The folks at Robert Half International (NYSE: RHI) recently asked 150 executives what they think will have the greatest effect on the national workforce in the coming years. These were their top answers:

  • 47%: Baby boomer retirements
  • 31%: Global business interactions
  • 11%: Outsourcing
  • 5%: Remote work arrangements

I'm not surprised that concerns about the baby boomers came in first. Lots of people worry, for example, that boomers will sell their stocks en masse when they retire and send the stock market into a tailspin. Others envision plummeting housing prices when boomers sell their homes and move to retirement communities.

A positive perspective
But things aren't likely to be that bad. For starters, the baby boomer generation is spread over two decades, with birth years ranging from 1946 to 1964. So whatever they do, they won't do it all at once. Besides, many are flush enough with cash so they won't need to sell much.

And even if a boomer were to retire this year and sell some stock to make ends meet, he or she will still keep much of that stock right where it is. After all, there's a chance the typical retirement-age boomer will live another 20-25 years, and much of his or her money will grow most effectively in stocks.

Meanwhile, whatever stocks boomers sell when they retire won't be sitting on a shelf with no buyers. There will always be buyers, from younger Americans entering the market to existing shareholders wanting to buy additional shares. Foreign investors might snatch some of those shares because there will be lots of newly minted middle-class members in the developing world.

Another reason to smile: Even if the market does tank for a while from a boomer sell-off, the capital of investors who stay in the market several years after that will have plenty of time to recover. What's more, temporary dips in the market may provide good buying opportunities!

A less positive perspective
Not everything is rosy, however, in the Boomer Retirement Village. The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that 60% of people age 45 and older have less than $100,000 in retirement savings, while about 40% of the 45-and-older crowd has managed to save less than $25,000. And more than one-third of all workers surveyed have less than $10,000 in savings.

Think about what that means. Let's say you're 45, you have $10,000 in savings, and you're earning the market's average annual return of 10%. That's a reasonable assumption, given that a typical broad-market index fund that invests in companies such as Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Viacom (NYSE: VIA), and Cardinal Health (NYSE: CAH) has earned roughly that much over time. By age 65, that amount will have grown to a little more than $67,000. Will that be enough to retire? Hardly! Social Security will help, if it's still there, but it won't be enough to replace the incomes we're used to living on.

Many boomers won't be able to afford to retire -- not on their preferred schedule. Many will keep working a few more years to accumulate more money. Still others will keep working pretty much for the rest of their lives, to some degree. Prepare for seeing lots of senior citizens with part-time jobs.

What to do
Don't get stuck with paltry savings when retirement rolls around. Read up on how to best save and invest for your golden days. We can help! Take advantage of a free, 30-day trial of our Rule Your Retirement newsletter service. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues, so you can gather valuable tips and read about how some folks have retired early and well. The service regularly offers recommendations of promising stocks and mutual funds, too.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Pfizer is an Inside Value recommendation. Try our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.