A new study from Merrill Lynch asserts that the oft-predicted baby boomer retirement crisis will be a nonevent for one important reason: Most boomers don’t plan on retiring in the same fashion as their parents.

According to “The New Retirement Survey,” conducted for Merrill by Harris Interactive and Age Wave, 76 percent of baby boomers plan to work during their so-called “retirement years.” The income and benefits from these jobs will reduce the boomers’ reliance on income from retirement savings, thus averting the expected crisis.

“We found solid evidence that the model of work folding over into your life is prevalent,” says Michael Falcon, COO of Merrill Lynch’s Retirement Group. “The old savings models are changing. It’s not a linear process anymore.”

The survey is based on 2,348 responses from 40- to 58-year olds.

Rather than look at what people’s thoughts were about their preparation for “leisure time” in retirement, the survey instead examined what they expect their quality of life in “retirement” to be. One interesting result: 56 percent of respondents plan on working in retirement at a different job than they do now.

“We found that people don’t really want 20 years of what we have considered ‘retirement,’” says Ken Dychtwald, a gerontologist and author who helped put together the study. “The boomers are high achievers who want to stay in the game.”

Dychtwald says that just as the baby boomers have changed the very nature of things like dieting, family and gender roles, they are now reinventing retirement. That is to say the days of working until you’re 65 and then sitting around watching television until death are over.

Though the need for more money is certainly a motivating factor for working after age 65, 67 percent of the survey’s respondents said they would be doing so mainly to remain “mentally active.” Only 37 percent cited money as the main driving force.

Falcon said the study would “significantly” alter how Merrill approached retirement planning. The study is being distributed to all the firm’s advisors.

Other interesting tidbits from the study:

  • The biggest fear facing aging boomers: illness and health care. Forty-eight percent said they were worried about a major illness, 53 percent said they were worried about their ability to pay for health care and 48 percent said they were afraid they would end up in a nursing home. Dying was a major concern to only 17 percent of respondents.
  • Women are making more significant contributions to couples’ retirement plans. Thirty-three percent of women say they are “sharing” responsibility for retirement, as opposed to 5 percent in 1962.