1/2, (3) Work full-time until retirement at the full retirement age of 66-1/2, (4) Work part-time until retirement at age 70, (5) Work full-time until retirement at age 70.

Factoring in both Social Security and the drawdown of retirement savings, the illustration shows that the couple can significantly increase initial total income, from $37,585 in scenario 1 to $70,755 in scenario 5. The good news is that, even scenario 2 produces initial total income of $51,526 -- an increase of almost $14,000 over scenario 1. The comparison demonstrates that the increases between working part-time and full-time are not as dramatic as the increase between not working at all and working part-time. In other words, working part-time until age 66-1/2 or 70 can really pay off. As Steve Vernon points out, "These analyses show the potential advantage of a downshifting strategy for older workers who don't want to or can't continue working full-time but haven't saved enough for complete retirement."

The example above offers an optimistic outcome for those individuals who are in a position to at least generate some income even after retiring from full-time work. Most everyone approaching retirement has to be an income juggler. This is where a financial advisor can really help. It's all about understanding the unique combination of work, retirement savings, Social Security benefits and income from other sources offers the best balancing act for you. 

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Carrying the Debt Burden

Debt-1500774_1920Regardless of age, accumulating debt is a way of life for many Americans, in particular Boomers. Even our federal government carries a heavy debt load.

We learn at a fairly young age about buying on credit. We continue to pay off student debt decades after completing college or graduate school. In order to buy a house, we obtain a loan (otherwise known as a mortgage) and pay interest on the principal for many years. Additional debt may accumulate through multiple credit cards, automobile loans and home equity lines of credit. 

Boomers are in an especially precarious position when it comes to debt. According to Experian, Boomers carry average total non-mortgage debt of $25,812. This unsettling number includes credit cards, store cards, personal loans and other non-mortgage accounts. The average mortgage debt for Boomers is $191,650. The average credit card balance carried by Boomers is $6,747. Boomers typically hold more credit cards than any other generation.

In August 2018, The New York Times reported on a study that showed Boomer bankruptcies were three times higher than in 1991, with bankruptcies for Boomers far exceeding all other filers. A more recent Times article (April 18, 2021) indicated that the pandemic has not made things any easier for Boomers. A new survey suggested Boomers had doubled their non-mortgage debt in 2020. Boomers commonly put expenses on credit cards and carry balances month-to-month, reports Susan B. Garland. She writes, "Also driving this rising debt load are soaring medical costs, the steep decline in pensions, growing housing expenses and low interest rates on savings. To make ends meet, many older adults are known to skip meals and to cut pills to stretch prescriptions, according to a survey by the National Council on Aging."

Boomers accumulate debt in another way that would have been unthinkable in prior years. During the pandemic and even beforehand, Boomers have been put in the unenviable position of helping their adult children financially. According to The New York Times article, the Employee Benefit Research Institute "found that 59 percent of people ages 65 to 74 who helped family members carried debt, compared with 47 percent who did not help." 

Eventually, debt catches up with Boomers -- and it can come with a big price tag. It is all too easy to consolidate expenses onto credit cards, only to find monthly payments ballooning and interest charges spiraling higher. That's when it may be time to get the assistance of a credit counseling agency. But buyer beware -- there are some "debt settlement" companies that can prey on desperate debtors, according to the balance: "Persuasive advertisements might promise you an easy way out of debt, or a way to simplify your payments. But these services often tack on expensive fees, it’s often not clearly explained what potentially negative effects debt settlement can have on your credit score."

Here are three key ways Boomers can ease their debt burden, according to

  1. Control credit card debt. "Toss the junk mail. Cut financial ties with your adult children. Pay off credit cards first, before other debt."
  2. Minimize medical debt. "Research health insurance options. Build health expenses into your retirement budget. Negotiate with healthcare providers."
  3. Pay off your mortgage. "Break big goals into small steps. Roll other debt payments toward mortgage. Think twice before refinancing."

Debt is a big deal for Americans. The balance reports that Americans accumulated $14.56 trillion of debt as of 2020, with $462 billion of that debt considered delinquent. If you are in debt, you are definitely not alone.

Still, carrying a heavy debt burden is no fun, and it is especially painful for Boomers.

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The "Boomer-ang"

Boomerang-1027826_1920Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "The Retirement Boomerang." In that post, I cited a study that showed almost half of workers age 65 or above who retired "boomeranged" back to work. They didn't necessarily want to return to the same job, but they felt a sense of loss when they stopped working.

Many Boomers leave the workforce and then seek out a new career, or a second act, rather than pursue traditional retirement. My wife and I experienced this phenomenon when we left busy professional careers. We weren't ready to kick back our heels and drink lemonade just yet; instead of retiring, we started a small business together and ran it for about seven years before selling it. That was a great transition that eased us into a slower pace of life. Now I work part-time as a freelance writer and have time for volunteering and recreation. Like many Boomers, I take advantage of skills honed during my worklife, but I apply them to things I want to do on my own terms rather than pursuing a full-time professional career. I've "rewired" instead of being retired.

Of course, things have significantly shifted during the pandemic for many of us. Some Boomers who were planning to retire may be experiencing a whole different kind of boomerang -- having been thrown out of the workforce, they are thrown right back into searching for a position. Others who have been ejected from a job may see it as a time to rethink their future; statistics show that a substantial number of Boomers who feel financially secure are in fact leaving the job market permanently.

Even so, retiring from work can be psychologically disconcerting if not traumatic. Writing for Kiplinger, financial adviser Kara Duckworth says she is seeing an unexpected pattern in discussions with her clients: "Instead of worrying about whether they’ll have enough saved to enjoy retirement, they’re worrying about whether they’ll enjoy retirement at all." She adds, "For some people, retiring from being an expert in their field or having a prestigious job feels like giving up part of the identity they have worked very hard to earn."

Duckworth offers a few valuable tips for those who are having trouble coping with the idea of retirement:

  1. Consider slowing down at work instead of stopping completely.
  2. Try before you buy.
  3. Plan to explore new things.

Check out more of what she has to say in her article:

There is no single path through retirement, rewirement, reinvention, or whatever you want to call it. You have to chart your own individual course. And you have to be courageous enough to change it if things aren't working out the way you want.

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A Boomer's Take on DE&I

Have you noticed the term “DE&I” bandied about lately by politicians, business leaders and heads of institutions? If you’re “woke,” then you know it stands for “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.” What does that really mean? In the context of government or business policies, it basically represents treating everyone equally, regardless of social standing, race, sexual preference or any other distinguishing characteristic. Think of it as a three-legged stool that broadly applies to welcoming in people of less-privileged identities. Here are definitions of each of the three legs from Independent Sector:

Diversity “includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another,” including identity markers such as race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, and more. It also takes intersectional diversity into account, when people’s identity is made of a number of underrepresented identities.

Equity is “the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources.”

Inclusion is “the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.”

Sadly, it seems that awareness of DE&I is a recent occurrence. It’s only now, because of the compelling roles played by such movements as “MeToo” and “Black Lives Matter,” that our society has reawakened to issues of inequality that have been festering for decades. Thankfully, many Americans are finally realizing that there really are significant inequities in our society, made even more vivid due to the pandemic. The fact is, the old saying is still true in our country: “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

As a Boomer, I have to wonder where American leaders have been for the last fifty-plus years. Wasn’t it our generation that helped fight for DE&I in the Sixties? Didn’t many of us protest, march, sit in, get jailed and even die in support of civil rights, racial and gender equality and social justice? Yet, those Boomers in positions of power today, struck by a serious case of amnesia, boast about their commitment to DE&I like it’s something new.

Don’t get me wrong — I for one am heartened to see that DE&I is very much in vogue right now. Despite the current movement to restrict voting rights in several states (thereby disenfranchising America's most under-served populations), it’s particularly encouraging to see the recent recognition of societal inequity by the federal government. Still, I truly hope that people in power are not merely paying lip service to DE&I in an effort to trade on its PR value. They need to understand the depth of its meaning and make a real commitment to fundamental change.

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Envisioning an Intergenerational World

Ageism is a global issue, as I indicated in my previous post. One powerful and potentially lasting way to fight against ageism is to foster greater connections between older and younger generations. The generational divide -- caused as much by tribalism as by age -- may seem difficult to overcome, but there are beacons of light in the darkness that can help us envision an intergenerational world. Here are three innovative examples: - Encore is a vanguard in bringing together generations. According to this nonprofit organization, "For the first time in U.S. history, people over 60 outnumber people under 18, raising fears of widening generational divides. sees another path — a more-old-than-young society that works for all generations. By accelerating intergenerational solutions to pressing social problems from literacy to loneliness, bridges divides and collaborates across generations to create a better future together." Founder Marc Freedman writes eloquently about the topic, and affirms its commitment by sponsoring "Gen2Gen" fellowships.

Mon Ami - Two Stanford MBAs, Madeline Dangerfield-Cha and Joy Zhang, co-founded Mon Ami to challenge the asumption that "young is immature and old obsolete." In an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, they write, "The organization began as a direct service platform, leveraging gig technology to match older adults and their families with college students, who visited weekly to engage in social activities such as playing Scrabble, writing memoirs, and going on walks. ... By March 2020, when COVID-19 hit, hundreds of students enrolled at colleges in the Bay Area of California had provided more than 10,000 hours of companionship to older adults, either in their homes or at their assisted living facilities." In their article, Dangerfield-Cha and Zhang cite two other tech apps/platforms, "Papa" and "Big& Mini," that are innovating in this space.

UpsideHom - Highlighted recently by The Longevity Project, UpsideHom is a startup that focuses on intergenerational living. Launched last year in Florida, the company's goal "is to allow older people to age in place inside multi-generational living communities, primarily apartment buildings that do not necessarily cater to the needs of older renters. To support that, they offer fully-supported units inside these apartment communities – bundling together furniture, maintenance, housekeeping services and so forth – to make it easier to age in place." Founder and CEO Jake Rothstein told The Longevity Project in an interview, "Aging in place versus aging in the right place is something that people really need to think about. ...this decision is a very, very big one, an impactful one that affects themselves and the family members that care for them. Building trust throughout the journey is a real challenge, and probably one that traditional assisted living facilities face as well. ...Educating people in order to build that trust is really the biggest challenge, I would say."

These examples are both inspiring and prescient. Each of them suggests in their own way the potential for generations to interact, learn from each other and potentially live side by side. What better way to combat ageism than to have generations understand, appreciate, assist and respect one another.

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