The so-called “Silver Tsunami,” referring to the baby boom generation that is just beginning to reach retirement age, hasn’t even crested. Nevertheless, baby boomers are already starting to feel the pinch when it comes to housing. However, seniors aren’t the only ones who will suffer. “The impact will be felt across the country,” predicts Jeffrey Davis, Cambridge Realty Capital founder and Chairman.
Davis calls the lack of affordable, senior-appropriate housing a “crisis,” and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The Silver Tsunami won’t reach its crest for another 10 years or so. If the issue isn’t addressed now, millions of retirees and their families may find themselves in some dire situations.
Many baby boomers have already begun looking to downsize from the homes they’ve lived in for much of their adult lives. With a limited number of smaller homes available, competition for those homes is tight, especially given that they aren’t just competing with their peers, but also with first-time home buyers. The result is that the prices of these on homes may be driven up, leaving baby boomers on fixed incomes and limited savings two choices: pay more for a smaller home, or stay in their existing homes. Both options will hit low-income seniors hard.
Consequently, more seniors are opting to postpone retirement in order to continue to afford housing. This isn’t just conjecture, either. Statistics back up the notion that seniors are working longer, as the median age of the American worker continues to rise. So does the percentage of American workers over the age of 55.
Granted, not every senior-aged worker stays in the work force to remain above the poverty line. However, for those who do, the effort may actually be counterproductive. Increasing competition in the job market could cause wages to stagnate. Baby boomers may be forced into low or minimum wage jobs and find that, after taxes, they aren’t coming out ahead after all.
Not everyone agrees with this picture of the working senior. Forbes magazine writer and professional analyst Ben Eubanks believes that “baby boomers have incredible value to offer. Many employers have realized this and responded with targeted retention programs.” Eubanks believes that employers have a great deal to gain by connecting older workers with Millennials, and that such intentionality will benefit everyone: young and old workers as well as employers.
Of course, this scenario works on the assumption that older workers have a marketable skill and/or have upgraded their training throughout their working years to keep up with modern technology. Unfortunately, there are thousands of baby boomers who don’t fit this picture, along with an estimated 25% of baby boomers who have no retirement savings at all. It is these two groups who stand to lose the most when they must choose between retiring or keeping a roof over their heads.
According to Davis, “The affordability crisis is real, and the agencies which have historically handled this issue, such as Medicare and various tax credit vehicles, have been stretched to their limits. Given the number of baby boomers coming of age in the next decade, some innovative solutions will be required to sustain this population.”