Many social and financial experts worry that the baby boomers, better known for spending than for saving, face an economic train wreck in retirement.
But don’t count the boomers out yet. Real estate, and a willingness to shift lifestyle gears, may come to their rescue, allowing the boomers to retire on considerably less than the 70 percent to 80 percent of their pre-retirement incomes recommended by the mutual fund industry. By selling their homes that are paid for, or mostly paid for, in expensive urban areas and moving to sometimes astonishingly less expensive parts of the country, many boomers may well be able to pay cash for a new home and avoid the dire financial straits that some economists predict for them.
A lot of retirees, of course, will continue to flock to popular and traditional retirement havens like Florida and the desert Southwest, especially Arizona. These are areas with many months of good weather, although the summer heat can be punishing. There are also facilities and activities geared to older adults, many of whom are lured there through promotions and advertising by homebuilders, whose construction efforts in recent years have been massive. It is this dynamic, for instance, that has helped Las Vegas become the nation’s fasting growing city.
But many boomers who do not view retirement as a permanent vacation are turning to nontraditional, and less expensive, retirement spots for their second act. They are especially attracted to college towns that offer opportunities for culture as well as work, which many expect to continue, though on their own terms and at their own pace.
David and Anita Kimery moved from the Chicago area last year to retire in Oxford, Miss. Their strategy was to escape cold winters and move to a small college town where Mr. Kimery could complete an undergraduate degree.
Ron Martin, 49, a specialty contractor in San Diego, bought a retirement home two years ago in Durango, Colo., although he does not plan to retire for another two years. His strategy is to avoid the rush and the higher prices when his fellow baby boomers begin to retire in force.
The paths of the Kimerys and Mr. Martin are a preview of a social migration that is expected to change the traditional concept of retirement as well as the character of many smaller cities and towns across America as the boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, leave the work force over the next two decades. Many cities and towns are working to attract these retirees because of the economic boon that is expected to follow them.
The boomers are hardly approaching retirement in the manner of their parents — the so-called G.I. generation that survived the depression and fought in World War II. Members of this older generation wanted nothing more to do with work once they retired to what was considered a well-earned respite.