Despite a brutally cold winter, many of Chicago’s baby boomers aren’t fleeing to warm-weather states to retire just yet. In fact, many are staying close to home because they’re working longer and want to be near friends and family, according to local retirement experts.
Barbara Milsk and her husband David are one Chicagoland couple who have decided to stay put. They live in the city’s northern suburbs and both work for the Council for Jewish Elderly SeniorLife, a Chicago-based social-services agency for older adults.
“I’m 65 years old and my husband is 71 and we both work full time,” Milsk says. “When we retire, we’ll stay in the Chicago area because it’s centrally located to our four children, three of whom live out of state; also, it’s financially advantageous for us to stay here as opposed to moving out of state.”
Baby boomers—who range in age from 50 to 68—make up nearly a fifth of Chicago’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and local surveys. For many, financial considerations are key to when—and where—they’ll retire.
“Moving is expensive,” Milsk says. “The Chicago housing market has also had a big effect, as people haven’t been able to sell their homes in the Chicago area.” Although real-estate prices are beginning to bounce back, the market has been slow to recover for Milsk and many people she knows.
More Chicagoland boomers are also working part time or full time to make ends meet, so retirement isn’t an option yet, say local experts.
“There’s this delay in retirement,” says Marla Levie Craven, president and founder of Focus on Aging and More, a Chicago-based marketing and consulting firm for companies that serve older adults. “Pensions are gone, and baby boomers [may not have] saved enough up for retirement, so they’re going to be working longer. People are living so much longer these days, so even retirees are getting second jobs.”
Staying close to friends and loved ones is also a big factor.
“Retirees want to live closer to their children and grandchildren, and they don’t want to be gone for extended periods of time,” Levie Craven says. “Even after this rough Chicago winter, people are saying they want to get away for two weeks or a month, but they aren’t moving away for extended periods of time.”
Many boomers also have parents who are still alive, so they want to be near them, too.
“Because people are living longer these days, baby boomers…often have sick, elderly parents, and they want to take care of them,” Levie Craven says.
Some Chicago boomers also want to “age in place,” meaning they want to live out their lives in their own homes. Though they might have to remodel their house or downsize locally, they’d prefer that to moving into assisted living or another type of elder-care community.
“A lot of people who I see in their late 50s, they’re all making sure that if they move and they stay local, they can age in place, so they live in a ranch-style home or they have a master bedroom on the first floor,” Levie Craven says.
Future retirees David and Barbara Milsk downsized from a five-bedroom multi-story home to a three-bedroom ranch.
“It’s an easy, comfortable way to live and a way for us to age in place,” Barbara Milsk says.