More Bang for Your Boomer Buck
Acknowledging that diversity, and the implications it has on marketing, is essential to tapping into Boomers' unrivaled purchasing power. That task, however, is easier said than done. Where to begin?
Generally speaking, marketing to younger consumers has advanced well beyond age targeting; however, age is still a uniquely critical factor for a generation of Boomers that spans an 18-year age gap, larger than any other documented generation.
The oldest Boomers typically experience milestone life events nearly two decades before the youngest. When the oldest Boomers were packing for college, the youngest were taking their first breaths. As the oldest were welcoming their first children, the youngest were asking for permission to use the bathroom.
With more and more older Boomers retiring, the marketing gap between many older and younger Boomers is widening. According to Gfk MRI's Spring 2011 study, Boomers age 56-65 are seven times more likely to be retired than their counterparts age 47-55. Younger Boomers are 47% more likely to be working full-time and three times more likely to be raising children.
Over the course of the next five to ten years, more older Boomers will retire. A majority of younger Boomers, on the other hand, will continue to work. According to a new AARP study (the third in a series tracking Boomers and employment), working Boomers report that their expected age of retirement has risen from 64 to 68, due primarily to the recent economic downshift.
Not only do working Boomers see the prospect of retirement as increasingly distant, they also view retirement itself with more anxiety and trepidation. Since 1998, there has been a steady decline in working Boomers who view retirement as a time of leisure, and an increase in those who view it as an end of their productive years and a period of economic hardship.
The research paints an entirely different picture for retired Boomers. Three-quarters are optimistic about their retirement years, eagerly looking forward to the future. A majority say that retirement has exceeded their expectations, and has given them more time to pursue hobbies and interests, socialize and spend time with family.
Now, you might wonder whether those who have retired were simply better prepared or wealthier than the rest, but the truth is, they weren't. Roughly half are happy with the amount of money they put aside for retirement, but more rely on Social Security (68%) and job pensions (52%) than on income from savings and investments (44%) or IRA, 401(k) or other retirement accounts (41%).
Free of the demands of a career, the stress of planning for retirement, and the responsibilities of raising children, retired Boomers find themselves significantly less worried about retirement, and able to enjoy the luxuries afforded by more free time.
While working Boomers feel more stress about retirement, they appear to be no less prepared for it than were retired Boomers. According to Gfk MRI, the working Boomer's average household net worth, at $434,000, is nearly the same as that of retired Boomers. So, there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel, even if working Boomers may not realize that until after they retire.
The key to tapping the potential of Boomers as a whole is to recognize they are not a whole. Once marketers understand the differing mindsets of the various life stages, they can craft their messages accordingly -- and maximize their ROI against critical consumer goldmine.