They may have more years in the rear-view mirror than looking ahead, but that doesn’t mean Baby Boomers aren’t still making a tremendous impact—both as consumers and workers.
But the combination of a pandemic, inflation, and a war has led to a surprising shift in the demographic dynamics of 2022, with consumer and workforce power now tipping back toward boomers (generally defined as people born between 1946 and 1964). Indeed, experts say this once-maligned group happens to own some of the most sought-after job skills in the market, along with exceedingly strong purchasing power. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, the net worth for Americans in their late 60s and early 70s is more than double that of younger Americans. And as companies take note, in some cases bending over backwards to woo the group to join as new or returning employees, boomers are elated.
Pursuing the boomer demographic is not without risks. There is a reason that development efforts have long focused on workers with four to five decades ahead of them. But after years of a myopic focus on millennials, two simultaneous changes have revived the market power of the older generation:
First, facing the dramatic labor shortage, many firms have discovered they can hire retirees for executive interim roles while they search for full-time executives. This can be a boon for companies: they can retain some of their highest-skilled employees for much lower overall costs, with the benefit of knowledge transfer to younger employees.
Second, the strong pandemic housing and stock markets have made boomers digitally literate and ballooned their wealth. Today 37 percent of people over age 65 use mobile pay apps, and 39 percent use telemedicine (up from 3 percent pre-pandemic). There’s a big misconception that boomers don’t know tech. Boomers certainly didn’t grow up with it, but they’ve definitely learned it.
This is particularly true in online ordering. In fact, digital ordering in the restaurant sector has risen eightfold since 2015. Boomers in particular have really fast-forwarded their own digital capabilities during the pandemic. They crave convenience, their spending power is tremendous and they are propping up the digital ordering industry like never before.
Experts say marketers, long trained to focus on youth, cannot ignore this. Companies look at their data to see which boomer audiences provide the most opportunity. The age group is particularly keen for travel and new experiences, especially after missing out during the years of the pandemic. According to data by AARP, boomers stockpiled the travel money they didn’t use during 2020 and will use it for future vacations. The research says they plan on spending more money on those trips than other generations: Gen X travelers expect on average they’ll spend $5,000, millennials will spend $4,000 on average and boomers will spend $6,691.
If you’re an employer, a restauranteur or you work in the travel industry and you’re not looking at boomers, you’re missing out.