To plan well for retirement, stay abreast of “disruptive demographics”

A Baby Boomer turns 65 every seven seconds. The fastest-growing segment of the population is 85 and older. These are some of the profound and “disruptive demographics” that are reshaping the national landscape – and the workplace – with significant implications for employers and their employees, according to Joe Coughlin, the founder and president of MIT’s AgeLab.

Coughlin spoke at a special conference for TIAA-CREF institutional plan sponsors on Wed., April 13, and then led a panel of experts exploring the implications of demographic trends on women, personal wellbeing, economics and financial planning.

According to Coughlin, the workplace is in transition and retirement planning for employees must follow suit. To help people plan for a secure retirement, employers must better understand the implications of a wide range of demographic trends. Focusing on the Baby Boom generation (those age 45 and older), Coughlin identified a number of such trends that set them apart from their parents’ generation:

  • They are healthier and better-informed.
  • They are highly tech savvy and take pride in being “smart buyers.”
  • Women are more educated than ever, and their workforce participation is at an all-time high. Women are key decision-makers – or “family CEOs” – who place a premium on solutions over products.
  • The workforce is increasingly diverse, and more and more families – now one in four – are caring for an older adult.
  • Aging often is a solo affair, with 30% of Americans age 60 or older living alone and 40% of women over 65 living alone.

Boomers also have particular preferences and characteristics that should inform how retirement plan sponsors go about engaging them, Coughlin added. In this digital age, they often feel overwhelmed by information overload. With busy lives, they are short of time – and not surprisingly, simply fatigued.

Boomers also came of age at a time of steadily eroding trust in people and institutions. Today, they turn increasingly to their family members and social networks for information and advice. (47% have a Facebook account, up from 38% last year.)

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