Monday, December 5, 2011

Boomer Dream Cars

Forbes Magazine recently ran a feature on Baby Boomers’ Top Ten Dream Cars. We might as well be doing a Porsche BoxsterDavid Letterman Top Ten list, because these are some pretty expensive toys. Dream may be the operative word, because these cars have a might hefty entry fee. many baby boomers do you know who are buying $40,000+ cars because they can? They must be Forbes subscribers, so maybe it does make sense. If you have high earnings and piles of investment cash, Forbes can guide you as to how to enhance this nest egg. What’s alittle splurge every now and then? Satisfy that whim....get rid of the SUV or minivan and buy a Porshe Boxster (#1 on the list, MSRP: $48,100-$61,800). Over 80% of their sales are to boomers. Or you could go with #2 on the list...BMW 6 Series Convertible. It’s only $90,500. Screw it! You want the best? Plunk down $102,600-$198,750 and get yourself a Mercedes-Benz SL. Nearly 70 percent of these are purchased by boomers.

Despite coming in at #10, it’s no surprise that 63 percent of all Corvettes are sold to boomers. A favorite of boomer kids growing up, now’s a great time to finally live the dream. MSRP: $49,045-$110,300.

For thos e with “only modest portfolios” (Forbes description, not mine), the #5 pick is the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. Sixty-six percent of their sales are to those “on the verge of retirement.” MSRP: $27,999-$32,599.

The funniest/most out of place car on the list? That’s easy. #8, the Chevrolet Aveo. According to Forbes, this is the choice of “empty nesters tapped out by paying for college tuition or making a late effort to sock away retirement savings.” MSRP: $11,965-$15,365.Forbes also notes that it is “Small and underpowered, frugality is its prime virtue.” There’s a ringing endorsement.

AveoWhere are the cars with montly payments of less than 200 bucks? Other than the Aveo, you can forget about it. No Ford Fusions, Chevy Maiibus, Toyota Camrys. No Hondas, Nissans, Volkswagens, Mazdas, Kias or Hyundais. Not even a Mini Cooper. Oh, wait, this isn’t about reality, it’s about dreams.

What was it that Robin Leach used to say on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? At the conclusion of each show, he hoped that we would experience “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Some of us can swing the champagne part, but we’ll be toasting the Subaru, hoping that we’ll get 200,000 miles out of it.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Boomers Give Florida Cold Shoulder

Here’s a not so far from the truth In-Search-Of ad in a Florida newspaper:

FOXY LADY: Sexy, fashion-conscious blue-haired beauty, 80’s, slim, 5’4” (used to be 5’6”), searching for sharp looking, sharp dressing companion. Matching white shoes and belt a plus.

But the joke may be on Flordia, because boomers are looking elsewhere for retirement havens. For more than 50 years, retiring New Yorkers found Florida was their top destination. Now...not so much. In 2005, Florida accounted for 35 percent of New York’s net migration loss. In 2009, that share dropped to 11 percent, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy [link here]. Where are New Yorkers heading if it’s not Florida? Try North Carolina.

What’s the story? More competition mostly. Other states are doing a lot more to lure retirees to their locales. But the biggest factor may be that boomers have loss equity and assets due to the meltdown and must now explore less expensive retirement options --- if they can afford to move anywhere.

Even if their stock portfolio has empty recovered somewhat, a lot of boomers may opt to stay put. Part of the equation is shrinking home values. If your house isn’t worth what it used to be and your savings have a dent in them, staying put may be the more attractive option. Add to that the fact that many boomers would like to remain close to family and friends, and you have a compelling case for nixing the whole retirement-in-the-sun scenario.

The new retirement paradigm may be to keep the house you’re in and take vacations or multi-month respites in warm locales. A note of caution though: if you drive in Florida be on the lookout for Herman.

As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang.

Answering, he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him,

"Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on 280. Please be careful!"

"Hell," said Herman, "it's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!"

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What? There’s No Forever 61?

In a recent post for Northern Life Canada site, Kate Forgach offers advice to baby boomers on how to dress.

I think we’ve all observed some boomers who must not own a mirror, or if they do own one, they must not walk by it before leaving the house. If they did take a good look at themselves, they might notice that they look ridiculous, or worse, highly unattractive in the clothes they wear.

Age appropriate clothing should be the norm, but as Forgach points out in her post, there is no Forever 61 store at the mall. Still, it amazes me how often you see boomers trying to dress like they did 40 years ago, or trying to wear the same styles as their sons and daughters. Gravity has seen to it that the flat abs are gone, replaced by descending pot bellies, so the tighter the clothing, the more unflattering the net effect is.

Forgach suggests that lady boomers forego the Daisy Dukes cut-offs and concentrate instead on tailored looks that are neither too tight or too frumpy. Her best line about decolletage is “many manufacturers are cutting tops so low you can see the Alps in one quick glance.” She also suggests you avoid the Granny Arms effect by avoiding sleeveless tops unless you have some really buff upper arms.

For men, the advice is to cool it on the stove pipe legs or the high waisted mommy jeans. Forgach thinks some tees are okay, but I’ve seen boomers in all-over graphics tees that look so absurd that you want shake them and explain that that ship/shirt look has sailed.

Finally, in the footwear segment, Forgach scores big points with me by nixing some footwear that I’d like to ban as well. “Two no-nos: Bedazzled Crocs and sandals with socks (unless you work in a food coop).”

Wardrobes are so casual now (think sweatsuits at the mall) that my theory is that it just might be the cool thing to dress up instead of dressing down. Most boomers are going to look a lot better in tailored slacks than they would even in Levis classic jeans. And I’ve also observed that aging bodies look better in button front shirts that hide a multitude of upper torso soft spots. Next time you’re out in a crowd, notice how a man wearing a sportcoat over a tee shirt looks better than the guy in a plain tee and jeans.

Final advice from most experts: Get out of whatever decade you’re stuck in and freshen up your style. It has to be better than what you’ve been wearing up until now.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Make Up Your Mind!

Are boomers going to kill the stock market or create great investment opportunities? Or is the answer both?

Financial analysts (where do you go to school for that job?) are warning that as boomers hit retirement, there will be a big sell-off as they liquidate their assets. This could, in turn, put a dent in stock prices.

I’m no analyst or stock expert (phew!), but it seems to me that the stock market seems to tank on rumors of anything (Greece default, gloomy Fed forecasts, take your pick), so the prospect of boomer asset liquidation seems like just one more lame excuse for depressed stock prices.

But the real flaw in the boomer asset liquidation prognostications is that analysts actually believe that there are a lot of boomers out their who are in any position to retire. The anecdotal evidence I can collect is that a big batch of boomers are nowhere near ready to retire and won’t be liquidating any assets anytime soon unless it’s due to an underwater mortgage or loss of a job.

Another flaw? As boomers start leaving the stock market (and I concur that they will eventually, albeit not in the stampede some are predicting), the depressed stock prices mean that the liquidated assets will be substantially lower in value than a retiree would have.

But fear not. Even the analysts are quick to point out the silver lining in lower stock prices is that younger generations will be able to afford to buy bluechip stocks. In other words, our loss is their gain. Wow, that is good news! It’s always good to know that someone can profit from a down market.

Sad to say, we may be looking at a years-long (as in 3 or 4) economic recovery, and that means we will all be working longer and retiring later. If we still have jobs.

Am I the only one that thinks a ouija board has more chance of being right on which way the market is moving?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Brain Drain

Guess what? For all the bad mouthing of baby boomers, business and industry need to know what’s in our brains. That’s right, they need us, they really need us.

Er, they need what’s in our brains. Recent articles in business magazines point to a knowledge vacuum as a serious consequence of the exit of baby boomers. Around 900,000 white color workers will be retiring from the executive branch of government. While the make up 40% of the total workforce, boomers fill more than half the management positions and half the professionals such as doctors and lawyers. One article in Business Week went so far as to list 8 steps companies can take to deal with this intelligence attrition.

So, how do they mine our brains to extract our valuable knowledge? They need us to share the rules of engagement. Boomers are documenting their rationales for client/customer relations so that the next generation can pick it up. Creating a database to establish where the most valuable competencies reside in the organization is another step, and creating a database to collect valuable information goes along with it. It’s also recommended that organizations create a home for the esoteric information that may seem non-essential (until the day comes when you need it). Bridge building between generations may seem obvious, but a lot of companies ignore it at their peril. Some of the best information exchanges occur when boomers are working as a team with the next generation of managers. Social media is another way to get information exchanged, allowing retirees to participate as well in the mining of useful knowledge.

Taking these steps is not just a one time fix for business and industry, but a strategy for the future in which each generation hands off what they know to the next.

Successful businesses will be proactive enough in this effort to guarantee the succession of knowledgeable leadership. Boomers are by no means irreplacable, but companies that don’t mine our skills and competencies will be whistling into the wind when we’re gone. Just try wetting your lips to do that.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Das Verkkampers

Traveling across America, taking a job here, a job there. Meeting new people and finding adventure in unexpected places. If it all sounds like the original network pitch for the TV series Route 66, it may come as a surprise that it’s the life many baby boomers are leading these days.

Boomers call it “workamping” and its popularity is growing among retirees. Instead of driving Corvettes, these workampers are piloting recreational vehicles and exchanging their labor for a place to park the beast.

My first exposure to workamping occurred many years ago in Death Valley. Hundreds of RVs dotted the outskirts of town and many of the owners worked in the gift shops, gas stations, motels and the National Park. In May, when the temperatures rose to unbearable heights, the RVs would roll out of town like a massive butterfly migration.

The fact is that many retirees cannot afford to take off for a six months or a year without supplemental income. Workamping allows them to travel around the country, see the places they’ve always wanted to visit, and find the temporary employment they need to finance their travel.

Summertime is the easiest season to find work. The Army Corp of Engineers hires temps, and there are loads of seasonal jobs at amusement parks, water parks, and the service industries that surround popular tourist destinations. The jobs pay minimum wage to $12 an hour, and sometimes workampers work in return for a campsite with water and electricity.

When Todd and Buzz drove the Vette around the country, issues such as health care, taxes, licensing and registrations never seemed to crop up. Workampers, on the other hand, have to figure out what state to claim as a domicile and how to get their mail forwarded to wherever they are taking up temporary residence. It can get sticky, but not insurmountable, and thousands of workampers manage just fine.

So, how many boomers are out on the roads in their RVs? No one really knows, but if you go online and look at the proliferation of websites devoted to full-time RV living, it looks like more and more boomers are joining the ranks of the workampers. There’s Cheap RV Living, RV Dreams, RV Life and Travel, Workamper News, and too many personal workamper blogs to mention.

The big question for those considering the workamper lifestyle is how long can you call the road “home?” Living in cramped quarters and taking some not so great minimum wage jobs can take its toll. Best advice to future workampers? Do the research, rent a camper and try out the lifestyle for a full season before you sell the ranch.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Rock Writers

If you’re thinking about writing your memoirs, reliving those boozy, drug fueled days, being on the road, crawling into bed with adoring groupies, and generally having a ball while you made a mess of your life.....get in line.

Think Keith Richards. Sammy Hagar. Steven Tyler. Patti Smith. Ozzie Osbourne. Pete Townsend. Grace Slick. Slash. Tommy Lee. Iggy Pop. Marilyn Manson. GreggAllman. Nikki Sixx. Boy George. And coming soon, Billy Idol. Think your story is any more exciting/thrilling/scary/depressing than theirs? I didn’t think so.

The glut of bios from boomer rock legends has really squeezed out any chance for amateurs like us to write our own stories. Sure, we survived the rock life style, but we were never famous to begin with, so who cares?

We have only ourselves to blame for this mess. Boomers are in a nostalgic mood, ready to slurp up all the incredible stories spouted by rock star legends who will have to be dragged off the stage (or die on it). We want to hear about Patti’s adventures with Robert Maplethorpe. Keith (or Keef as we like to call him) has some pretty spectacular stories about surviving years of touring with the Stones. Who doesn’t want to hear all about the machinations inside Bon Jovi?

There are some notable holdouts in this orgy of memoir writing. Paul McCartney, Elton John, David Bowie, and Bruce Springsteen have yet to ink memoir deals (that we know about). Either they’re waiting for the value of their potential book deal to go up or they’re resisting the siren call of multi-million dollar advances. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

But what’s an amateur memoirist to do in the meantime? Don’t hold your breath would be my first advice. Second, consider turning your tales of true life into fiction. That way you can shove in so much hyberbole that no one can challenge (“are you calling me a’s fiction, man!”). Arrested for possession of heroin in Canada, Keef? That’s nothing. You can say you were banned from Bali. Think about it. Some of these rockstar lives are so insanely over the top, the only way to top them is pure fiction.

Start typing.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Who You Calling Old People, Pal?

Fast Company recently wrote about AARP’s launch of a music service describing it as Pandora for old people. Well, if that isn’t the most insulting description (to boomers and Pandora), I haven’t seen one worse.

The article talks about boomers as though we have yet to discover the phonograph. Plenty of boomers are already using iPods and other mps players or getting their music from Pandora. Does the author or AARP think we will drop all our digital music sources just because they have come out with their own channel? I don’t think so.

The article descripes the AARP music service (programmed by Concord Music Group) as being designed for those entering the twilight years. Does that sound like any baby boomer you know? It has a “dead simple UI” the article notes. First of all, don’t say dead when you’re talking to us twilight year people, and secondly, you think we don’t know that UI stands for user interface? It goes on to describe the playlist as “a rotation of songs more common of sock hops than online streaming players.” Sock hops? Really? Really? The oldest of boomers have only a vague recollection of sock hops and that can be attributed to having older siblings.

AARP hopes this will help music-loving “seniors” (their word) make the transition to the digital age. Again with the belittling language. Are you telling me that the organization that should be looking out for baby boomer interests really thinks that we are so in the dark ages (with our phonographs), that we know nothing about digital music? They quote an AARP official who says that “because of changes in format and whatnot, a lot of them have gotten lost in terms of how to find their music.”

Then they trot out statistics that while “baby boomers represent the world's largest generation, they consume very little digital music compared to younger generations....those 45 and older represented barely 11% of iPod use; teens, on the other hand, represented more than 65%.”

Did it occur to anyone that maybe boomers are smart enough not to make their hearing any worse by listening to music on an iPod. Those statistics do not mean that boomers are not digital music consumers --- it just means that they don’t listen to their digital music on an iPod. A lot of boomers are listening to music on their computers at home and at work. They’re using Pandora, iTunes, and Cloud players; listening to the Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR; and learning about new artists and genres everyday. They read music reviews and then go on Amazon to sample various tracks before buying songs or an entire MP3 album.

The final insult of the article is this direct quote. “AARP has a massive reach, and a good shot at capturing the baby boomer digital music market. At least the part of the market that's willing to move on from transistor radios and 8-tracks.”

You read that right -- the author has implied that boomers still use transistor radios and play 8-track tapes. Does that make you want to grab your pitchfork and light out for the AARP offices?

While we might remember when 45s had a big hole in the middle, boomers are a lot more sophisticated about digital music than AARP thinks, and that may not bode well for their new “oldies” channel.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

The Dating Game

With a lot of boomers splitting up late in the game, online dating sites geared to an older demographic are starting to burgeon.

If you’ve never used an online dating site (and it’s safe to say most boomers have not, right up until the demise of their marriages), it must come as a shock to realize that you’re putting yourself out there in a big way.

This isn’t just telling friends and family that you’re okay with date referrals (which sounds bad enough). It’s putting your life history, your likes and dislikes, your being out there for a whole online community to see.

Unlike younger daters who may be more concerned with looks and social compatibility, boomers want to know about potential health issues, whether you’re free to travel, where you would agree to live. And some boomers aren’t searching for a mate as much as a new social network., for example, arranges meet-ups for dinner, kayaking, camping, skydiving, hot air ballooning and more.

Whatever you’re looking for, you’re not alone. reports that people 50 and over are the fastest growing segment of their users. is seeing a similar spike in boomers, and 70% of that segment is recently divorced. Thirty percent of the users on say they are looking for a serious relationship. Those in the 50-64 segment were most likely seeking a long-term relationship, while those over 65 prefer companionship.

One trend that all the boomer skewed sites experience is that women in particular prefer the 50+ sites to the mainstream sites where they must compete with younger faces.

If you find yourself looking for love, you’ll have to come to terms with the idea that you need to put yourself out there, and these dating sites may give you the best chance to meet like-minded people. Move out of your comfort zone and rethink your definition of privacy, at least as it related to finding a match on a dating service. Other experts recommend checking out some of the profiles before you put out any money to join. Reply only to the matches that interest you and don’t hesitate to set up in-person meet-ups in a public place. It’s as safe as meeting someone at a pottery class or music recital, and why wait when you can start meeting people as soon as next weekend?

The other good news? Thanks to the size of our demographic, there are literally millions of boomers out there looking for love and companionship.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rulers of the Burbs

There was a time when living in the burbs meant dodging tricycles, strollers and happy kids playing in the streets. That picture may have changed dramatically if you look at 2010 census data.

We know that boomers are ascendant as a demographic all across the nation, but the suburbs are graying a lot faster than the cities. Four in ten suburban residents are age 45 or older. That’s up 34% from a decade earlier. In the cities, only 35% are over age 45.

The political implications are quite interesting, as it used to be assumed that suburban voters were almost monolithic when it came to voting on issues related to education and kids. Soon, these suburban parents will be duking it out (rhetorically, in the voting booth that is) with boomers who are looking out for their own well-being.

So now we have the first generation to grow up the suburbs deciding to stay put. For the most part, they are not headed to retirement meccas such as Florida or Arizona. At one time, many boomers may have assumed that they would be off the good life somewhere where there’s never any ice or snow, but the dream retirement scenario has hit the wall. It may have to do with affordability or it just may be that they’ve put down roots and don’t want to leave the familiar behind. Either way, they are staying in the burbs and that fact alone will bring a dramatic cultural shift to how we perceive the suburbs and deal with the drama of competing interests clashing over dwindled resources.

What boomers may not be prepared for, however, is the lack of services and preparation that is typical for the suburban communities in which they live. It may not be so easy to remain independent in their homes when they hit their 70s or 80s.

The political clout of boomers and their traditional high voter turn-out is going to be formidable. Older Americans currently represent 53 percent of voting-age adults, so there could be a long, drawn out tug of war over how tax dollars are doled out and who has the loudest voice in determining the priorities for community services.

Let’s just hope that we can all get along together.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Grand Life

Not surprisingly, boomers have a book to turn to as they approach or attain grandparenthood. Allan and Kathryn Zullo, have written A Boomer’s Guide to Grandparenting because the image most boomers have of themselves is “nothing like the stereotypical gray-haired grandmas and grandpas who sat in rocking chairs, baked cookies, whittled toys and told stories of the ‘good old days.’" They also point out that the average age of a first-time grandparent in the U.S. is 48.

I guess hearing yourself called grandpa or grandma must come as a shock. Some celebrities recently revealed that they have resisted the moniker. Goldie Hawn is called Glam-Ma and Blythe Danner insists that grandkids Apple and Moses (I know....WTF) call her Woof. I don’t get it either.

I understand that it’s a life-changing event and it must also spark a reevaluation of one’s self-identity. If you’re still working and lead an active social life, making room and time for bonding with your grandkids becomes an important consideration (hence, the guide.....boomers love guides). And if you really want to feel inadequate, author Allan Zullo writes, “What can be more important than playing a major role in the life of a child? If you don’t get involved with your grandchildren right now, what will pass you by is your opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.”

That’s right. If you screw this up, the grands are screwed as well. Apparently, studies show that children with strong relationships with their grandparents are more confident and well-adjusted in their lives. Sounds awfully subjective to me (how does anyone measure confidence and well-adjustment?), but I’ll grant you that grandparents can have a positive influence on the grands.

Still, I can’t help being a bit skeptical of these type of guides and the chapter titles did not allay my anxiety. Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows; Talking ‘Bout Our Generation; Good Vibrations, I’ve Got to Be Me; The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face; Bridge Over Trouble Water. Is this some kind of Oldies radio show or a guide to grandparenting?

As is often the case, one of the Amazon book reviews may have hit the nail on the head.

“I'd hoped that A Boomer's Guide to Grandparenting would offer an overview of such changes, but aside from a page and a half of useful information, it is, unfortunately, a series of anecdotes about how the new generation of richer, healthier, and all-around cooler grandparents feel about their grandchildren. (Predictably, they feel about the same as grandparents have always felt -- thrilled.) “

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Breaking Up Is Not So Hard To Do

Boomer break-ups in the news have most likely given many boomers pause. What causes boomers to go splitsville after 25, 30 or more years? Who wasn’t a little shocked to hear that Al and Tipper threw in the towel after 40 years?

Maria and Arnold? That’s easy. He was known as a serial groper and she must have been in denial about that from day one. But Al and Tipper dated in college and represented the quintessential couple that lasts---until they didn’t any longer. Did they really come to that place where they wanted to go in different directions? They just had enough of each other and thought it was time they went their separate ways to pursue separate ambitions? If it could happen to them....

The conventional wisdom is that boomers are used to getting do-overs and second chances, so there’s no reason not to go for it and pursue their dreams in life’s second half. A Pew Research Center study found that baby boomers were less inclined to remain in an unhappy marriage than their adult children-- by a 66% to 54% margin.

We’re reinventing retirement, so it should come as no surprise that we are taking another look at how to achieve the happiness we want later in life. Not ones to drag our carcasses over the finish line, just to prove that we could do it, boomers apparently have something better in mind. Some observers see a parallel to the way boomers led the way into a sexual revolution.

Who’s at risk here? College-educated couples who married young head the list, followed by unhappy couples who strived to produce happy kids. Then there are the “what-happened” couples who don’t know where the love went. Just behind them are really old people who are plain fed up. Last, but definitely not least demographically, are the trophy hunters-- men and women who just think they can do better than what they’ve got.

Married couples have most likely always been challenged by the “grown apart” phenomenom. The only difference now is that many baby boomers are clearly not going to accept this as the status quo. Once each partner is less vested in the other, boomers are more inclined to break the chain and seek the happiness they feel they deserve.

As I’ve said many times before (thank you Harvey Fierstein), “Is that so wrong?”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Retirement Envy

I feel like I’m living amid a sea of retirees. Probably because I am. Retirees have packed schedules of trips, concerts, museum visits, volunteer activities, yoga classes, long breakfasts, longer lunches, cocktails at 5 pm, hiking, biking, skiing, and more. It’s exhausting watching them wear themselves down to the nub while I have the freedom to work nine or ten hours a day.

Am I jealous? Of course. Every time I hear someone talk about being able to retire soon, I feel like I’m losing another comrade. What do you mean you’ll be able to go wherever you want whenever you want? Can you handle the stress of not knowing what you’re going to do when you wake up each day? Do you think it’s fair to flaunt this freedom in front of your friends who are still pushing the millstone in circles? Do you? Huh?

A little piece of my soul is crushed each time someone announces their retirement. Really. I’ve got the MRIs to prove it. I’m happy for them, but miserable for me. I love my work, but I’ve had a job since I was twelve years old, and the idea of getting out of the harness seems really appealing to me at this point in life. What would I do? Keep working part-time at what I enjoy doing, but with the knowledge that I don’t have to do it all day, every day. That would be a nice start. I can see that day coming, but it still seems like a long way off, like a tall tree on a distant hilltop. I’ll get there one day, if I keep walking, one foot in front of another, step by step, inch by inch, day by day -- okay, this is killing me.

Just promise me that if you’re planning on retiring soon, you’ll keep it to yourself. Pretend you’re still working but you’re on flex-time. Run out and do all the things you’ve always wanted to do -- just don’t tell me about it. What I don’t know can’t make me feel any more miserable.

And whatever you do, don’t even think about blogging about retirement --- at least not before I get to do that.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

They Really Like Us

Grey matter or grey eminence, whatever you call it, boomers are still valued in the workplace (at least according to an poll).

61% of the boomers surveyed said that their age was not an issue in the workplace. In fact, 25% thought it was an asset. Over half these boomers are working for bosses younger than themselves.

Age discrimination was a non-issue for 82 percent who said they never personally experienced it in the workplace. Twenty-four percent of unmarried women reported they had experienced it. Typically, the age discrimination that was cited was being passed over for a raise, promotion, or other career advancement.

For those 50 and over, there was a sense that younger co-workers were turning to them for advice and counsel and a third of those surveyed felt their employers were treating them with more respect.

But the respect does not make up for the insecurity they feel. One in four report that they can’t retire any time soon and the same percentage say they don’t have enough money saved for retirement. So it would appear that boomers are feeling the love but respect won’t pay the bills.

About two thirds of those surveyed say they will work at least part-time past their retirement age because they will need the money or to supplement what savings and social security will net them. Almost a third say they will work just to stay busy.

Much has been made of this trend for boomers to work longer, but it’s a trend that predates the big boom in retirees. Women in particular have been staying in the workforce longer and with fewer manufacturing jobs that required physical strength, many people are opting to work well past retirement. The increase in the Social Security retirement age and the desire to hang on to employer paid health care benefits are also big factors.

Inevitably, some will argue that boomers are being selfish (what? again?) by not stepping aside to make room for the next generation of managers. But the facts would seem to indicate that boomers are perfectly happy to work for managers younger than themselves and/or work reduced work week hours, so perhaps this issue will be easily diffused. We may soon see boomers standing on corners with signs that say “Will work for kids.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Surprise Party For Boomer Offspring

You’ve seen those bumper stickers that say the driver is retired and spending their kids’ inheritance. It may turn out to have more truth than humor in it.

A recent Bank of America survey of wealthy boomers (they defined wealthy as having more than $3 million in investable assets....What? That leaves you out? Me too.), found that boomers who have made their fortune don’t think it’s important to leave an inheritance to their children. And even those that want to leave something for the kids have not even begun to plan for the transfer of their wealth when they die.

Could it be that we think we’ll live forever, so why plan now? Or could it be that boomers have other things on their minds. The survey found that 70% of wealthy boomers considered travel to be important to them. 46% were going to start a new business or keep working and 55% were planning to do volunteer work.

But what about the kids? 52% of those surveyed have not talked to their kids about their plans to pass on any monies in the event of their death. If that sounds high to you, it will also surprise you that 56% have not documented their personal property and 51% have not legally proscribed how they want their assets distributed among their kids and charities when they’re gone.

So what’s going on here? Never one to miss an opportunity to make totally unsubstantiated assumptions, I’ll take my shot at it. It seems to me that the baby boomer generation spending my kids inheritance does not feel the same obligation to leave as much as they can for their kids. It may have a lot to do with the changing perception of retirement as less of a time to relax (the shuffleboard syndrome) and more of a time to pursue ambitions that could not be fulfilled during their worklife. Encore careers, travel, and contributing something to the community have perhaps become the new priorities. Without a doubt, less wealthy boomers may not have anything left to hand off to their kids. As for the rich boomers-- they can will their car to their offspring to fight over--the one with the “I’m Spending My Kids’ Inheritance” license plate.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Live long and prosper. Spock on Startrek, right? Prospering? Not so much. But boomers are determined to live long and are exploring everything from yoga to special diets in order to keep the ageometer spinning.

Can we stop or slow down time or is it all in the genes? When gerontologist Mark Lachs was interviewed on NPR, he explained that the key factor in longevity is a trait geriatricians call adaptive competence. How do you react to stress? The quicker you bounce back from stressful situations, the less likely you are to suffer its consequences.

Lachs has a 109 year old patient who likes chocolate truffles and drinks Budweiser. She’s also thinking of taking up smoking again. But the amazing thing about her is the way she dusts herself off and picks herself up after any adversities.

If you’re thinking to yourself that this is all about glass half-full vs glass half empty ---- you’re right. My own mother has batted away pneumonia at age 102 and a flu virus at 104. She never exercised in her life (unless you count crossword puzzles) and wouldn’t know a freeweight from a paper weight. I’m not sure that she has a particularly optimistic outlook on life, but I am sure that she considers any infirmities to be minor trifles, nothing she needs to be overly concerned about. This ability to move forward after the greatest setbacks is at the heart of adaptive competence.

So for those boomers seeking to extend their life as long as possible (and I’m not sure I want to live to be 100), the solution would appear to be getting an attitude adjustment. Learn how to deal with stress if you have not already established the “shoulder shrug” response. Stress takes a physical and mental toll, which makes it essential to have a relaxed response if one wants to live long and prosper.

Then maybe those of us who have mastered the zen-like stress response can start smoking again while we drink beer and let the exercise regimen go to hell. Sounds like a plan.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bright Side

Not a day goes by that you don’t see an article how baby boomers are going to have a detrimental effect on something or other. We influence healthcare, banking, employment trends, you name it. The trouble with being an 800 pound gorilla is that you end up being the gorilla that menaces everyone and everything.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We didn’t ask for this role, so everyone needs to stop blaming us personally for being the 800 pound demographic.

We were not born to overburden social security (at least it was not my intent) or to increase the demand for assisted living facilities and Medicare. We were truly innocent bystanders. It was the “greatest generation” that decided to procreate all at once.

So, can we agree to depersonalize the rants? Baby boomers are not any more self-centered or selfish than any other demographic. It may look that way because of our demographic clout, but on a case by case basis, we’re as level-headed and sweet as any other generation.

In fact, lately we’re getting credit for having a positive impact on some industries. Today it was home remodelers. Last week it was home builders. It seems that because boomers are retiring and moving to downsized digs, it’s going to have a ripple effect in the home remodeling and construction sector. With retirement looming or already here, boomers are planning to see the world, so the travel sector should be thanking us soon as well. And what about the drug industry? You can’t tell me they’re eyeing the prospect of ballooning drug sales thanks to 70 million pill popping seniors. Hair color and salon services?Non-profits who rely on volunteers? Wine sales? Fitness and exercise programs? RV manufacturers? Nutritional products? And don’t forget the funeral business--we’re dying to help them.

So there is an upside to being a boomer (well maybe dying is more of a downside). Industries like us. They really like us.

For Monty Python’s Life of Brian fans, there’s a simple outlook on life to follow:

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle,
And this'll help things turn out for the best, and...
always look on the bright side.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

The Exercise Guy

Jack LaLanneI have plenty of fond memories of watching TV in the 50s. Most of them have to do with Gabby Hayes, Hopalong Cassidy, Kookla, Fran and Ollie, or the Mickey Mouse Club. But there was also this strange man in a jumpsuit who was urging us to exercise -- Jack LaLanne was his name, and fitness was his game. He called it “trimnastics” and if you watch his first show, it’s so “fifties” you have to marvel that he made it into such a longlasting career.

It all seemed a little nutty and Jack was such a fervent advocate that it felt a bit like walking down the midway at the carnival. Little did we know then that this guy was way ahead of his time. He was preaching diet and exercise long before anyone else and opened the first modern health club, the kind that is now ubiquitous around the world.

When he encouraged older people to lift weights, medical experts said they might break bones, but now we know that weight exercise helps strengthen bones. He was among the first exercise gurus to recommend weight training for women as well.

Perhaps his most lasting contribution was that he gave people hope by reminding them that it was never too late to get in shape. Following his own advice to others, Jack cut out sugar and processed foods and ate only organic and natural foods. But he also reminded us that it was the combination of diet and exercise that would get results.

According to Jack, "There are so many health nuts out there who eat nothing but natural foods but they don't exercise and they look terrible. Then there are other people who exercise like a son-of-a-gun but eat a lot of junk ... Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you've got a kingdom!"

While stunts such as swimming from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco while towing a 1,000 boat (and handcuffed!!) on his 60th birthday earned Jack a lot of publicity, it was also what made him seem eccentric. He claimed that all he wanted to prove is that his regimen for good health could work at any age.

When asked if he thought he'd live to be 100, he replied that "I don't care how old I live! I just want to be living while I am living! I have friends who are in their 80s, and now they're in wheelchairs or they're getting Alzheimer's. Who wants that? I want to be able to do things. I want to look good...I tell people, I can't afford to die. It would wreck my image."

Jack’s gone but his advice lives on.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Boomers Take Over the Movie Theaters?

Maybe we’re not quite storming the barricades, but baby boomers have sent a message to Hollywood and it’s quite simple. We’re here and we have time and money. So give us something we want to pay to see.

Okay, I admit we don’t hit the concession stand as much as you’d like (everyone knows that’s where the profit is....$4 for a medium diet soda, gimme a break). But we want to be entertained and video game style killing and mayhem are not what we’re looking for -- we want stories.

Look at the big Oscar winners this year and you can see a pattern. The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, True Grit, or The Fighter. They were all based on good storytelling and dialogue. No one got blown up and there wasn’t much of a dead body count (True Grit the exception).

Want to get boomer butts in the seats? Keep making movies that have stories to tell, improve the concession offerings (including some more reasonably priced options), consider reserved seating, keep the theaters clean, and here’s a nifty idea, hire more 50+ actors.

While your precious 18-24 demographic is increasingly getting their films on computers (legally or illegally) boomers are more than happy to fill theater seats for solid entertainment. We grew up on and loved movies such as the Bullitt, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, Shampoo, Mash, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Annie Hall, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and many more. They influenced the way we talked, even the way we walked.

We don’t need all the special effects or even 3-D for that matter. Avatar was an impressive array of technology, but it was the underlying story that was interesting, and it was just about swamped by the gimmickry and killing machines. All the talk of actors being replaced by animated creations didn’t exactly endear the picture to a lot of people either.

Maybe it’s because there are so many of us, but it’s apparent to me that boomers enjoy the group entertainment experience. While teenagers seem happiest when their eyes and fingers are glued to smart phones, boomers would rather be in a theater with other moviegoers who are primed for a quality entertainment experience.

Got that?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

The Gray Blues

In a recent New York Times article, journalist Natasha Singer tells us it’s not easy being gray. No kidding.

She describes an Age Gain Now Empathy System (AGNES) that you put on to simulate the physical sensations of being 65 or 75 years old. It was developed by M.I.T. researchers at their Age Lab.

That’s right, they have an Age Lab and the AGNES suit was developed to help businesses figure out how to design and market products for us aging boomers. Maybe it’s easier than coming to talk to us in person, but I still like the personal touch. Many companies are only now considering marketing products to an older demographic, simply because a giant herd of aging boomers is just too hard to ignore. Thank God for the profit motive.

It seems that one of the major hurdles is to design products that appeal to aging boomers without telegraphing their agedness. Telephones with humongous number buttons are a perfect example of misguided product design. We have trouble seeing small numerals (never mind getting our thumbs to text on tiny cellphone keyboards), so they make us phones that shout, “you’re a half-blind geezer.”

The Age Lab researchers hope they can persuade industries that there’s a new approach to product design, and it’s not the “I’ve-fallen-and-can’t-get-up.” They want to encourage product designs that are older adult friendly without being obvious. The automatic parking feature on some new cars is a great example. Perfect for older drivers who cannot easily turn around to look behind them, this feature is also appreciated by any driver who wants smart technology.

What’s becoming very clear to demographers, product designers and senior center administrators, is that baby boomers are going to be very different from the senior citizens that came before them. They will be more active for more years, will want greater independence, and will be open to high-tech solutions that give them the autonomous lifestyle they crave.

The big question now is will the products and services we crave be there for us when the time comes, or will business and industry wait until the market ripens before they do their homework and develop the products and services we are going to want. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer expenditure survey, baby boomer households spent $2.6 trillion in 2009. That’s should be a big incentive for businesses to keep us grays from getting blue.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

401 Freefall

A recent Wall Street Journal article examined the 401(k) generation just beginning to contemplate retirement and realizing that their savings fall short.

How short? The median household headed by someone ages 60 to 62 with a 401(k) account has a quarter of what they need to maintain their standard of living in retirement, according to data analyzed by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

This is based on the assumption that we will need 85% of our working income to live on if we want to live to the same standard.

What are the 401(k) holders doing about it? Same thing as most other boomers. Delaying retirement, downsizing, moving to cheaper housing, cutting out restaurant meals, taking fewer or no vacations, being more aggressive with their investments, and basically doing the duck and cover.

So big companies were able to get out of the penison business and money management firms made a nice living off all these 401(k) programs. Everyone was happy until the bubble popped.stop dude sign Many 401(k) owners saw half their savings wiped out almost overnight. Worse still, some lost jobs and no longer can contribute to their 401(k) plan.

It must be a shock to come to the realization that after 30 years of saving, there’s not enough there to have a comfortable retirement. These people weren’t looking for the gold watch -- they just wanted to know that somewhere around age 65 they would be able to stop working and maybe do some of the things they had always dreamed of doing.

Boomers want a more active retirement and now we may get it. Only it shouldn’t really be called retirement, because we’re going to keep on working. How about we call it pre-retirement? The pre-retirees will be working as greeters down at WalMart and driving school buses.

With any luck we won’t have to resort to the starving actor’s trick of mixing ketchup packets with hot water to make soup.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Do We Have To Call It A Senior Center?

They’re waiting for us down at the Senior Center. That’s right, I said Senior Center. An article in the Sacramento Bee helped me see the emerging trend.

Aging experts point out that not every boomer will be able to travel the globe or drive off into the sunset with a fancy RV. Thanks to the recession and mutilated savings/pensions, many boomers are going to be looking to the senior center (damn, I wish there was another name for it) to provide stimulating activities and networking opportunities.

But revising the senior center to fit the needs of the baby boomers in the pipeline is not going to be just a matter of replacing bingo with Pilates. They might also want to provide career counseling to boomers who find they still need a source of income from part-time employment.

There are about 11,000 senior centers around the country serving around a million people a day, and their average age is 75. Fast forward a few years to when the oldest boomers start hitting 70, and you can see where this is all going. Senior centers are going to get hit with this giant tsunami wave of boomers and they will need to adapt quickly, not only to the vast increase in clients, but also to a change in the type of services provided.

Boomers will most likely be looking for something more challenging than quilting.The trend is for clients to come to the centers for specific programs-- from classes in quantum physics to information on basic computing. Bottom line, boomers are not likely to turn to the senior center as a social center as their parents did. Resource Center might be a better name for a place where you can go to take a yoga class, use the job placement service, or attend a lecture on 20th century American poets.

Not surprisingly, boomers will once again influence a sea change in the way that we view retirement and the support system that will needed to accommodate our needs. Senior -- make that Resource Centers should start to ramp up their programs now, because the boomers will soon be on their doorstep. And they won’t be signing up for square dancing.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

No Worse Curse

This just in from the Not So Good News Department. A new report tells us that Alzheimer's will be the "defining disease" of the baby boomer generation. Want to know your odds? The report indicates that one in eight boomers will eventually develop this progressive brain disorder.

The "Generation Alzheimer's," analysis predicts that as boomers begin to turn age 65, their risk doubles every five years. Up to 10 million boomers can expect to develop the disease, for which there is no prevention or cure.

If that statistic isn’t the ultimate downer for you, consider this. It’s very likely that many baby boomers will spend their retirement years either suffierng with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it.

Crikey! I’m doing as many crossword puzzles as I can. I’ll count backwards from 100, finally learn Spanish, and walk and chew gum at the same time! What more can I do?

The real question should be what more can WE do? The Alzheimer's Association, the group that released this latest report, chastizes the lack of federal funding for research. The report points out that the National Institutes of Health spends more than $6 billion a year on cancer research and $3 billion on HIV, but only about $480 million goes to Alzheimer's.

This is already shaping up to be a classic “pay me now or pay me more later” proposition. If research and science are not ramped up to meet this challenge sooner rather than later, the eventual tab for nursing care, along with the loss of savings and the mental stress, make the initial outlay look miniscule.

If you want to do something now (before we’ve lost our minds for good), it just might be the right time to pressure our elected officials to put a greater emphasis on a cure or prevention.

I can laugh about it all now, because I still have a mind that can find the humor in almost anything. But you have to wonder what things will be like if nothing is funny.

What’s a 6-letter word for mental capacity for retaining facts? I know this one!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

You Think You’re Tired

According to a USA Today article, some generations are getting just a little bit tired of the spotlight that always seems to be shining on baby boomers.

Guess what? We’re a little tired of the target that’s been painted on our backs for all these years. Still, it hurts when Me Gens wonder if “baby boomers will ever leave.” As in die? Is that what you want? Really? Really?

Or saying that boomers “have sucked up a lot of oxygen.” What? We can’t even breathe?

Or declaring that boomers are "always examining themselves and their feelings." Spoken like a true member of the silent generation. Better to sit silently and show no emotion to your friends and family. That has to be a good life.

How about at work? Things are no better there. Younger employees think boomers take their jobs too seriously, and “are too wrapped up in this thing called 'career' ...The world is kind of a mess for this new generation to pick up the pieces." Okay then, you pick up the pieces and fix it all up and then see what your kids think of your mess. Does every generation think they can make the world a better place than the way they found it? Good luck with that world view.

But the situation is not all gloom and doom. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,011 adults found that boomer influence earned high marks:

• 52% say Baby Boomers have made things better for the generations that came after them; 39% say they've made it worse.

• 57% describe Baby Boomers as "giving," while 37% describe them as "selfish."

• 54% say the better word to describe the generation is "practical," 41% say "idealistic."

And if that doesn’t make you feel better, how about this end quote from one of the interviewees.

"There are so many differences in this group of people. The only thing we have in common is we think we're fascinating.”

In the words of Harvey Fierstein, “Is that so wrong?”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who Can You Believe?

It should be clear to anyone that life is filled with contradictions, but this is ridiculous. On the same day that a Pew Research study comes out and reveals that boomers are in a funk, AARP releases the results of their survey showing that boomers are content with their lives.

Dueling surveys at sunrise, eh? A remarkable 82% of the AARP crowd is optimistic about the next five years. Seven in 10 said they had achieved all or most of what they wanted in life. 40 percent of those still working plan to keep working until they drop.

Back over to Pew Research Center, 80% of the respondents ages 46-64 were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Maybe the Pew sample of 1,500 people were all having a bad day last month, while the AARPers were having all the fun. One Pew researcher posited that maybe boomers set themselves up for disappointment by being so idealistic back in the 60s. If that’s true, how do you explain the disturbing fact that boomers were less accepting of alternative lifesytles such as same-sex couples raising children or unmarried couples living together? We protested for civil rights but now we are getting choosy about who deserves them? Not cool.

AARP surveyed 800 people who are turning 65 this year. Almost half plan to take classes or learn something new and 60% want to travel more. Researchers say this reflects the notion that boomers think they are younger than they are, and they always have. I ask you, is that so wrong? The “tune in, turn on, drop out” crowd is in no hurry to take on the last part, according to AARP researchers.

The Pew survey did not probe too deeply into the reasons for boomer pessimism, but the speculation is that boomers have hit middle age during a record-breaking recession and they have always faced tremendous competition because of the sheer size of the demographic. Bummer.

To me, the real message from both surveys is that boomers are in a state of flux. One day we’re up and think that the world is getting better and the next day we think it’s all going to hell in a handbasket. This may all come down to whether or not you’re a born optimist or pessimist. Since I fall into the “nothing is ever as bad as it seems” camp and despite my penchant for bitching about how boomers are always getting the blame for everything, put me down as an optimist. We have a pretty good life and it could well be that the best is yet to come.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.