June 30, 2011
The Big Freeze Immobilizes Boomers
“The Big Chill” was the iconic movie for baby boomers in their prime in 1983. Perhaps The Big Freeze is the best way to describe where we’ve ended up.
Two recent reports based on in-depth interviews with retirees and pre-retirees arrived at the same conclusion about how we are approaching the dreaded retirement: paralysis.
“The most common resulting behavior was ubiquitous across participants: to do nothing,” concluded a report by Financial Engines Inc., a California investment advisor.
The big reason for the paralysis among a generation that related to dancing around the kitchen table with Kevin Kline, Glen Close, and Jeff Goldblum in “The Big Chill,” was – surprise! – denial about growing old.
A report commissioned by Boston College’s Financial Security Project, which sponsors the Squared Away blog, found that the baby boomers and pre-retirees felt “immobilized in retirement planning efforts by a combination of practical and emotional factors.”
These emotions include fear and confusion about not having enough money, not knowing how much they’ll need, and not knowing how or where to get information or help. Throw into the mix the worst financial-industry crisis in modern history and high unemployment, which has hit older Americans hard.
FSP’s report provides verbatim quotes from 70 in-depth interviews with baby boomers and retirees in Phoenix; Cincinnati; and Hartford, Connecticut.
I’ll let the interviewees speak for themselves:
- “Part of my problem is that I woke up one day and I was 56. I’m not sure where the last 20 years went. I’ve gotta face what I’m trying not to face. People say, ‘embrace it,’ but I’m not.” (Boston pre-retiree) I wish there was some kind of formula to figure out what you need.” (Cincinnati pre-retiree)
- “How much money is enough money?” (Hartford pre-retiree)
- “You don’t know how long you’re going to live, or how well you’re going to manage that money.” (Hartford retiree)
- “Had actually targeted 63, my company had other ideas. Um, they wanted to replace me with somebody younger.” (Cincinnati retiree)