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    • 2004 The AARP Life Stage Study Wave 3 Executive Summary Boomers at Midlife 601 E Street, NW Washington DC 20049 888-OUR-AARP www.aarp.org D18217 © 2005 AARP May be copied only for noncommercial purposes and with attribution; permission required for all other purposes.
    • Boomers at Midlife: The AARP Life Stage Study Wave 3, 2004 Carol Keegan, Ph.D. Project Manager, Knowledge Management, AARP 202-434-6286 Sonya Gross Research Analyst, Knowledge Management, AARP 202-434-3556 Linda Fisher, Ph.D. Research Director, Knowledge Management, AARP 202-434-6304 Shereen Remez, Ph.D. Director of Knowledge Management, AARP 202-434-2426 ©2005 AARP. All rights reserved. Reprinting with permission only. 601 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20049 www.aarp.org
    • Prepared for AARP by PSRA International BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy 1 Introduction In 2002, AARP commissioned Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) to undertake an annual survey that would explore what the baby boomers— one of the largest and most path-breaking generations in American history—had to say about their lives, their hopes and their expectations for the future. These yearly telephone surveys are the first steps of an effort to learn how Americans born between 1946 and 1964 see themselves at the midpoint of their lives. This year, 2004, is the third year of this comprehensive study of boomers’ lives and is largely a replication of the 2003 and 2002 surveys. We conducted a 25-minute telephone survey re-examining the seven broad life areas that were addressed in the original 2002 survey: relationships with family and friends, personal finances, religious or spiritual life, work or career, physical health, mental health and leisure activities. We also asked boomers to tell us how well they are doing in each of these areas, where they hope to be five years from now, how likely they are to achieve their goals and what the barriers are to achieving these goals. In this report we present the findings of the 2004 survey and compare them to the results of the 2003 and 2002 surveys where appropriate. In addition to providing a snapshot of boomers’ attitudes about their lives and hopes for the future, the data provided by this multi-year survey allows us to see how the boomer generation’s lives and aspirations change as they age.1 One feature that stands out when looking at the data collected over the last three years is the relative stability of the life assessment measures, despite the fact that a lot has changed in the world and the country—the war in Iraq, international rebukes, raising gasoline prices and continued economic doldrums as well as corporate scandals. Yet despite these challenges, boomers offer consistent and stable assessments about where their lives stand, what they want out of the future and how likely they are to accomplish their goals. It is not that boomers—or older or younger Americans—are unaware that the world around them is changing. And it is not that they are unwilling to reflect on their personal opinions about these changes. This is seen clearly in the decrease in the percent of boomers who say they are satisfied with the direction the country is taking. Nonetheless, boomers as a whole report a remarkably stable, core set of evaluations about their lives despite the volatility they see in the daily newspaper headlines. We also note this year, as in the previous two years, that boomers are more similar to younger than older Americans. That is, on a range of personal assessments, including their hopes, dreams and fears, boomers and younger Americans are much more similar than they are different. By contrast, older Americans differ notably from boomers and younger Americans in their personal life 1 While the data from the 2002, 2003 and 2004 surveys afford a preliminary view of change in attitudes over time, three years of data do not allow for more sophisticated statistical techniques that would help to track substantive changes over time while minimizing normal, episodic changes.Therefore, we only report year-to-year changes that are statistically significant at the .01 level or greater over the previous year’s results or significant at the .05 level or greater for two consecutive years.
    • BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy Prepared for AARP by PSRA International 2 assessments. Are those who begged their parents for Hula Hoops really so similar to those who pleaded for Cabbage Patch dolls and Atari sets? The answer is that it depends on what types of questions you ask. On many issues boomers are different from younger adults, but these tend to be social or political issues2 and not personal life assessments. For instance boomers are con- siderably more likely to feel strongly that it is their duty as a citizen to always vote than younger adults (68% vs. 49%). But boomers are less likely than younger adults to want government to provide a strong social safety net.3 And boomers are less likely than younger Americans to support affirmative action programs.4 Thus, while we see simi- larities across all three survey years in boomers’ and younger adults’ evaluations of their own personal lives, differences between the two generations become apparent when asked about socio-political concerns such as satisfaction with the way things are going in the country today. Now for the key findings from 2004. Key Findings As we have seen for the past few years, boomers are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives and are generally upbeat about their future. And as they think about the future, boomers are looking to achieve balance in their lives by improving the areas in which they are least satisfied. Yet, ironically, boomers continue to have the least confidence that they will succeed in making gains in those areas they most want to improve. Boomers, like younger and older Americans, are satisfied with their lives overall. But many boomers are only somewhat satisfied with some key life areas. In particular, a slim majority of boomers say they are only somewhat satisfied with their personal finances, leisure activities and physical health. As in 2002 and 2003, boomers are most satisfied with their personal relationships and their mental health. Boomers continue to believe that their lives will be even better five years from now, saying that they want to make improvements in all seven specific life areas addressed in the survey. We asked boomers to rate their current situation, as well as the situation they can realistically hope to be in five years from now. As we reported in 2002 and 2003, boomers want to make the most progress in the areas where they feel most behind—personal finances and leisure activities. Boomers also continue to expect less improvement in the areas they are most satisfied— personal relationships and mental health. Boomers think more about some life areas than others. Consistent with the past two years, family and friends tops the list of most thought about life areas, while leisure 2 The socio-political indicators presented here come from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press’ 2003 Values survey. 3 Boomers are less likely to strongly agree that the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep than younger adults (28% vs. 37%). 4 Boomers are less likely to strongly favor affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women and other minorities get better jobs and education (18% vs. 28%) and are less likely to agree every effort should be made to improve the position of blacks and other minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment (25% vs. 37%).
    • Prepared for AARP by PSRA International BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy 3 activities and mental health are the least thought about. By and large, boomers believe that they can shape their future and that what happens in the future mostly depends on them. Consistent with this view, boomers continue to believe that if they really want to do something, they will find a way to achieve it. Overview of Life Areas Relationships with family and friends continues to be one of two life areas most satisfying to boomers. Consistent with results from the last two years, roughly six in 10 boomers (62%) say they are very satisfied with their relationships with family and friends. Likewise, many boomers continue to refer to their family and friends as the single most important (39%) and the very best (38%) aspect of their lives. Boomers also continue to be very satisfied with their mental health. Six in 10 (59%) boomers say they are very satisfied with their mental health, and an even larger majority (87%) say they have either met or exceeded their mental health expectations. Boomers hope to make gains in their relationships with family and friends and their mental health over the next five years, but as has been true for the last two years, the hoped for gains in these areas are smaller than for the remaining five life areas. These relatively modest hoped for gains are likely a result of the already high level of satisfaction with these life areas. Although a majority of boomers express strong satisfaction with their mental health, only a third of boomers (32%) say they are very satisfied with their physical health. Three in 10 boomers (29%) say their physical health is worse than they expected it to be at this point in their lives. These less than glowing findings have remained relatively unchanged in the last three years. Many boomers would like to make improvements in their physical health. And for two in 10 boomers (19%) this is the one life area they would most like to change— second only to personal finances. At the same time, only somewhat more than half (56%) think they are very likely to achieve their goal of improved physical health. This may be a realistic assessment, as boomers who are less confident of meeting their goals are more likely to say they do not eat a balanced diet or exercise regularly. As in 2002 and 2003, boomers say their personal finances and their work lives are among the worst aspects of their lives. About a quarter of boomers (23%) say their financial life is the worst thing in their lives right now while 13 percent say work or career is the worst thing. And four in 10 working boomers (40%) are very satisfied with their work or career. Even fewer boomers (22%) report being very satisfied with their personal finances. Moreover, a sizable minority of boomers say they have not met their expectations in their financial (30%) or their work (26%) lives. Many boomers want to make major strides forward in their personal finances over the next five years. In fact, roughly a third (36%) name personal finances as the one life area they would most like to change, although only a small majority (58%) think they are very likely to meet their expectations. Boomers strive to make somewhat more modest improvements in their work or career situation than in their personal finances.
    • BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy Prepared for AARP by PSRA International 4 SATISFACTION WITH LIFE AREAS BY GENERATION Overall, how satisfied are you with your _____? Are you very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not too satisfied or not at all satisfied? % who say very satisfied with ... Younger Older Adults Boomers Adults Relations with family and friends 2004 64 62 77 2003 59 64 75 2002 57 63 74 Mental health 2004 62 59 70 2003 64 59 67 2002 61 61 63 Religious or spiritual life 2004 44 48 66 2003 39 50 64 2002 34 47 60 Work or career* 2004 36 40 63 2003 34 37 60 2002 34 39 50 Physical health 2004 36 32 39 2003 33 32 35 2002 35 31 38 Leisure activities 2004 33 30 51 2003 30 29 45 2002 33 29 47 Personal finances 2004 18 22 37 2003 18 21 35 2002 19 20 35 2004: Younger Adults (18–39) N=760; Boomers (40–58) N=2266; Older Adults (59+) N=824 2003: Younger Adults (18–38) N=736; Boomers (39–57) N=2016; Older Adults (58+) N=748 2002: Younger Adults (18–37) N=781; Boomers (38–56) N=2127; Older Adults (57+) N=758 *Asked only of those employed either full- or part-time 2004: Younger Adults N=564; Boomers N=1615; Older Adults N=185 2003: Younger Adults N=555; Boomers N=1485; Older Adults N=197 2002: Younger Adults N=572; Boomers N=1646; Older Adults N=202 Boomers have as many concerns about the way they spend their free time as they do about the way they spend their working hours. As in 2002 and 2003, only three in 10 boomers (30%) say they are very satisfied with their leisure activities. This is also an area in which boomers hope to see consid- erable improvements over the next five years and there is considerable room for growth, since boomers evaluate this life area to be among the least satisfactory. Consistent with results from previous years, nearly half of boomers (48%) report being very satisfied with their religious or spiritual life and most of the rest say they are somewhat satisfied. Religious or spiritual life is one of the top two most important life areas to boomers—second only to family and friends. Most boomers report that they are doing better than expected in this area (29%) or are where they expected to be (55%). Even so, fewer than two in 10 (15%) say they are doing worse than expected and many boomers hope to make solid gains in this area of their life in the next five years. Comparing Boomers to Younger and Older Americans As the data have shown for the past two years, a notable generation gap exists between boomers and older Americans. In many ways, boomers are more similar to younger Americans than to older Americans. • Consistent with past results, all three generations express satisfaction in the way their lives are unfolding as a whole, but older Americans are more likely to be very satisfied than boomers in all seven life areas. By contrast, boomers and younger Americans report similar levels of satisfaction in each life area.
    • Prepared for AARP by PSRA International BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy 5 MOST IMPORTANT LIFE AREA BY GENERATION Which one of these areas is most important to you? Younger Older Adults Boomers Adults Relations with family and friends 2004 48 39 29 2003 44 39 27 2002 48 44 26 Religious or spiritual life 2004 18 24 29 2003 19 25 26 2002 19 22 29 Physical health 2004 13 19 26 2003 13 18 30 2002 12 19 30 Personal finances 2004 10 8 5 2003 11 9 4 2002 9 6 4 Mental health 2004 4 4 5 2003 5 4 3 2002 5 3 3 Work or career* 2004 3 3 * 2003 5 3 1 2002 4 2 1 Leisure activities 2004 1 1 1 2003 1 * 2 2002 2 1 2 2004: Younger Adults (18–39) N=760; Boomers (40–58) N=2266; Older Adults (59+) N=824 2003: Younger Adults (18–38) N=736; Boomers (39–57) N=2016; Older Adults (58+) N=748 2002: Younger Adults (18–37) N=781; Boomers (38–56) N=2127; Older Adults (57+) N=758 *Asked only of those employed either full- or part-time 2004: Younger Adults N=564; Boomers N=1615; Older Adults N=185 2003: Younger Adults N=555; Boomers N=1485; Older Adults N=197 2002: Younger Adults N=572; Boomers N=1646; Older Adults N=202 • As a general pattern, boomers and younger Americans have a tendency to be more oriented towards family and friends than older Americans. When asked to name the most important thing in their lives, boomers (39%) are more likely to mention their personal relations than the older generation (29%)— younger adults are the most likely of all to hold family and friends as the most important of the seven life areas (48%). Furthermore, when asked to name the best thing in their lives, only two in 10 older adults (20%) say relationships with family and friends are the best thing, compared to nearly twice as many boomers (38%) and an even larger portion of younger adults (49%). These same generational differences were observed in 2002 and 2003. • As in 2002 and 2003, boomers and younger Americans also contemplate their finances more than older adults. Boomers are more likely than older adults to think often about their personal finances (47% vs. 33%) while younger adults are even more likely to often con- template their financial situation (57%). Boomers (30%) and younger Americans (31%) are more likely than older Americans (20%) to say they are worse off than they expected in their financial life. Further, boomers (23%) and younger adults (27%) are more likely than older Americans (11%) to see their finances as the worst aspect in their lives. • Physical health is a bigger issue for the older generation than for the two younger groups. Older Americans are somewhat more likely to express strong satisfaction
    • BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy Prepared for AARP by PSRA International 6 with their physical health (39%) than boomers (32%). And older Americans (26%) are more likely than boomers (19%) or younger Americans (13%) to mention their physical health when asked to name the most important thing in their life. At the same time, two in 10 older people (21%) identify health as the worst thing about their life, and an additional five percent mention aging. As in the past, boomers and younger Americans continue to talk about these concerns less often. • Following the same pattern that was found in 2002 and repeated in 2003, boomers and younger adults share more similarities to each other than they do to older adults when it comes to meeting life expectations. Not only are older Americans more likely to be very satisfied with each life area—except for physical health in which older Americans are more likely to be very satisfied than boomers although roughly as likely as younger adults—but in most life areas older Americans are also less likely to describe themselves as doing worse than expected than are boomers or younger adults. • As in 2002 and 2003, attitudes toward the future are clearly related to age. Boomers (72%) and younger Americans (91%) are much more likely to believe that things in their lives will be better five years from now than older Americans (42%). Other demographic comparisons show that boomers sometimes differ by age, gender, income, education and race and ethnicity in their life perspective. We continue to observe the least differences between younger and older boomers and the greatest differences between white, African American and Hispanic boomers. Intra-Generational Differences Similar to 2002 and 2003, there are very few differences between younger boomers (ages 40 to 47) and older boomers (ages 48 to 58). • Consistent with results from previous years, younger boomers (44%) are more likely than older boomers (33%) to say that their relationships with family and friends are the best thing in their lives right now. Older boomers, on the other hand, are a bit more likely to point to work or career (15% vs. 10%) as the best thing in their life than younger boomers. Older boomers are also somewhat more likely than younger boomers to say that simply “everything” (13% vs. 9%) is the best in life, yet somewhat less likely to say “nothing” is the worst (22% vs. 28%).
    • Prepared for AARP by PSRA International BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy 7 BOOMERS’ GENERAL HOPES FOR THE FUTURE BY AGE Five years from now, do you expect things in your life will be better, the same or worse than they are right now? Younger Younger Older Older Adults Boomers Boomers Adults Better 2004 91 76 67 42 2003 92 80 67 37 2002 92 84 71 41 Same 2004 7 18 23 36 2003 5 17 22 37 2002 7 11 22 34 Worse 2004 1 3 6 11 2003 2 1 5 11 2002 1 3 4 17 2004: Younger Adults (18–39) N=760; Younger Boomers (40–47) N=812; Older Boomers (48–58) N=1402; Older Adults (59+) N=824 2003: Younger Adults (18–38) N=736; Younger Boomers (39–46) N=755; Older Boomers (47–57) N=1213; Older Adults (58+) N=748 2002: Younger Adults (18–37) N=781; Younger Boomers (38–45) N=945; Older Boomers (46–56) N=1139; Older Adults (57+) N=758 • Younger boomers (76%) are more likely to say things will be better in five years than older boomers (67%) and are more likely to report thinking about their future often (67% vs. 58%). Gender Differences As we found in 2002 and 2003, male and female boomers differ little with a few exceptions. • On national matters, male boomers (43%) continue to be more likely to express satisfaction over the way things are going in the country as a whole than female boomers (29%). • Female boomers are more likely than male boomers to draw a high level of sat- isfaction from their religious or spiritual lives (53% vs. 42%), and female boomers are considerably more likely to say they think about religion a great deal than male boomers (58% vs. 36%). Female boomers also rate their current situation with religious or spiritual matters higher than males (7.2 vs. 6.4) and females are more likely to say they are better off than they expected when it comes to religion or spiritual matters (32% vs. 26%). • When asked to name the best and worst thing in their life, their top ambition for the near-term future and the biggest barrier keeping them from achieving their goals, male and female boomers continue to offer very similar responses. However, female boomers are somewhat more likely than male boomers to name family and friends as the best thing in their life (41% vs. 35%), their top ambition (14% vs. 7%) and the biggest thing standing in their way (10% vs. 4%). Male boomers, by contrast, are a bit more likely than female boomers to name work or career as the worst thing in their life (15% vs. 10%) and the biggest thing keeping them from achieving what they want out of life (6% vs. 3%) as well as their main ambition (26% vs. 19%). Income Differences Income continues to play a moderate role in shaping boomers’ evaluation of the life areas and their views about the future. • Consistent with the research findings from the past two years, higher earning boomers (household income of $75,000
    • BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy Prepared for AARP by PSRA International 8 or more) are much more likely to be more satisfied with their lives as a whole (91%) than low-income boomers (68%)— those with a household income less than $25,000. The same is true for many of the specific life areas addressed— relationships with family and friends, mental health, work or career and personal finances. • Again consistent with 2002 and 2003, low-income boomers cite finances as being the worst aspect of their lives (26%) more often than their top earning counterparts (18%). Those in the lowest income bracket (15%) are also more likely to name health concerns as the worst thing in their life right now than those who make more than $75,000 (6%). Nearly two in 10 boomers in the lowest income category (17%) say their health status is keeping them from achieving what they really want out of life, compared to only 3 percent of top earners. Top earners by contrast are more likely to mention time constraints or their own motivation. • As has been true for the last two years, boomers in the lowest income category rate their financial situation lower than those with the highest earnings yet hope to make considerably larger strides in this area. Low-income boomers also rate their physical health status lower than top earners while hoping for larger future improvements. • Lower income boomers spend more time thinking about the future in many life areas than higher income boomers. At the same time, lower income boomers report engaging in fewer planning activities than boomers with higher incomes. Boomers in the bottom income category (63%) are much more likely to say that they would rather be spontaneous than plan their future in detail than boomers with the highest earnings (37%). • When describing their future, the lowest earning boomers use negative adjectives such as stressful, anxious, uncertain and boring more often than those with the highest household incomes. By contrast, high-income boomers are more likely to say fulfilling or confident. Low-income boomers are also less likely to be confident in their ability to achieve the gains they want in many life areas. Education Differences Education continues to play a modest role in shaping boomers’ attitudes. • Consistent with 2002 and 2003 findings, boomers with a college degree (86%) are somewhat more likely to be satisfied with their lives in general than less-educated boomers (80%). More specifically, college- educated boomers are more likely to be very satisfied with their mental health (65% vs. 57%), personal finances (27% vs. 20%) and work or career lives (48% vs. 36%) than those without a college degree. Nevertheless, both groups look to the future with optimism and expect life to improve in the next five years. • While level of education has little influence on boomers’ perceived likelihood of achieving their goals, those with a college degree have a greater sense of control over a few
    • Prepared for AARP by PSRA International BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy 9 important aspects of their life, namely personal finances, physical health and religious or spiritual life. • College educated boomers are more likely to think about the future in general very often than those with less formal education (68% vs. 60%). But boomers who did not complete college are more likely to think quite often about their physical health (47% vs. 38%) or mental health (27% vs. 17%). • Boomers with a college degree are more likely to say that “fulfilling” describes the future very well than those without a college degree while boomers without a college degree are more likely to think that the adjectives anxious, uncertain, stressful, and boring are very good descriptors of what the future holds. Race and Ethnicity Differences As was the case for the last two years, race and ethnicity continue to play a notable role in shaping boomer attitudes toward their life and their future—more so than age, gender, income or education. • Consistent with previous results, a large majority of white, African American and Hispanic boomers are satisfied with the way things are going in their lives, although fewer African Americans (73%) express satisfaction with the way things are going than white (84%) or Hispanic boomers (81%). • As in 2002 and 2003, a clear plurality of white boomers say relations with family and friends is the most important aspect of their life (43%), while African American boomers are most likely to say religious or spiritual life (38%) is the most important. Hispanic boomers, on the other hand, are more equally divided between citing family and friends (34%) and physical health (28%) as the most important area. • African American and Hispanic boomers are more likely than white boomers to say they are better off than they expected to be at this point in their life when it comes to relations with family and friends, religious or spiritual life, physical health, mental health and leisure. In the area of personal finance, African Americans (44%) are considerably more likely than white (29%) or Hispanic boomers (26%) to say they are worse off than expected.
    • BoomersatMidlife:TheAARPLifeStageStudy Prepared for AARP by PSRA International 10 BOOMERS’ ATTITUDES TOWARD THE FUTURE AND CONTROL OVER THE FUTURE BY RACE/ETHNICITY Please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with each statement. % who strongly agree ... African White American Hispanic I plan a lot for my future. 2004 41 55 52 2003 42 53 52 2002 36 54 47 When I really want to do something, I usually find a way to succeed at it. 2004 66 73 73 2003 67 74 64 2002 63 75 70 What happens to me in the future mostly depends on me. 2004 68 76 72 2003 67 77 67 2002 67 77 74 There is little I can do to change important things in my life. 2004 8 16 16 2003 7 14 24 2002 7 19 22 2004: White boomers (40–58) N=784; African American boomers (40–58) N=731; Hispanic boomers (40–58) N=692 2003: White boomers (39–57) N=630; African American boomers (39–57) N=703; Hispanic boomers (39–57) N=648 2002: White boomers (38–56) N=738; African American boomers (38–56) N=702; Hispanic boomers (38–56) N=643 • As has been the case for the last two years, more than half of African American (55%) and Hispanic (52%) boomers report that they plan a lot for the future—the same is true for somewhat fewer white boomers (41%). • A majority of white, African American and Hispanic boomers feel in control of their future. Seven in 10 or more white (68%), Hispanic (72%) and African American (76%) boomers strongly agree with the statement: “What happens to me in the future mostly depends on me.” On the flip side, Hispanic (16%) and African American (16%) boomers are more likely to think there is little they can do to change the important things in their lives than are white boomers (8%). Methodology This nationwide, representative telephone survey of 3,850 adults age 18 and older was conducted April 5 through May 31, 2004 by Princeton Survey Research Associates Inter- national. PSRAI interviewed 2,266 boomers age 40 to 58, 760 younger Americans age 18 to 39, and 824 older Americans age 59 and older. In addition to oversampling boomers, PSRAI interviewed 1,178 African Americans and 1,218 Hispanic Americans. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 2 percentage points. The margin of error for boomers is plus or minus 3 percentage points, for younger adults 18 to 38 it is plus or minus 5 percent- age points and for older adults age 58 and older it is plus or minus 5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conduc- ting telephone surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of this survey.
    • 2004 The AARP Life Stage Study Wave 3 Executive Summary Boomers at Midlife 601 E Street, NW Washington DC 20049 888-OUR-AARP www.aarp.org D18217 © 2005 AARP May be copied only for noncommercial purposes and with attribution; permission required for all other purposes.