Digital literacy is one of the most important skills you can have in today’s modern world. Over the past two decades, internet use has exploded – to the point that almost all stores have a web presence.
What Does This Mean for Baby Boomers?
Baby boomers were already middle-aged by the time the internet became popular, and their digital literacy levels are concerning. In fact, only two-thirds of baby boomers use smartphones or the internet in any capacity, with one-third saying they never do. About half don’t have broadband.
Today, 42 percent of adults say that they own a smartphone, though many don’t use it regularly. It’s also the first time in history that over half of individuals over age 65 can connect to the internet from home.
When you get into age 75 and up, though, that’s when the stats really start to suffer. About half of the adults age 75+ use the internet. About a third have broadband, and only about one-fourth own smartphones.
Many seniors indicate that they aren’t confident that they can navigate the internet successfully using their phone or computer. Almost half of all seniors have said that someone else has to show them how to use their new technology when they get it.
With all of that said, more than half of the seniors in America believe that technology has positively affected society. It’s easier to connect, to stay up-to-date on the news, to keep your mind sharp, to order food, to invest, and a thousand other tasks that used to take more time and energy.
Of the seniors who use the internet, about 75 percent indicate that they go online at least once per day, while almost 10 percent are online most of the time.
The Biggest Problem Baby Boomers Face in Retirement
The internet has done a lot of good for the world. And as time goes on, digital literacy may become not just a convenience, but a necessity. In fact, you might already notice that it’s difficult to do things you used to without using the internet for them.
And Baby Boomers are experiencing a problem that many never expected to. Retirement can now last for decades. With the tumbles that the economy has taken, even the most well-structured investment portfolios aren’t always enough to carry them through.
Twice as many men are expected to live to age 90 as in 1965. And as time goes on, more and more people become seniors.
It’s recommended that you have at least 1,000,000 dollars saved up to last you for thirty years in retirement. And yet most boomers don’t even have 20,000 dollars saved up. Maybe you got started on retirement saving late. Maybe you had to dip into your savings for an emergency. Maybe you simply couldn’t keep up with inflation and market fluctuations.
This means that the majority of boomers don’t have the means to retire fully, comfortably, or independently. A problem compounding that is lack of financial literacy. There’s a misunderstanding of how many people will need long-term care. About twice as many people will need it as think they need it.
Almost half of all women in their 40’s and over say that they’re worried they won’t be able to save for retirement. Many were married to men who handled finances, and they then got divorced later in life.
This is a problem that is affecting people all over the country in mass percentages. So what are Baby Boomers doing to combat it?
Mostly, they’re going back to work.
Working After Retirement
Today, about 41 percent of the population believes that they will keep working past the age of 65. In 1995, that number was just 13.5 percent. Many boomers expected to retire and then were unable to. In fact, the largest growing age group in today’s workforce is Baby Boomers.
But to get a job, you have to have some sense of digital literacy. That’s especially true for office jobs and telecommunication jobs. With most jobs being work-from-home during the pandemic, the only alternative is to get a job in an industry like retail. This is likely to have grueling physical demands and hours.
Struggles with Employers
If you don’t know how to use a computer, employers aren’t generally willing to teach you. Research indicates that more than 50 percent of people over the age of 50 have lost a job because of their age, a practice called “involuntary retirement.”
At the same time, it’s rare for a company to allow a retirement-age employee to move from full-time to part-time work. The mentality seems to be all-or-nothing. So you’re likely to need to find a new job in retirement, even if you’ve worked at your old one for decades.
Even when older workers are employed, about 60 percent are subject to ageism. Since so many older people are now in the workplace, and since workplaces require so much digital literacy, there are now twice as many age-based workplace discrimination suits as there were in 1990.
Changing Demographics in Different Jobs
Teens are no longer the main people working in fast food. Instead, retirees and baby boomers are most likely to replace them in the kitchen. And there aren’t many fast-food jobs available. Many seniors don’t feel safe in food service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One potential solution is gig work, otherwise known as contracting and freelancing. This type of work allows you to set your own hours, take on your own projects, and set your own pay rates.
But to learn how to navigate the gig economy, you need to learn to use a computer.
The retirement situation for Baby Boomers is dire, but learning how to use the internet can help.
Boomers who learn about freelancing online can pull in an income through freelance and contract work.
It’s especially important to learn about technology during the pandemic since this is the main way that people are communicating with companies and each other.