Every day in the U.S., 10,000 baby boomers celebrate their 50th birthdays. Their generation spends $2 trillion a year. Mindful of that spending, every marketer worth his or her MBA is pitching to them -- everything from new makeup lines for women who burned their bras, to age-friendly technology, to "active adult" communities, to sex.
Some 78 million strong, boomers have influenced American society all their lives. That's not going to change as they begin to make decisions about this next stage: how to continue to work, when to retire, where to live, how to dress, what to drive, whom to love, how to find meaning.
The oldest boomers just turning 60 are, in most cases, the senior generation in their families. Their parents have gone, their children’s education is paid for, they’re free to spend, to make increasingly more conservative investment decisions, to pile up an estate to live on during their impending and lengthy retirements.
The youngest boomers are now turning 42 – the so-called "sandwich generation." When the phone rings late at night, the trouble could come from either their parents or their kids. For many, their parents are still with them, living longer. Tuition bills are still a major concern, with plenty of spending in the years before college as well. Still, if they have the wherewithal, they’re beginning to look ahead, to think about what happens next.
Whatever they do, they're not going to fade off to Florida like their parents. Fortunes will be made on their likes and dislikes. Among the key targets of opportunity:
- Boomer beauty. Why would a woman of a certain age take makeup advice from youngster in a micro-mini at the mall? Revlon asked that question, and launched a whole new brand aimed at boomer women, called Vital Radiance; it's hoping for a $200 million payoff. Cosmetics, fashion, style – women over 45 make up more than half of the apparel market. By the way, market research indicates that boomers see themselves as younger than they are – 12 years younger.
- Boomer sex: When the Summer of Love rolled around in 1967, the contraceptive pill freed boomers from worry about pregnancy. Forty years on, they’re still at it, only it’s another kind of pill now -- vitamin V. The over-50 single set is Match.com’s fastest growing segment.
- Boomer inheritance: As boomers’ parents pass away, they find themselves on their own in more ways than one. There isn’t much to inherit, because their parents may have had to spend their estates down on medical care and assisted living, and may have outlived their resources.
- Boomers and brokers: Would the generation that didn’t trust anyone over 30 listen to brokers paid on commission? Many boomers won’t, and there is a growing business for independent financial advisers.
- Boomer tech: Boomer-friendly Web sites, medical information carried in your cell phone (“Caller ID on steroids.”) Comfortable with technology now, boomers will adopt age-specific technology in the future, and the trickle-down effect will benefit younger Americans – and companies like IBM, Intel, and Medtronic are making bets on that future.