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Leader's Edge Marigold Years

For baby boomers, retirement may not be what they expected.

By  Sharon Emek

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” was the most important 2012 summer movie for the insurance industry. The film explores the joys, myths and misconceptions of retirement, all of which are about to burst open the insurance industry.

“Marigold Hotel” follows seven British retirees who “outsource” their retirement to India to save money at what they were told was a newly restored hotel. In reality, they are the hotel’s first guests in a long time, and their supposed golden years play out in unexpected ways.

Lacking the luxury of its advertised promise, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful is a dilapidated building that nonetheless starts to appeal to these diverse retirees. The accidental companions explore a place that, like their future, is both enchanting and daunting.

So, too, is the insurance industry approaching the unknown. The elder baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are now 66 years old. One of eight Americans is age 65 or older, and the estimated average age of insurance workers is 58. As the influx of boomers approach retirement, the American workforce is at a critical point. This generation has never done anything like its predecessors, and its retirement years are likely to look different as well.

Here are some key lines from the movie and how they apply to our industry:

“I was no longer useful to them. They thanked me for my service.”

It’s the explanation that the bitter Mrs. Donnelly (played by Dame Maggie Smith), gives for her forced retirement. She, thanks to British healthcare rationing, must get her hip replacement in India.

But such a quote can also be the lament of any laid-off worker. A hotel servant’s humility softens Donnelly, and her caregiving experience for a wealthy British household comes in handy. She pores over the books of the poorly managed hotel and convinces an investor to come on board.

Insurance professionals’ experiences also are invaluable. Might real-life retirees also save the day for the new generation of agencies and brokers?

“I just need to feel young again.”

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