Boomers like Daryl Ruff, Federal Way, Wash., are redefining what it means to be "old." AP Photo: Elaine Thompson

I was born in 1954, smack-dab in the middle of what is now the new “Greatest Generation.” More than 76 million baby boomers were born to GIs and their brides–the Greatest Generation–between 1946 and 1964. And what an impact they made. They changed the face of American as they squeezed into schools that couldn’t be built fast enough and they have challenged the system ever since to open and accommodate their seemingly unquenchable demands.

As licensed sales professionals it is important we understand the changes forced by this generation’s incredibly dynamic and diverse group. The first boomers were born when Bing Crosby crooned “I Can’t Begin To Tell You”–the number-one song in January 1946. The last of this generation came along in late 1964, when the Beatles were topping the charts with “I Feel Fine.” They were the rock ‘n’ roll generation, and the first raised on the new technology of television. They joined the Peace Corps, fought in Vietnam, or fought against the war in the streets or on campuses. They watched men walk the face of the moon. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was their generation’s warning, until they arrived at that age.

They entered the workforce in droves in the 1970s, one of the major causes of “stagflation.” They wore polyester (well, some did). They did the “Hustle.” They invented the PC and the Internet (along with Al Gore). They had kids, lots of them, in the 1980s and ‘90s. For better or worse, they even made it to the White House…twice.

Their children–Gen Y–are your emerging customers but don’t forget about this latest “Greatest Generation.” The boomers still pack a punch in market potential. Boomers are affluent and educated, and they are approaching a time in their lives when both opportunities and stresses are creating new demands for a range of new products and services.

The new rules of retirement

Retirement? Most of them either can’t or don’t want to. They want to keep on truckin’, baby. A desire to stay active and connected motivates this generation to once again rewrite the rules. Boomers may be the first generation to take a pass on retirement. They see retirement as a transition, not a termination.

A desire to remain financially solvent and an unwillingness to live the work-free retirement of their parents is driving this shift in mentality. Boomers also see retirement as a beginning, and the chance to pursue something they’ve always wanted to do, but were not able to during their prime career years. It is their opportunity to work for a worthy cause or tap into a hobby they have always enjoyed. It’s “do it now or never” in their minds. Forget the days of sitting on the front porch when you retire. Boomers are no slouches. They believe they will live longer and be happier if they remain physically active during retirement. Sixty-three percent expect to be healthier during retirement than their parents were. Forty-nine percent of boomers are in good health, and 25.2 percent report feeling an average of 15 years younger than the calendar indicates.

The year 1967 marked the start of a revolution, when baby boomers entered adulthood. They redefined politics, civil rights and personal fulfillment for the nation through activism, music and technology. Another revolution is beginning, where the definition of retirement, work, security, and not leaving a burden to your family while not outliving your funds are being redefined by this “Greatest Generation.”

Is this a revolution you should consider becoming involved in? Start the conversation with your boomer prospects today by talking to them about the things that matter most to them. Ask questions about the things they use the most, in the order they use these things, with this one simple question:

When you think about managing your health-care expenses through retirement are you more concerned about…

  • Doctors
  • Hospitals
  • Recovering at home after a procedure or
  • Not leaving a financial burden to your family?

Their answer will help jump start a conversation regarding several different solutions (products) that matter most to your boomer prospect.

  • Medicare Supplement
  • Short-term/long-term care insurance
  • Final expense plans
  • Annuities

There are three things boomers are going to do when they turn 65, almost in every case:

  • Sign up for Social Security
  • Enroll in Medicare
  • 70 percent to 80 percent are going to buy a Medicare Supplement; the rest are going to buy a Medicare Advantage

And they will have the funds to do this because they will be coming off a major medical plan where they already have premium dollars allocated in their monthly disposable income. So when do you have the most influence over your prospect?

  • At the point of sale
  • At policy delivery
  • At a service call

Though the calendar says they are aging, boomers aren’t slowing down. With youthful attitudes toward work, family, socializing and politics, their outlooks are more similar to today’s youth than yesterday’s old-timers. Boomers are staying younger than ever, although, as they age, their preferences influence each successive generation. And their buying power is immense.

References:

  • Merrill Lynch New Retirement Survey, 2005
  • MetLife Mature Market Institute–Demographic Profile 2006,
  • Neilsen, David. “How Baby Boomers Work.” 2007

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