Monday, September 03, 2007

Will businesses in Solano County and throughout America suffer a huge brain drain as baby boomers retire?

Working boomers not likely to vanish
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald
Article Launched:09/03/2007 07:17:57 AM PDT
Will businesses in Solano County and throughout America suffer a huge brain drain as baby boomers retire?

Some locals doubt it, suggesting instead that few people will be able to afford to completely quit working at the normal retirement age.

Recent studies suggest that nationwide more than half of all companies expect to lose a significant percentage of their senior managers to retirement in the next few years. Others doubt a mass exodus from the workplace is imminent.

California Employment Development Department labor market consultant Tiffany Furrell said she doesn't expect most baby boomers - a term referring to the approximately 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 - to suddenly drop completely out of the work force.

By 2015, California's demographic balance will shift as the 65-and-over age group starts growing at a faster rate, the California EDD Web site says, increasing the urgency for employers to make plans to replace their work forces.

But a recent American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) study shows most boomers plan to stay active.

"I've read that eight in 10 baby boomers plan to work at least part time in retirement, so I don't see a big change or a huge effect on the economy," Furrell said.

Solano County had about 87,000 people age 45 to 64 in 2000 - a figure that was expected to grow to nearly 118,000 by 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

So, suddenly losing such a large number of people could put a strain on business, experts say. And even if it doesn't, the aging population will overtax other services, said Leanne Martinsen, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging serving Napa and Solano counties.

"The burden on health care is already increasing," she said. "About a third of those 45 to 65 were living at or near the poverty level in 2000 in Solano and Napa counties."

A boomer herself, Martinsen said many of her contemporaries are seeking part-time jobs or career changes to help them make ends meet.

"Many have no retirement or pension and have to continue working," she said. "I know I won't be part of any mass exodus."

Angela Sanders, 61, of Vallejo said she hopes one day to retire to a home she and her husband own in Spain, though she thinks the world economy won't permit many boomers to retire completely.

"I don't think they'll be able to afford to retire," she said. "Many haven't been able to save, and they're in for a rude awakening."

A documentary filmmaker, Sanders said she plans to "let life decide for me," when she might retire.

Boomers and the work force

Baby boomers - a work force to be reckoned with:

• Nationally, in five years, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. work force will be 55 or older, up from just under 13 percent in 2000, according to forecasts by AARP.

• Solano County had about 87,000 people age 45 to 64 in 2000. That number rose to about 94,000 in 2004 and is expected to grow to nearly 118,000 by 2010.

• By 2020, more than 21 percent of the county's population is expected to be in that age group.

• About one-quarter of Napa County's population in 2000 was between 45 and 64 years old.

• Vallejo's 45-to-64 age group made up about 23 percent of the city's population - nearly 27,000 people - in 2000.

• Nearly 8,000 Benicians, or about 30 percent of its population, were baby boomers in 2000.

Source: The U.S. Census Bureau California Employment Development Department and California Department of Finance.

"My marketing plan is 'if the phone rings, I answer it,' and when it stops ringing, I'll retire," she said.

But not entirely.

"I'll never be not doing anything," she said.

The August 2007 edition of Agenda aging services of California magazine, notes that the largest percentage of people approaching retirement age are in professions like management analyst, post-secondary teacher, registered nurse and sales representative.

Gary Savelli of Vallejo, 58, said he recently retired from his job as a Frito-Lay driver/salesman, but embarked on a new career as a disc jockey. He enjoys the work and makes a good living at it, he said. It doesn't hurt that his 60-year-old wife still works for the Vallejo City Unified School District.

"I think most boomers will continue working," he said. "With our parents' generation, a family could usually survive on one person's income, but now it takes two salaries to get by most of the time."

In a prepared statement, Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources put it this way:

"Longer life spans, increased financial responsibilities and a desire to remain mentally and physically active are prompting today's workers to view retirement differently than their predecessors."

Boomers will likely phase in retirement and retire differently than did past generations, Martinsen said.

"It's the economics. I think most boomers don't have pensions and don't have savings, and many will stay in the workforce in one capacity or another," she said. "And even those who can afford to retire, want to do something meaningful, to follow their passion. I don't think the baby boomer generation is going to retire to their recliners."

E-mail Rachel Raskin- Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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