For about twenty years beginning in the mid 1940’s, couples who were reunited after a long separation during the war began a demographic phenomenon known as the “baby boom.” Throughout this paper, attention will be placed mainly on the Canadian and American baby booms. Between 1946 and 1964, the American population was given a seventy-eight million baby boost. In 2005, the United States Census Bureau reported the number of boomer residents to be nearing eighty-three million, which represents about one third of the population. Starting in 1947 and ending in 1966, happy Canadian couples would celebrate the end of the Second World War by giving birth to over nine million babies. In 2006, Statistics Canada released their most recent census results, which showed that about ten million of Canada’s thirty-two million citizens are part of the baby boomer cohort.
In the second chapter of The Wealth Shift, Christopher Brooke does the math for the United States Federal Reserve and estimates that it will lose approximately 432 to 540 million dollars each day in tax revenue as the baby boomers put in their last hours on the job. Brooke suggests that the Federal Reserve will not be able to restore equilibrium, as the replacements for the boomers will have lower incomes and therefore, be taxed at lower rates than their boomer parents. The purpose of this research paper is to prove that, with proper planning; both government and financial institutions can ensure that Brooks’ mathematical predictions do not have to become a reality. Just as teenagers ease their way into the workplace, many baby boomers may consider slowly leaving the workforce, by looking at job sharing options and part time work schedules. We feel that the economy is very likely to remain stable through this demographic shift, with the construction and oilfield businesses creating more jobs than we know what to do with, echo boomers and baby busters are making more than the mediocre $30,000 salary that Brooke has set for them, probably paying more income tax than their parents ever did.
The Rebel: The Wealth Shift
As we come to the body of the paper, predictions made in The Wealth Shift will be discussed and evaluated. The Federal Reserve will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue everyday as the baby boomers punch the time clock for the last time. Brooke goes on to make suggestions as to how the government can bridge the gap, like imposing new tax laws for RIF and IRA withdrawals and health care services. Once these topics have been covered, we will offer some opinions that may help the feds to settle down a bit.
Types of Retirees
Throughout this section of the paper, several different retiree profiles will be laid out. From the well prepared retiree to the last minute saver, everyone will be exposed. We could make the prediction, that the early generation boomer will have all their ducks in a row, having wisely invested the inheritances received from their parents, while the windfalls of the later boomers will be a distant memory by the time they have their retirement parties.
The New and Improved life cycle
For this portion of the paper, we will explore the standard life cycle that we have come to know, but with a few twists. Christopher Brooke does a great job of laying out the cycle as we know it in his book entitled “The Wealth Shift,” while Dr Ken Dychtwald takes things a step further in his February 2004 editorial in the ABA banking Journal, adding new phases such as empty-nesting and Grandparenthood.
Preparing for the Shift
Just as our needs change as we age, that marketing plans of the financial institutions that serve us should change too. In this portion of the report, we will discuss the suggestions made by America’s Community Banker Columnist, Michelle Clayton. Clayton feels that it is important to offer services that banks and other deposit taking institutions usually shy away from: trust services. Both Canada and the United States will see just under one third of their residents hit retirement age over the next two decades. With the amendments to the conventional life cycle – courtesy of the boomers and preceding generations – it will be more important than ever before for financial institutions to fight for the business of trust companies and other non-deposit taking institutions. Beginning with the boomers, many couples decided to wait until later in life to have children. What this means is that there is a greater possibility of one or both parents passing away and leaving behind minor children. The sooner the banks turn on their thinking caps, the sooner their bases of potential customers will broaden.
Another arm of the financial services industry that will be extremely important is estate planning. Maybe the banks will implement departments for this purpose, or maybe they will decide to train their personal bankers and financial advisors to do the job. The importance of estate planning stems from probate laws. Generally, if the estate of an individual is over $25,000, an institution will require a grant of probate before releasing any funds or property from the deceased person’s estate. Probate can be quite costly, which cuts into the residue of the estate for listed beneficiaries. Banks can help aging boomers avoid these costs by making the suggestion – when appropriate – to make various accounts joint with rights of survivorship. This way, if one of the joint owners of an account passes away, the assets of that account automatically fall to the survivor; no legal hoops required.
The effects on the housing market: peak age for ownership
As Robert Stowe England discussed in his 2005 article “The Boomer Boost,” the peak age of home ownership has been steadily increasing since the 1980’s, when it was 65 to 69 years of age. England shares our opinion that today’s home owners are counting on home equity lines of credit to bankroll their retirement. The home equity line of credit phenomenon could make for a number of different scenarios for the boomers. They may have to sell their primary residence and downsize in order to pay down their debt, or maybe they have a second home that can be sold to pay off consumer debts, or maybe they will need to continue working into their retirement in order to pay for the lavish lifestyle of years gone by.
Are they ready to retire?
Although the research of this topic is ongoing, we could hazard a guess as to how the boomers will fare in their retirement years. It might be fair to say that a few of the boomers – probably less than thirty percent – will be able to retire on their investments and pensions without looking back. The rest of this generation is likely to seek out some sort of paid work, whether by choice or necessity. Research also suggests that both the banks and realtors will feel the shift in the market, as the boomers sell of investment properties and second homes. Such activity in the market will create a buyers market once again and shift the focus from lending products to investment vehicles in the financial services industry.
1. Brooke, C.D (2005)
Wealth Shift: profit strategies for investors as the baby boomers approach retirement
New York, Berkley: Perigee
2. Clayton, M (1999, February)
They’re getting old. They’re tired. They’re stressed. But they have money to invest.
America’s Community Banker, 8(2), 26-30
3. Dychtwald, K (2004, February)
Boomer times or bust? ABA Banking Journal
4. England, R.S (2005, April)
The Boomer Boost, Mortgage Banking
5. McIntye, G (2007)
Rising to the Challenge, Canadian Investment Guide 2007
6. Statistics Canada
7. US Census Bureau