year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute does
a survey of workers’ plans for retirement.
This year, the Wall Street Journal reported, the
institute concluded from its survey of 1,002 workers
age 25 and up that employees are harboring very unrealistic
hopes for retirement.
Many surveyed workers entertain the expectation of remaining on their jobs longer
in order to make up for retirement savings shortfalls. Reflecting this tendency,
54 percent of the surveyed workers expect to work to at least 65 before retiring.
Those expectations don’t jibe with the real life experiences of many current
retirees. Now, the average retirement age is 62. And two in five retirees were
found to have left their jobs before they had planned because of health problems
or company lay-offs. Only 32 percent of the retirees surveyed this year said
they had worked for pay at any point in their retirement.
Another revealing retirement survey, released last January by the non-profit
Kaiser Family Foundation and quoted by the Wall Street Journal, indicates companies
have been ruthlessly slashing retiree health benefits. Ten percent of large employers
eliminated subsidized health benefits for future retirees in the past year and
an additional 20 percent expect to follow suit in the next three years. And 71
percent of the companies surveyed increased their retirees’ share of health
care premiums last year.
Yet it is not only gloom and doom for the millions in the 50- to-65-year-old
group. These soon-to-be-retired folks, during their profitable working ages,
have piled up some well-earned wealth. This has not escaped the attention of
some of the world’s best-known companies, which now are aiming some of
their products at this group.
Up to the present, the graying generation had been written off as poor, very
frugal or stuck in a never-changing brand. The shift in attitude toward this
coming retirement group, according to the Wall Street Journal, is caused by the
realization that this group plus the already retired control fully 67 percent
of the nation’s wealth.
It is estimated, for example, that households of those soon to retire had a median
net worth of $112,048 in 2000 as compared to the $7,240 for the under-35 age
group. And in five years, about one-third of the population will be at least
50 years old, thus creating the desirability of a new approach to marketing.
Recent research has begun to cast doubt on marketing directed primarily at the
young. The 50-plus generation is living a far more active lifestyle and fights
the idea that it is getting “old.” And this group has the means to
help disprove this “aging” label by the nature of its purchases.
Alert to still more of these various sweeping changes in the ranks of the elderly
and the coming retirees, the American Society on Aging and the National Council
on Aging are sponsoring a national conference next March in Philadelphia. The
meeting will be devoted to the “coming face of aging.”
As the conference call spells out, “The face of aging is changing … It’s
quickly becoming a sea of faces … of cultures, ethnicities, abilities,
values, experiences, and needs represented by this group … Spanning from
50 to beyond 100 years … unlike anything we’ve seen in our history.”
From all of the above, one can readily surmise that planning for retirement and
the actual retiree lifestyles are part of an ever-changing societal reality — differing
greatly from generation to generation. Viva la difference, as the French might
Ruhig is well-known in Sacramento for his tireless advocacy
for proposals designed to help seniors live long, happy,
full lives. He has held leadership roles in several advocacy
groups and on government advisory boards. Ruhig once sued
the California Department of Aging for age discrimination,