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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Brookings Study Profiles Boomer Population Growth

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The vast majority of boomers will stay near where they currently live as they reach retirement rather than migrate to other states, a report by the Brookings Institution, Washington, concludes.

This means that in the years leading up to 2030 and beyond, senior populations will become strikingly larger while changing in other important aspects compared to earlier populations of seniors, predicts the study, “Mapping the Growth of Older America,” written by William H. Frey, visiting fellow in economic studies at Brookings.

The distinct social and demographic attributes of this age group “will be magnified by the sheer size of the baby boom ‘age wave,’ which will transform state, regional, city and suburban populations in both growing and declining areas of the country,” Frey states.

In states where senior populations will grow fastest over the next 35 years, aging in place will be the leading cause of the growth, rather than migration. In Georgia, for example, the over-65 age group will grow by more than 40% between 2010 and 2020, largely due to the aging of existing residents.

For advisors and companies selling financial products and services, perhaps of most interest are Frey’s projections of where the most affluent senior populations will emerge in the years immediately ahead.

With larger, pre-senior populations now living in urban and suburban areas of the West and South, the most well-off seniors gradually will become apparent in places now known for their youthful populations–such as Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.

“On the other hand, slow-growing metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest will age as well, but more likely will be comprised disproportionately of ‘mature seniors’ who are less well-off financially or health-wise,” Frey writes.

Using U.S. Census Bureau data, he notes as boomers age, the 55-to-64-year-old age group will become the fast growing group, increasing in size by close to 50% from 2000 to 2010. The 45-to-54 age group will also grow significantly, by 19%., while “young seniors,” or those from 65 to 74, will grow by 16% in that time.

From 1990 to 2005, large metropolitan areas showing the fastest growth in the 55-to-64 population were Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., with 156% growth; Austin-Round Rock, Tex., 128%; and Raleigh-Cary, N.C., 116%.

The slowest growth in that age group will be in Pittsburgh, Pa., 6.4%; Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., 7.7%; and the area encompassing Youngstown and Warren, Ohio and Boardman, Pa., 7.7%.

Looking at counties with at least 2,000 people in the 55-to-64-year-olds group, the fastest growth for that demographic has been in Douglas County, Colo., up 516%; Eagle County, Colo., 355%; and Colin County, Texas, 307%.

At the same time, the sheer size of the boomer populations means most areas of the country will have significant populations of pre-retirees in the years ahead, Frey notes. For instance, New York has seen the slowest recent growth in the 55-to-64 age group, yet that state population still will increase by 33% in the 2000-2010 period.

The study concludes that the emerging 55-to-64-year old population will be better educated, have more working women, be more likely to have professional or managerial occupations and be more ethnically diverse than those in the same age group in 1990 and 1980.

As they reach traditional retirement age, boomers in general will continue to work and pursue personal interests longer than prior retiree generations, Frey predicts. “Some are already retiring or semi-retiring by taking ‘bridge jobs’ on a path toward less work,” he notes.

At the same time, boomers have higher rates of divorce and separations, and lower marriage rates than earlier populations in the age group. That means fewer emerging seniors will be part of married households than in previous populations on the verge of retirement. As a result, more may experience financial hardship.

“Compared to earlier generations, boomers also have fewer children and are more likely to have not had any children at all,” writes Frey. “Thus, today’s pre-seniors may remain more divided over time between those who will live comfortably and those who will have fewer resources available to them during retirement, and may need to continue working out of economic necessity.”


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