To get a better handle on baby boomers, I did a little not-so-scientific research by asking several advisors to tell me what terms they associate with this generation. They said that boomers are:

- “Profligate overspenders”

- “Overwhelmed by Sandwich Generation burdens”

- “Completely unprepared for retirement”

- “In real trouble financially”

- “In denial”

- “Overly optimistic”

- “Living in la-la land when it comes to their future”

- “Stubbornly attached to their unaffordable lifestyles”

- “Headed for disaster”

One exception was Holly Hunter, principal of Hunter Advisor LLC in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who told me a boomer is “someone about to bust out and really live life!”

When I asked the same question of coaches, therapists, organizational consultants, and others who have studied boomers, it was a different story. While these professionals noted some negative characteristics, on the whole they were inspired by the opportunities for boomers to transform their Third Age into one filled with possibility, creativity, and vitality. They said boomers are:

- “Creative and inventive”

- “Reinventing every stage of life they enter”

- “Retiring the old concept of retirement”

- “Individually and collectively seeking new solutions to their life challenges”

- “Convinced they are immortal”

- “Living in the present”

- “Wanting to make a difference and leave a legacy”

Marie Swift, president of Impact Communications in Leawood, Kansas, a marketing communications firm that works with independent advisors, said she associates boomers with a “search for significance.” Other professionals in both groups noted that boomers are “fiercely independent,” are open to change, and care about making a difference in the world.