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Boomers won't become a burden, social researcher Michael Adams insists


Stayin' Alive: How Canadian Baby Boomers Will Work, Play, and Find Meaning in the Second Half of Their Adult Lives

By Michael Adams

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Penguin; November 2010; Hardcover; $34


In retirement, boomers will be more of a boon than a burden.

A recent poll found that 30 per cent of Canadian boomers don't think they'll have enough money to pay their basic living expenses in retirement. Are many boomers destined to become a burden on society?

A significant number are thinking of staying in the work world longer because they feel like they have the energy and feel like they could use the money. Because they're taking some debt into their 60s, they'll have to work to pay down that debt.

If boomers stay in the job market longer, won't it hinder future generations of workers?

Boomers will be more like coaches and mentors than in leadership positions. … I don't think we're going to see these people taking jobs that would otherwise be going to young people. I don't want to sound like it's 'don't worry, be happy,' but in a relative sense the Canadian elderly are better positioned than the elderly in almost every other country in the world. Certainly we'll have challenges with health care. But 40 to 50 per cent of [boomers]are doing things that can make them healthier, and that will be a significant factor.

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Some boomers have the means to retire with a rewarding lifestyle, but what about those who have not saved enough?

Fortunately they're living in Canada, so there's the Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement … there is the Canada Pension Plan. Canada is in an enviable position. Yes, there are people who are not as well off as the ideal boomer who spends six months here and six months in Mexico, learning Spanish and adopting a village. There are people that will have to live more modestly. I ask people about bucket-list things. And for a lot of people, it's not going to Machu Picchu; it's jumping in the car and driving to visit that first cousin.

What is the one thing in this book that's a surprise?

One is that boomers are not becoming their parents. They are as determined to realize the values of their youth as they approach old age as they were when they were young.


Michael Adams is president of marketing research firm Environics, the author of five books on Canadian social trends, and a member of the boomer generation. In 1965, he became the first in his family to go to university. His favourite band was the Beatles. The person Mr. Adams most admires is Pierre Trudeau, who never won his vote but showed him that Canadians can be recognized around the world.

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This interview has been condensed and edited.

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