Baby Boomers are known for their penchant for spending. They were not hesitant to take on debt to enhance their lifestyles as they built successful careers and accumulated assets.
The post-financial crisis Baby Boomer retiree is constantly rethinking how to direct discretionary dollars or their “fun” money.
I recognize and document the changes I observe: There’s a deliberate thought process behind discretionary spending. The mindset is a clear path to personal enrichment and a generous nature when it comes to providing knowledge and positive experiences to those they love.
Here are a few of the more interesting random observations:
“We crave memories.”
A majority of Baby Boomers are directing discretionary dollars toward experiences, especially with close friends and former business associates. They would rather focus on creating memories. The desire to make large-scale expensive purchases is on a very noticeable decrease.
There’s a passion for atypical trips – wine tours in exotic locations, extended-stay vacation spots, off the beaten-path locales where time is made for conversation. Physical and mental challenges are important, too. Hiking, skiing, scuba diving, mountain climbing are high up on the bucket list. Learning new skills like painting or ethnic cooking have replaced a desire to own goods. If anything, Baby Boomers are releasing the shackles of material goods and downsizing.
And they’re on to something: Research by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, authors of the book “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,” outline how spending money on experiences can stretch “happiness bucks.” Memories outlive the short-term excitement of a purchase like new automobile.
An emerging trend has been the growing demand for off-site wine storage venues. Here, Boomers with a passion for wine can house their inventory in a climate-controlled environment and have access to comfortable lounges to share their collections with friends and others who share their passion. Those who participate in this activity advise me it’s more about socializing and the overall experience than the wine.
“We seek self-awareness.”
Baby Boomers are passionate about learning more about themselves and willing to spend money to do it. Much of their mental resources and daily hours were spent building long, stressful careers and raising families. Several have expressed to me how much they regret not spending more time going further down a spiritual path. An increasing share of the discretionary budget is being directed toward classes, books and travel that result in methods of heightened self-awareness and inner wellness.
Boomers have experienced hardship within their households; they know of immediate family members and close friends who have gone through difficult financial episodes. Striving for inner peace and ostensibly communicating what they’ve learned with others is of greater important than showing off new, expensive toys.
“We want to share with family.”
The Boomer desire to leave a big inheritance is not a priority. The trend is to share the wealth in retirement, especially through activities that include family. The addition of travel with children and grandchildren is a popular goal and from a financial planning perspective, has morphed from a want or wish to a strong need.
They’re called “multigenerational vacations.” Whether cruises, theme parks, or scenic road trips, a strong desire exists for Baby Boomers to be travel partners with loved ones. And picking up the tab for the group is not a concern. They possess a desire to etch good memories in the minds of their families and to actively participate in the fun. They seek to leave a strong presence after death. A living legacy.
Boomers are readily sharing newfound hobbies with family. For those on a more limited budget in retirement, pre-scheduled gatherings to show off cooking skills are popular. Any activity that creates an opportunity to bond with family (and they don’t need to be over-the-top expensive) is approached with the same energy retired Boomers applied to building careers and businesses.
“We are collectors of unique items.”
Unique collectables are popular with Boomers. Scouting resale shops and antique stores have become a formidable leisure activity in retirement. The most popular collections are tied to vintage pop culture products owned or remembered as children.
Baby Boomers are diligent when they purchase collectables. They’re patient and will wait until the “perfect” item crosses their path. Since they disdain clutter, homework is important, and they’re extremely selective. Budgeting for these purchases is important, too.
Toys, magazines, comics and vintage books from the 1950s through the 1970s are the most prominent collectables.
Roughly 25% of discretionary budgets are allocated to unique items -up 30% from five years ago.
The spending behaviors of Baby Boomers in retirement are fascinating to observe and document. They’ve changed over the last five years.
As a Boomer retiree said to me recently: “I’m focused on my return on life.
If I can maximize that all the rest will fall into place.”