Friday, 24 June 2016

Talking 'Bout My Generation

As a card-carrying mid-range Baby Boomer, born in the year the Korean War ended, there are a few Boomer-specific issues in my observation.

1. Baby Boomers spent the first half of our lives being considered too young to be taken seriously and the second half being considered too old to be taken seriously. We went directly from "whippersnapper" to "codger" somewhere around our 42nd birthdays, without ever going through the intermediate stage of "adult person who gets taken seriously".  Our working lives consisted of a stage of our complaining about "old farts" followed by a stage of our complaining about "young farts".

2. We missed out (mostly) on the various great tribal youth experiences of the later 20th century.
  • The generation before us were the ones who really experienced the decades of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis, the Beatles, and hippiedom.  We were the "little kids" when the Beatles hit the scene.  By the time when Baby Boomers were old enough to become hippies, hippies were already passé.
  • Similarly, the generation after us were the ones who experienced the era of the yuppie.  We were the generation who told yuppie jokes.

3.  Boomers are the first generation where it is fairly normal to reach retirement age with one or both parents still alive.  This is a very good thing.  It means that medical care has become increasingly better and the generation who are the parents of Baby Boomers are the first to really enjoy this improved care.

4. Boomers are the first generation where it is fairly normal to reach retirement age with economically-dependent children.  This is largely because of the social inequalities promoted globally (initially by pre-Boomer - don't blame Boomers for this! - politicians and economists) since the Reagan-Thatcher years.

5. Because of (1), many Boomers are under great pressure to retire, both from employers who see us as too old to cope and from our own desire to leave frustrating work situations.  

6. Because of financial pressures associated with (3) and (4), many Boomers are reluctant to retire. 

7.  Because of the time and financial pressures associated with (3) and (4), Baby Boomers don't associate the concept of "retirement" with such things as golf and travel, in the ways earlier generations did.

8.  We grew up in the shadow of The Bomb.  I was nine at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Many of us grew up assuming that the end of our lives would occur in the context of an exchange of nuclear weapons between the USA and the USSR, along with the lives of everyone else we knew.  When the Berlin Wall fell, many of us were confronted for the first time with the possibility that living to old age was a real possibility.

That may be one reason why so many of us made fairly inadequate preparations for retirement when we were younger, and why many of us are risk-averse and security-obsessed when we think about our financial situations.  We only started to take an interest in financial matters around the same time as Mr. Gorbachev was taking the steps he took to end the Cold War. 

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