It’s Not Our Parents’ Middle Age

  • By Lori

A recent story by Claire Shipman at ABC World News describes a trend for baby boomers (born from 1946-1964) as they enter retirement. She reports that boomers are staying together, but spending increasing time apart pursuing separate interests. One couple she interviewed spends weeks apart as she volunteers in Honduras and he stays close to home, biking and working at a local museum.

Is this you?

At Continuum Crew we began tracking this trend in 2009 as we discovered patterns of independent behavior among boomer couples that are very different from our parents’ generation. This includes:

  • Separate bank accounts
  • Individual retirement plans
  • Fewer couple friendships/separate social lives
  • Vacations apart pursuing interests and passions

Couples report that the more independent they are, the more money they are willing to spend without consulting their spouse. We are spending separately on some things you might expect like health and beauty products, books and magazines, clothing … but we are also likely to spend up to $500 on entertainment, travel and electronics without consulting each other on the purchase.

What makes us different?

Baby Boomer women are the first generation of females with broader access to a college education, which led to jobs and careers. And the generation before us made great strides in the women’s movement and a fundamental shift in thinking about women’s roles at home and in the workplace. This created an empowered generation of women with money of their own.

Divorce and remarriage have been a hallmark of our generation. Consequently couples are more cautious about sharing finances, and many became very “set in their ways” as single people. Many couples choose to have yours, mine and ours banking relationships to keep finances simple and to control their own spending.

We are reimagining our “retirement years.” Even before the economic meltdown it was clear we were not going to retire the way our parents did. We like work and will need to work longer. We will have more years than our parents to finance, so we will be finding ways to make those years financially productive but also in line with our passions and interests.

Together but equal

So how do we navigate this new type of relationship where we live together but act singularly? Communication is the key.

1. Shared goals as a couple do not mean losing your self. You may share goals about where you choose to live, how much you plan to have saved, and what you DO enjoy doing together. Focus on these together.

2. Clearly communicate the personal goals, passions and needs you have for this period of your life. We all want to see our partners happy and fulfilled.

3. We change. Even though we are older, we still explore and change. These changes can make us seem different to our partners; dialogue about what we are experiencing and our excitement alleviate stress on the relationship.

4. Trust. Love and money are perhaps the hardest places to trust, but mature adults with good communication skills can weather these issues and find a healthy balance between their needs and their partner’s trust issues.

5. Flexibility=Happy! Not surprising, couples who exhibit the ability to move and shift report being happier in their relationships. Health, family, and work can change our lives in a moment. The ability to adapt and roll with punches minimizes stress and keeps us in our happy place!

Lori Bitter is President of Continuum Crew Marketing and CEO of Eons, Inc., a website focusing on Baby Boomers.