The oldest baby boomers reach age 60 in 2006, and may be thinking about retirement. They will be eligible to use the money in their 401K retirement pension plans without paying a penalty to the IRS.
What do baby boomers want for the future?
And what are some of the issues that baby boomers should consider as retirement approaches?
Nancy Schlossberg, Professor Emerita of Education at the University of Maryland and creator of TransitionWorks, has written extensively about retirement planning, an issue that many baby boomers are thinking about as they reach retirement age.
In an interview, Professor Schlossberg offered her observations about boomers and retirement...and some advice.
Q: Are baby boomers ready for retirement?
Schlossberg: Some are and some aren't. I think that baby boomers will continue to work for money and for other reasons. I don't think they're going to want to work full time, but on a modified schedule, so that they can have a full life.
Many baby boomers will not be willing to give up the money, the power, and the prestige. The word "retirement” is a bad word, and baby boomers don’t like to see themselves as retired. They want to see themselves as involved, as very energetic, and very engaged in life.
Q: Is there an issue that baby boomers overlook when considering retirement?
Schlossberg: While people who are retiring take stock of their financial resources, they don't always take stock of their psychological resources.
Many say they didn't realize what was at stake when they left their jobs. They didn't think about things like how to structure their lives, their time, and how they might matter to others.
In an ideal world, we all should be thinking about our psychological as well as our financial portfolios. I don't think people realize until they're in that situation what it's really like.
Identity is key; when someone can say, for example, "I'm a professor," that's one thing, but when that identity is no longer there, it can be quite upsetting. It can take time to figure out a new identity.
Q: Why is the idea of retirement difficult for some boomers, and easy for others?
Schlossberg: People don't retire, they change gears. Even if they are golfing, they are doing something, creating a new life for themselves.
Some people have a passion and know what they want to do. Others flounder until they can find the right path for themselves.
Q: If you could give baby boomers one piece of advice about retirement, what would that be?
Schlossberg: Remember what it was like when you graduated from college? Some people knew exactly what they wanted to do; others tried many things before finding their niche.
It's the same when leaving a job. You have to figure out what you want to do. A lot of people don't know exactly what they want to do, what they want to create.
There are many paths baby boomers can take, but no path is better than any other. If you take the perspective that there are still years to plan and do things, then that can be very exciting for baby boomers.
(Baby boomers) need to see things not as an end, but as evolving career development.
Q: Any other tips for baby boomers facing retirement?
Schlossberg: I was on a TV show once, and there was a discussion about "regrets" in life.
One of the guests, Noah Adams, was from NPR (National Public Radio). As a 50-year-old, he decided to really think about what he most regretted, and then do something about it. He had always wanted play the piano. So he took lessons and wrote a book about it.
What this tells us is that we have an opportunity to say, "I haven't been able to do everything in life, so now is a good time to look at what I regret not doing, and see if I can't make it happen." It's a new way of thinking about things.