Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.” - Billie Burke
Kathleen Casey-Kirschling is living it up. She and her husband have a 42-foot trawler. She and her husband live in a river front home in Maryland. And they have a villa in Florida. And they’ve earned it too, she as a seventh-grade school teacher and he as a University professor.
One other thing.
When Kathleen retired recently, it was national news. Why? Precisely because, at the moment I write this, Kathleen is exactly 62 years, one month, 25 days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes old.
That in itself, at any other time in history, might seem pretty insignificant. But rolling backward, that makes Kathleen the absolute very first born of… I’m sure you’ve guessed it… the demographic phenomenon we’ve all called the “Baby Boomers,” for about as long as most of us can remember.
The Boomers, of course, have shaped the world.
Simply by existing in it.
Absolutely, they’ve shaped the fate of marketers. For decades in the past. And most likely, for decades to come.
Gerber baby food boomed in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, thanks to this wave of hungry little tykes. Music, cars, food chains. Shopping malls, education trends, politics. Property booms and stock market spikes. Many forces have driven them all, but rarely were the boomers not somewhere behind the scenes, if not directly in the spotlight.
No question, whatever is coming next is a marketing story you’ll need to pay attention to, even if some of our politicians and a few of the Boomers themselves are not.
That’s just one of the reasons (the other being jet lag and a full schedule) I’ve opted to dip into the archives and revisit a CR from 2005 that’s just as relevant — if not more so — today.
Hope you enjoy!
The Silver Tsunami Heading For America
I’m reading a terrifying book. Not a thriller novel, but “The Coming Generational Storm” by Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns. It’s terrifying because it’s about a subject I’m sure we’ve all read about but that has a gravity most of us don’t fully comprehend.
I’m talking about the mind-boggling tide of Baby Boomers headed past 50. We all knew it was coming.
Now it’s almost here.
And the tectonic shift it’s about to levy upon us is unlike anything ever experienced before in history. It’s the Boomers greatest and farthest impact yet.
I’ll let you read the book if you’re interested in the gory details. Meanwhile, there’s another, lighter aspect of this phenomenon. One that anybody in our line of work can’t help thinking about. That is, how to turn this demographically gut-wrenching phenomenon into yet another opportunity to make a buck!
(Such carpet-baggers, aren’t we?)
So in this week’s CR, let’s spend a little time reviewing the new implications of this same trend, with a special eye o marketing opportunities (okay, plus a little of the nasty details too)…
A Boomer In Full
- You’re officially a boomer, in case you’ve always wondered but were afraid you would look too dumb to ask, if you were born between 1946 and 1964 — or about 41 to 59 years old today.
- You’re a “leading edge” boomer if you were born before 1955 and a “trailing edge” boomer if born after that.
- One out of every three adults over 21 in the U.S. is a Boomer. Now that’s shocking. Here’s something even more shocking: Every eight seconds, another boomer turns 50.
- According to expert Brent Green, writing for the Direct Marketing Association, about 38% of the US population is already over 50. By 2020, that number should be more like 50%.
- Boomers spend as much as $2 trillion a year on goods and services. And will outspend the younger generation by 2010 by over $1 trillion
- Boomers have about $28 trillion in disposable income. That’s just in the U.S. No wonder all those middle-aged guys buy sports cars.
- Most boomers did not grow up in rich homes. Nor did they all have white-collar jobs in the ’80s and ’90s. Some 25 million boomers, in fact, are flat broke.
- In fact, half of American homes have less than $1,000 in financial assets. Ouch. Among Boomers, only 36% are sure they’ll have enough money to fund a comfortable retirement.
- Forget the granola, ex-hipster, oat-eating cliché. Nearly 75% of the time a boomer goes to a “restaurant” for dinner, it’s a fast food meal they’re buying.
- Right now, senior citizens are only 13% of the population. But they use 30% of all prescription drugs sold. And that’s how it is now, pre-Boomer.
- More than 5 million Boomers already have diabetes. More have growing high-blood pressure and heart problems. And the majority struggle at some level with gaining weight.
- Boomers are also, however, a heck of a lot more active than any other prior generation entering this age range.
- If you get to 50 without any serious major ailments, the chances — these days — of you getting to 100 are much higher than ever before in history.
- Most retirement plans consider 4% inflation, but not higher. And few plans take in the true future costs of health care.
- Less than half as many companies as 1988 offer health benefits to retirees. And that number is falling. Medicare and Social Security are looking ever more strained and desperate too.
- As the kids move out of the house, the top priority for Boomers will shift to getting out of debt.
- Vitamins, medical care, weight and exercise, insurance, preventative medicine… anything related to health can be an ever-pressing issue with someone over 50.
- Stocks and real estate, life and property insurance, collectibles, second careers, extra income and anything else related to socking away money becomes even more important too.
- 55% of Boomers say they’ll move when they retire. At least 36% say they’ll pack up once the kids are out of the house.
- Having “stuff” isn’t enough anymore. The older you get, the more meaning you want out of life. And the more complexity you seek in the things you do with your time or buy with your money.
- The older you get, the less old you want to feel. Or look. And the less you appreciate marketing that panders to the clichés of aging.
- A heck of a lot of boomers will hit retirement age around 2010. Which might mean a radical shift in all kinds of markets, from Wall Street to resort real estate.
- But a lot of them won’t stay retired long. Look for a wave of “boomerang retirees” to leap back into the workforce.
- Pity the poor sap who runs for the White House in 2008. Boomers are already skeptical of authority, and grow more skeptical of government promises by the day.
- Suddenly, age 70 is the new 50. And 90 is the new 80. 100? Okay, well, 100 is still 100. But let’s talk again about that a few decades from now. (We’re looking at more than TEN times the number of centenarians in America alone by 2030).
- More than 55% of boomers use the Internet, by the way. And more than 85% own mobile phones. And this from the group for who television was still coming of age in their youth.
If you run a business or market for a business, let’s stop and think…
What, specifically, will you do to target this over-50 market in the years ahead? It’s all well and good to court the next generation, but this is where the future lies. Heck, it’s where the current market is too. Now and for at least the next three decades.
One hopes you’re ready for it, yah?