Boomers Not the Retiring Types

The long post-World War II trend to early retirement started to reverse in 1985, reports CBS News Correspondent John Roberts. Now, 80% of baby boomers say they'll keep working well past age 65.

Darby Houston has tried to retire twice, yet he just can't seem to make it stick. His last attempt, giving up his greenhouse-nursery business to spend more time with his grandchildren, lasted all of six weeks.

Now he's working full-time at Home Depot, doing what he loves: working.

"I would go crazy if I weren't working," says the 70-year old Darby. "I have fire in my belly, and I bring that fire to this store every day."

That fire is helping to change the idea of what retirement means. Steven Myers, 17 years younger than Darby, speaks to a growing attitude among baby boomers on retirement. The company he owns is a leader in hiring mature workers.

"I'm 53 years old and I feel like I'm in my early 40s. I could easily work into my 70s or 80s," Myers says. "I think older workers represent one of the great untapped natural resources of this country."
Myers' commitment to older workers reflects more than his belief that age brings experience to the workforce. He's also helping to preserve his own future because, Myers says, "Being retired for one-third of your life just doesn't make sense."

Sara Rix, a senior policy advisor for the AARP, says baby boomers are changing "the definition of retirement. In fact, we may stop using the term retirement."

And why not? This generation has changed everything else they've touched. They defined suburbia, crowded into schools and brought women into the workforce. When boomers start turning 55 in 2001, that influence will be applied to retirement.

"I think boomers have a tremendous sense of entitlement," says Rix. "They've always gotten what they've wanted and will expect to get what they want as they age."

There are economic imperatives here, too. With life expectancy rising, boomers will live a long time and want an income, as well as an occupation, to sustain them. But Rix says there's another reason why this group wants to work -- vanity.

"We identify ourselves as young when we have a job. We may be encouraged to remain working longer in order to maintain that youthful image of ourselves."

At age 74, former New York Mayor Ed Koch feels great. "Our parents, as they approached 65, were 'worked out.' They were tired. They were old," he recalls. "I'm not tired, and I'm not old."

"How old do I really think I am?," asks Darby Houston. "Mid-40s."

Darby says retirement may have advantages for some, but he's not ready for them. He was named for Henry Darby, a New York entrepreneur his parents admired.

"He worked within six weeks of the day he died when he was 86 years old and guess what? I'm going to follow right in his footsteps."