I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘Baby Boomers,’ but do you know exactly who they are and why so many people are talking about them right now? In this three-part series, we’ll discuss the Baby Boomers, who they are, what they have accomplished in the workforce, and what’s happening to the economy now that they’re retiring. We’ll also touch on what’s next for America’s workforce. Who’s stepping up to fill those positions? What will we lose when the Baby Boomer generation steps down?
During the Great Depression and World War II, many people chose to delay marriage and/or having children until things started to stabilize in the 1950’s and 60’s. Those decades consequently saw a surge in population, which quickly became a massive generation of roughly 75 million babies. As the Baby Boomers entered the workforce in the 1980’s and 90’s, their buying habits, particularly in homes and automobiles, determined the course of American economics (Britannica). This was also the time of the great migration to the suburbs. This generation found great value in work and often defined themselves by their professional accomplishments, setting high expectations for long work days and high earnings (Careers).
We’re now seeing what Forbes has dubbed, “‘The Great Retirement,’ a silver tsunami of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce.” Between 2008 and 2019, the retired population of people aged 55 years and older grew by about one million per year. But in the last two years, we’ve seen a an unprecedented total of 3.5 million retirees aged 55 and older (Pew Research).
This number is mostly attributed to age. Many Baby Boomers have reached the age of retirement and are ready to stop working. Baby Boomers are considered in the “at-risk age” group for COVID-19, and like everyone, they were forced to work from home. While they were home, they discovered a quality of life they didn’t realize they could have. This included closer relationships, more family time, less time and money spent on commuting, and more leisure time. They also experienced a reduction in the general frustrations and stress of being in the office (LA Times).
Pre-COVID, businesses were looking for various ways to cut costs. Many began hiring people from other countries who required less compensation and ‘juniorizing’ positions to hire younger applicants. People with 30-40 years of experience expect to be compensated for that experience. Those with only three to five years of experience can learn quickly for less money (Forbes). What companies didn’t bank on was the loss of knowledge and experience that this generation took with them. Their commitment to the company and customer is not so easily replaced. What looked to be “cheaper” may actually be significantly more costly when companies look at the value of knowledge, experience, commitment and relationships. These components can’t easily be tagged with a price but they are definitely felt at the growth and customer levels.