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Leading-Edge Boomers<br> Still Going Strong

Poll says the generation will redefine "retirement."

How did it happen? The generation that vowed to never trust anyone over 30 is now undeniably moving beyond middle age. The first wave of the 76 million boomers — that's the group of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — will turn 65 in 2011.

  • Starting next month, 2.5 million boomers will reach this milestone.
  • On average, 7,000 people will celebrate their 65th birthday each day between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011.
  • By the end of next year, 41 million Americans will be 65 and older, a cohort that will comprise 17 percent of the United States' adult population.

As this unique generation continues to age, how will the boomer identity inform their decisions? Will they resemble their parents or will they redefine this life stage in their way? How do they feel about their lives and their future? To find out, AARP commissioned a survey of boomers who will turn 65 next year.

  • While about half of the survey respondents are already retired, plenty of others are still working — with no plans to stop.
Chart showing percentage of boomers 65+ from 2011 - 2030

Among the 31 percent who are employed full or part time, more than one-third (35 percent) say they have "retired" from a previous career. And when asked when they will quit work, 40 percent plan to “work until they drop.” Most leading-edge boomers plan to remain active — whether in the workplace or not — well into traditional retirement age.  More than half of these boomers say they plan to increase their travel (61 percent) and volunteerism (54 percent), and more than 4-in-10 (44 percent) plan to take classes or learn something new.

  • The oldest boomers are largely satisfied with their lives. Seventy-eight percent of those turning 65 in 2011 say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their lives today. When asked to describe their feelings about the next five years, boomers chose the words exciting, fulfilling, confident, hopeful and optimistic. Still, significant percentages also admit to feeling anxious, uncertain and stressed. This may be an illustration of the inherent optimism that sometimes characterizes this generation or perhaps a demonstration of the measured perspective that comes with age.


  • About 40 percent believe they are about where they expected to be at this point in terms of their financial security and health. More however, believe they are worse off in these areas. Slight majorities believe they are about where they expected to be in their relationships, jobs and spiritual lives.


  • Overall, 70 percent say they've achieved all or most of what they wanted out of life. And 26 percent say they have achieved some of what they wanted. Only 3 percent say they have achieved little or none of what they wanted out of life. 


  • Boomers turning 65 expect to live about the same number of years as they want to live. On average, boomers turning 65 in 2011 expect to live until they are 85.2 years old. This is only 3.5 years short of the average length of time they want to live — 88.7 years.


  • As they turn 65, the perennial goals of financial security, better health, travel and time with family/friends are gifts boomers want. But financial security (25 percent) and physical health (35 percent) are also paramount as things boomers turning 65 want to improve in the next five years.


  • Taking better care of oneself, spending more time with family, traveling, volunteering and making time for interests and hobbies were most often mentioned when boomers were asked what non-employment changes they have planned for the next few years. Consistent with other surveys of near retirees, few respondents plan to relocate. A small percentage plan to buy a larger or smaller home or move to a different part of the country to be near family or enjoy better weather.

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