- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Second of five parts

David Bugden says he cannot imagine when he would leave his Silver Spring dental practice, regardless of what age is defined as retirement.

“I’ll probably never retire,” he says. “I’ll probably just slow down a little bit.”

As his three children enter college, the 53-year-old dentist is looking toward phasing in more leisure activities after they leave home.

“I’m a competitive target shooter,” Dr. Bugden says. “By the time my kids are out of school, I would like to shoot professionally.”

Other times, he wants to take “weekend jaunts” on his motorcycle with his wife, Kimberly.

Baby boomers such as Dr. Bugden are redefining the senior years from an age of rocking chairs and family visits to merely a change in their career plans.

In this series, The Washington Times examines how the aging of America’s largest generation will rock the social-service and health care systems created by their parents’ and grandparents’ generations and how the boomers are living out their own vision of getting older.

With about 78 million of them born from 1946 to 1964 still living, boomers are creating the biggest shift toward retirement in America’s work force of any single generation.

“With boomers living longer and remaining engaged and employed beyond age 65, many of the traditional financial assumptions regarding retirement need to be re-examined,” says James P. Gorman, president of the Global Private Client Group for the financial firm Merrill Lynch.

Career counselors coined the term “protirement” in the 1990s to describe workers who plan to supplement their savings and Social Security benefits after retirement with second careers.

In addition to earning income, they want to use their experience to do the work they enjoy.

Some corporate executives might want to join the Peace Corps, bankers would build yachts, and mechanics would run greenhouses.

“They no longer have to worry about putting two or three children through college,” says Kelley Coates-Carter, AARP Maryland spokeswoman. “They can focus on something they always wanted to do. If they’re looking to transition into other careers, one of the first things we tell them is to think about their passion.”

One of them is Bill Donahue, owner of Annapolis Classic Watercraft, a five-employee company he started four years ago that restores antique boats.

“I’ve been restoring boats since I was a teenager,” says Mr. Donahue, 57. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Before he started Annapolis Classic Watercraft, Mr. Donahue was a Washington banker who supervised as many as 100 employees but never felt like he was doing what he did best.

“When my company was bought, that gave the money to do it,” he says about starting his boat restoration business. “I figured, it’s now or never.”

A Merrill Lynch New Retirement Survey released in February reported that 76 percent of baby boomers expect to continue working after they retire, often in a new job or career.

However, they also want the flexibility to work when it’s convenient, but rest or play when they prefer.

A similar AARP study found that just more than half already had changed careers at some time in their lives as they progressed from being hippies to yuppies to abbies, or aging baby boomers.

At the office

The boomers are creating challenges for employers that must adapt to older workers, who would have been a small segment of the workplace a few decades ago.

They are the best-educated generation in American history with the highest per-capita earnings. They also will be difficult for employers to replace.

“Employers are suddenly realizing they’re losing a bunch of their work force,” says Cathy Fyock, president of Innovative Management Concepts, a management consulting firm in Crestwood, Ky., that focuses on recruiting and retaining an aging work force.

Employers are offering fewer early retirements, more reduced work schedules and phased retirements in which the jobs of older workers are gradually delegated to younger workers, she says.

Power company Pepco Holdings Inc. says it recruits and offers generous benefits to older workers “so you’re not having that big investment disappear when a person walks out the door on their retirement day,” says Mary-Beth Hutchinson, Pepco spokeswoman. “This company in particular has a lot of technology involved.”

Even when workers can no longer tolerate the rigors of climbing power line poles in all kinds of weather, their experience can help the company in sedentary labor, she says.

“Knowing that job can be very useful in another context,” Miss Hutchinson says.

NASD, formerly the National Association of Securities Dealers, which the AARP lists this year as one of the best employers for workers older than 50, says the job advancement that it offers older workers helps attract and retain them.

“We look at them for what they can bring to the table for us, regardless of age,” says Michael Jones, senior executive vice president of the D.C. employer.

Baby boomers who have amassed their retirement nest eggs already are leaving their more traditional careers.

“The best and the brightest of the baby boomers will be the first to bail out,” says William Frey, a demographer for the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public-policy research foundation. “There’s going to be some real need among employers to fill that gap.”

High-level skills of the baby boomers also gave them more job security than the generations that will replace them, says Tim Kane, an economist for the Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit conservative public-policy foundation.

Many baby boomers could pin their hopes and careers on becoming an “organization man,” in which employer-provided pensions and health care would take care of them for life, he says.

A younger generation of workers that focuses less on education and technical skill is less likely to have that luxury, Mr. Kane says.

At home

Unlike their parents, baby boomers are more likely to forgo retirement in Florida or Arizona to be near their children and at least part-time work opportunities.

Real estate developers such as Del Webb and Erickson Retirement Communities are opening age-restricted complexes for boomers who want the convenience of retirement without quitting their jobs.

Greenspring in Springfield, Va., is one of them. Others are Riderwood in Silver Spring and Saintsbury Plaza in Vienna, Va.

A survey this year by retirement community builder Del Webb found that most baby boomers want more than one bedroom in their retirement homes — often so they can continue working.

“Many use a third bedroom as a home office or den, in addition to having a second bedroom for guests,” says Mark Marymee, spokesman for Pulte Homes, parent company of Del Webb.

Amenity centers in the retirement communities are being redesigned with multipurpose rooms.

“Computers are definitely a new addition to our centers,” Mr. Marymee says.

In addition, more leisure activities and classes are scheduled after business hours.

Several surveys show that most boomers want the option to shift between work and leisure in retirement.

In school

Colleges are preparing for a wave of baby boomers updating their job skills or seeking personal enrichment.

Nearly all of the universities and community colleges in the Washington area offer “lifelong learning” and continuing education courses.

At Northern Virginia Community College, the percentage of the student body that is older than 60 has increased from 1 percent in the 2000-01 school year to 1.6 percent in the 2004-05 school year.

The baby boomers are likely to add significantly to the senior citizen student population, according to college administrators.

“The continuing education directors are expecting this,” says Tricia Holser, Northern Virginia Community College spokeswoman.

Popular courses for the 50-plus generation at area colleges include art, history, music and computer skills.

“The most popular computer courses include word processing, Internet, e-mail and, lately, digital photography,” says Stephen D. Cain, dean of Montgomery College’s community education program. “Many students also enroll in computer keyboarding — something not taught when boomers were kids — and ‘mastering EBay.’ ”

A common characteristic is, “They’re curious about things they haven’t had a chance to experience,” Mrs. Holser says.

The Merrill Lynch study found that boomer men are looking forward to working less, relaxing more and spending more time with their spouses as they become empty nesters or approach retirement. Boomer women are looking forward to new opportunities for career development, community involvement and continued personal growth.

In the bank

However, other boomers will not have the luxury of spending their golden years doing their labors of love. Low incomes or a lack of saving early in their careers has left them with few options as they get older.

“There are some baby boomers who will have to work forever because their employers don’t have good pensions,” says Mr. Frey, the Brookings Institution demographer. “There are a lot of jobs that are being phased out. They’re going to be struggling to find jobs.”

As a result, universities and technical colleges are preparing for older students trying to improve their job prospects with updated training.

“The leisure boomers are going to go back to take liberal arts courses,” Mr. Frey says. “There are others that need to stay in the work force who need to upgrade their skills.”

A successful retirement requires planning no later than the mid-40s, according to financial planners. It should include regular contributions to IRAs or 401(k) retirement plans.

Otherwise, the boomers face a massive downfall in their incomes and lifestyles.

A recent study by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute reported that half of workers from all age groups have saved less than $25,000 for retirement.

Employees who invested in company-provided 401(k) retirement plans for at least six years averaged $91,042 in their accounts by the end of 2004. Workers in their 60s averaged $136,400 in their accounts.

The National Retirement Planning Coalition, a group of consumer advocacy and trade associations, sponsors campaigns to advise workers on how much money they should take out of their paychecks to prepare for retirement.

Late boomers, those born after 1955, must expect to work longer than previous generations before they qualify for Social Security benefits, the coalition says.

Social Security benefits are being reduced by gradually raising the normal retirement age to 67 by 2019.

Part I

America’s starting to look a lot older

Part III

Boomers will not retire from life

Part IV

Business targets boomers’ money

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