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How 'eBaby Boomers' are finding extra cash in their closets

Published: Monday, March 31 2014 10:15 a.m. MDT

Glen Beckstead goes through some of his collections in his work room on Saturday, March 29, 2014.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A growing number of baby boomers are making money by taking a lifetime of possessions and selling them online.

The Mail in Britain calls them "eBaby boomers" and cites a survey by MGM Advantage, a UK-based retirement income company, that says 1 in 5 people of the post-war generation are selling off their property online because they haven't saved enough for retirement.

Marsha Collier, the author of "eBay For Seniors For Dummies" and "eBay for Dummies," tells the Deseret News this isn't what is going on. She says selling online is natural for seniors and aging boomers who are using the Internet more. For example, she points to statistics from researchers at GlobalWebIndex, an Internet marketing research firm. The researchers found in 2013 that 55- to 64-year-olds were Twitter's fastest increasing demographic, growing 79 percent in nine months. Although less than half of 1 percent of Twitter users disclose their age, Beevolve, a social media monitoring company, says only about 6 percent admit to being over 46 years old — leaving a lot of room for growth.

GlobalWebIndex also found that Facebook and Google+ grew 46 percent and 56 percent respectively among people aged 45 to 54.

Collier says that even though usage statistics are hard to find for eBay, she believes the increasing numbers of older Americans on other Internet services show a growing familiarity and comfort with engaging online. And as baby boomers retire, they have more time and, as Collier puts it, "a bucket load of stuff to sell" from a lifetime of purchasing things. Heading into the golden years and selling stuff is "a natural fit," she says.

It isn't necessarily that baby boomers haven't saved, she says, but that they see they can "monetize all the possessions they have collected over the years, and turn them into something concrete."

Ivan Sacks, a financial strategist in Dallas, sides more with the idea that there is a growing need for money among cash-strapped boomers as they approach and enter retirement.

"There are more people who worry about how they are going to pay for their parents or for their kids in college," Sacks says. "There is a desire for more money than what they needed previously. Kids have moved home and don't have full time jobs. So there is a definite need for additional money."

Downsizing burdens

As people go through life, they accumulate property. Gifts, inheritances, necessities and niceties fill homes. Glen Beckstead is chief cost estimator at MHTN Architects in Salt Lake City and has a side business selling antiques and collectibles online — and helps other people sell their stuff as well. Beckstead says one reason boomers are selling is because they are beginning to downsize. "You may as well get the money out of it," Beckstead says, "rather than throwing it away."

Not getting rid of things also places a burden on family later on, he says.

Anthony Christensen, an antique dealer who has a large store, Anthony's Fine Art and Antiques, in Salt Lake City, agrees. "I think you are burdening the children when you are giving them things, and I think you are assuming that because you had it that they want it," Christensen says. "Don't assume your children are going to want it because you liked it. So sell it. Get rid of it — whether you sell it by eBay, or sell it to a dealer or put it in an auction or whatever you do."

What to sell

Collier says people would be surprised by what can sell on eBay. Ashtrays, matchbook covers, postcards, vinyl records. "Walk around your house," Collier says. "We all have cool stuff that we don't care about anymore."

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