In 2011, the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation reaches its 65th birthday – the age of Aquarius meets the age of retirement.
The Baby Boomers are people who were born between the end of World War II in 1946, and the popularization of the birth control pill in 1964. An estimated 76 million Americans who were born during this period that the Bureau of the Census' calls the "demographic birth boom."
After hovering at around 2.8 million annual U.S. births during the WWII years, births climbed to 3.5 million in 1946, rocketing to a peak of 3.9 million in 1947.
Following 1947, U.S. annual births settled to 3.5 million and began a steady increase, topping out at 4.3 million in 1961 – a time when birth control advocates battling against 19th century state and federal laws were heartened by President Dwight Eisenhower, who in 1959, took the position that birth control is not the government's business.
So, in 1964, at a time when the Boomer vanguard reached their 18th birthday, these coming-of-age women were among the pill's early adopters. It was also the beginnings of the U.S. sending troops to the Vietnam War. Many troops returned with drug habits, and the antiwar activists sang in protest. Born was the age of Aquarius – the era of sex and drugs, and rock 'n roll played on transistor radios whose music morphed from Woodstock to Motown to Beatlemania.
On average, Boomers are readying to retire with $500,000 - $1,000,000 in assets, although much of this net worth is tied up in housing, and stock market-based retirement accounts that lost value during the market collapse. And they worry that their lifelong Social Security investment won't endure.
For Boomers, approximately 17 percent choose traditional retirement. Whether it is to make financial ends meet, the need to be productive, or the desire to fulfill a lifetime dream, seniors expect to work past the age of 65.
This is a change. In 2004, five percent of retiree income came from employment. In 2010, a survey of Boomers indicated 83 percent expect to keep working after retirement age, that 28 percent of those currently working will continue working as long as their health permits, and 14 percent saying that they will never retire.
On average, a Boomer who has reached the age of 65 can expect to live another 20 years. In 1935, when Social Security was established, U.S. life expectancy was 61.
Boomers are redefining "retirement" as the beginning of a new chapter. It is a time to reconnect with family and friends, gain a mastery of a long-loved area, get involved in the community, and develop an active lifestyle. Nearly three in five retirees plan to relocate to leave their working community for one closer to family or one that offers a more desirable or less-expensive lifestyle.
And it's a time to dust off the guitar and sing folk songs, and to reconnect with friends from the Age of Aquarius, "Let the sun shine in."