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The Youngest Baby Boomers Turn 50

Emily Brandon

The youngest baby boomers are turning 50 in 2014. The oldest baby boomers started turning 65 back in 2011, and many of them have already retired. The aging of this massive generation born between 1946 and 1964 will have significant implications for the entire country, according to a series of recent Census Bureau reports. Here's a look at the baby boomers as they begin to enter their retirement years:

Aging population. By 2030, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be age 65 or older, compared with 13 percent in 2010 (before any of the baby boomers turned 65) and 9.8 percent in 1970. And in 2050, there will be 83.7 million people age 65 and older, almost double the 43.1 million seniors in 2012. "The United States is projected to age significantly over this period," says Jennifer Ortman, chief of the population projections branch of the Census Bureau. "Changes in the age structure of the U.S. population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape."

[Read: 10 Rapidly Aging Countries.]

However, the U.S. population is still younger than that of many other developed countries. With 20.3 percent of the population expected to be age 65 and older in 2030, the U.S. will have a smaller proportion of older residents than Germany (27.9 percent), Italy (25.5 percent), France (23.4 percent) and Spain (22 percent). Japan is likely to con­tinue to be the oldest country, with nearly a third (32.2 percent) of its population projected to be age 65 and older in 2030. But Russia, China and India are noteworthy for having younger populations than the U.S.

Living longer. The typical life span has increased significantly over the past 30 years. Life expectancy after age 65 has grown from 15.2 additional years in 1972 to 19.1 years in 2010, a gain of 3.9 years. People who make it to 85 have a life expectancy of another 6.5 years, a year longer than 85-year-olds in 1972. Healthy baby boomers are likely to live even longer. "They could live to be 95 easily," says George Schofield, a developmental psychologist and author of "After 50 It's Up to Us." While this longevity bonus will give boomers more time to pursue their passions and leave their mark on the world, it's also additional years of retirement that need to be financed. "They are going to have to find a way to make their income last a lot longer than the earlier generations did," Schofield says.

Working longer. To pay for what could be several decades of retirement, many boomers will need to continue working during the traditional retirement years at least part time. "As the boomers look at retirement, they are going to most likely stay at work longer because they will want to and they will need to," says Ken Dychtwald, a gerontologist who founded Age Wave and co-author of "A New Purpose: Redefining Money, Family, Work, Retirement, and Success." "They are not looking at retirement as a one-way trip to leisureville, but as a time to reinvent themselves and try something new."

[Read: The Best Places to Work in Retirement .]

Many boomers are still in good health and will likely be able to continue to work into their 60s. "The nature of work has changed. There are fewer people who work in jobs that wear your body down, and people are in better health later in life," says Paul Taylor, an executive vice president at the Pew Research Center and author of "The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown." However, work will also be an economic necessity for those who haven't adequately prepared for retirement. "Some of it is boomers haven't done a great job of getting ready for retirement, and they can't afford this," Taylor says.

Requiring assistance. The old-age dependency ratio increased from 12 older adults for every 100 working-age people in 1945 to almost 21 seniors for every 100 workers in 2010. Even bigger increases in the older population are expected as more baby boomers enter the retirement years. In 2030, when all of the baby boomers will be 65 or older, there are expected to be 35 senior citizens for every 100 working-age adults, according to Census Bureau projections. At that time, only 57 percent of the population will be between ages 18 to 64, compared with 63 percent in 2012. "Old people need to be supported and at some point, they cease being economically productive," Taylor says. "There are going to be stresses on families and government as they cross the threshold into old age."

[Read: 9 Important Ages for Retirement Planning .]

The echo boom. Perhaps one of the greatest legacies of the baby boom generation is the echo boom of births that occurred between 1976 and 2001. Members of the echo boom will turn 14 through 39 in 2014. Dur­ing these years, there were as many births and sometimes more than during the baby boom years, the Census Bureau found. However, births during the echo boom years were the product of many people having a smaller number of children, and not the result of individuals hav­ing many children as the parents of baby boomers did.

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