Posted on: Sunday, August 3, 2003
What's ahead for the boomer?
By Marshall Loeb and Alicia Ferrari
|A generational gap between values
The boomers are not only different from their parents' generation but also different from what they themselves were several years ago.
Executives of Lifestage Matrix Marketing, a firm that studies the "mature market," have examined the values that the boomers hold dearly and the values that their parents hold dearly. The study came up with these conclusions and contrasts:
As they always have, this most influential generation, born between 1946 and 1964, will have an outsized impact on the American economy and society. They will be, by far, the biggest and richest cohort in the population.
Landon Y. Jones, the former managing editor of People magazine who invented the term in 1980 in his book "Great Expectations: America and the baby boom generation," says: "They will change whatever structure they are in. Whatever they enter, they will explode it."
And in an interview with CBS MarketWatch, Jones continues:
"We have never had such a large group of people who were so well educated. They are used to traveling, comparison shopping, being individualistic and taking pride in their uniqueness. They want to satisfy themselves and be psychologically rewarded. They are far more interested in instant gratification than delayed gratification."
Because they have been studied so intensively, there are several general forecasts that can be made about the boomers:
They will continue working much longer than their parents' generation. In a study by the Met Life Mature Market Institute in Westport, Conn., 50 percent of boomers said they planned to work beyond normal retirement. Many of them said they intended to continue working to finance their current lifestyle and spending habits.
But this does not mean that they will be guilty of wretched excess. The boomers have so much already that it is quite possible they will not become the passionate spenders that most forecasters believe they will.
Indeed, they have spent much more than the average American on homes worth $200,000-plus, luxury cars, fine jewelry, treadmills, cruises, foreign trips and domestic travel.
"I see this very strongly already in boomer focus groups," said Pam Danziger, director of Unity Marketing, a marketing firm in Stevens, Pa. "You reach a point where you say to yourself, 'I've bought everything in my life that I could possibly ever need. Why do I need more?' There's a whole change in attitude to a 'been there, done that, have it all, and it's not that important to me anymore anyway' attitude."
But they will be searching for experiences that are totally new and different, like white-water rafting. The average age for people on white-water trips is going way up.
"The boomers are likely to spend relatively more than their parents' generation on services like luxury travel, education, gourmet cooking classes, spa vacations, art classes, hiking the Appalachian Trail and relearning the musical instrument that they dropped in high school," said Danziger.
They also will be spending big on their families, searching for products and services that several generations of the family can enjoy. That is one reason why the market for vacation homes will surge.
While the boomers are likely to be in better physical shape than their parents' generation, they will have to dedicate a larger proportion of their budgets to healthcare, which will transfer money away from other goods and services.
This is an age group that is unique because its members will be fighting aging every step of the way.
Laser procedures for the skin will become common. Indeed, the boomers are changing what it means to get older.
"Boomers have no preconceived notions of what they can and cannot do," said Claire Hassid, executive vice president of the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency in New York.
"They have read about Botox parties a public display and a complete admission to friends and family that the boomer is going to stay young and vital as long as possible.
"The boomers have learned that the body is capable of staying extremely nimble into old age, if you take care of it."
Many active people still in their 50s and 60s or even in their 70s will be viewed by the rest of the population as if they were still in their 40s or 50s or even their 60s.
On the other hand, as Michael Weiss writes in American Demographics, insurance for long-term care "is mostly a bust" among boomers. Many of them view nursing homes "with the same distaste as prisons and vow to avoid them at all costs," according to Weiss.