Did Baby Boomers Have it Better Than Their Kids?

 

shutterstock_150827840Thanksgiving dinner would not be complete without inter-generational verbal conflict conducted while consuming a bird for the crime of being delicious. Traditionally, these discussions have revolved around how the older generations had it so tough:

  • “I had to walk 12 miles barefoot in the snow to Our Lady of 25th Street and we had one nun to teach 145 kids”
  • “Our tenement had one outhouse for 15 units to share”
  • “Because of the Kaiser I could never really enjoy my liberty cabbage”

With all the changes of the last few years, I say that in 2014 the tables have turned, and it’s time for the younger generation to tell their elders how good they had it this holiday. Some reasons:

  • The economy is growing half as fast for us as it did for Boomers (real GDP growth 1974 to 1984 was +37% and for 2004 to 2014 was +17%).  And these are the government inflation adjusted GDP numbers;
  • Every other ad on TV is features a couple discussing ED or Henry Winkler hocking reverse mortgages;
  • The U6 unemployment rate has been well over 10% for 6 years and is currently almost 13%. For the non-economic nerds, U6 unemployment includes those who gave up looking for a job or are forced to work part-time because they can’t find a fulltime job, unlike the nonsense U3 (“total unemployment”) number the media uses;
  • Homes were an investment not a reverse ATM machine (median home prices were up almost 50% from 1976-1980 and down 10% from 2006-2010);
  • “Don’t let the bedbugs bite” was said as a joke for boomers; today, we check our kids’ mattresses; and
  • Coca-Cola had real sugar, cars were made out of metal, and saying “Merry Christmas” was not a micro-aggression leading to a one-way ticket to the reeducation camp

And please don’t tell us about growing up during the Cold War and living with ICBMs pointed at your garage; you weren’t the only ones, and Red Dawn wasn’t marketed at you. Wolverines!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Pleated, you’ve skipped an entire generation here!

    Granted, the Greatest Generation has given plenty of lectures, but please don’t inhibit Boomers from taking their rightful place in the preacher’s pulpit! I have so many Woodstock/Microsoft analogies yet to make …

    • #1
  2. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    EThompson:Pleated, you’ve skipped an entire generation here!

    Granted, the Greatest Generation has given plenty of lectures, but please don’t inhibit Boomers from taking their rightful place in the preacher’s pulpit! I have so many Woodstock/Microsoft analogies yet to make …

    Should be fun. Looking forward to this!

    • #2
  3. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Don’t get me wrong, I love boomers.  My parents are boomers, my boss is a boomer, boomer antics make my youth look quite tame, and (much of) the music was good.

    I’m just saying that if a generation leaves the house in worse shape than they got it then the right to dribble on about their youthful woes at holidays ends.

    • #3
  4. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    EThompson:Pleated, you’ve skipped an entire generation here!

    Granted, the Greatest Generation has given plenty of lectures, but please don’t inhibit Boomers from taking their rightful place in the preacher’s pulpit! I have so many Woodstock/Microsoft analogies yet to make …

    Nope, sorry.  Not until this economy turns around, the Cialis ads come of the TV, or boomers knock the Germans around a bit like their grand parents and parents (I mean, how hard could that be at this point?).

    I will grant you that Woodstock helps make my youthful drunken self look like a choir boy.

    • #4
  5. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Well, I am at the young end of the Boomer set, and I candidly acknowledge that my sons do not have as good a living arrangement nor such a good an economic outlook as I had.

    They have conveniences that I could not afford, and entertainments that I could only imagine, but those are shallow aspects of life.

    • #5
  6. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    Agreed.  There may never be another generation that has it as good as the Boomers.  Why?  Simply because the Boomers made their lives easy by borrowing from their offspring and passing the burden on to their kids.

    • #6
  7. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    MJBubba:Well, I am at the young end of the Boomer set, and I candidly acknowledge that my sons do not have as good a living arrangement nor such a good an economic outlook as I had.

    They have conveniences that I could not afford, and entertainments that I could only imagine, but those are shallow aspects of life.

    MJBubba – It may be the fact that I’m on my fourth beer (the kids are running around with the neighbor kids in the basement and my wife is chatting with the neighbor lady downstairs, so I’m holed up with my booze) but I do appreciate your candor.  My iJunk (again, Apple people, settle down) is neat but not a great trade off for being able to afford a family as easily as our folks could.

    • #7
  8. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Pony Convertible:Agreed. There may never be another generation that has it as good as the Boomers. Why? Simply because the Boomers made their lives easy by borrowing from their offspring and passing the burden on to their kids.

    Yep.  Maybe SS and Medicare will be the payback when they find they did not create enough of us working jerks to keep it going.  “How did you go bankrupt?  Slowly, and then quickly”….something like that.

    • #8
  9. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Pleated Pants Forever:Don’t get me wrong, I love boomers. My parents are boomers, my boss is a boomer, boomer antics make my youth look quite tame, and (much of) the music was good.

    I’m just saying that if a generation leaves the house in worse shape than they got it then the right to dribble on about their youthful woes at holidays ends.

    Much of the music” is good?

    I think you’re blaming a generation and should, in fact, be pointing fingers at specific political decisions- see the Community Reinvestment Act which was legislated by pols supported by GGs, Boomers, and GenXers. There’s plenty of blame to spread around.

    BTW, the original sponsors of this bill- Ted Kennedy and Christopher Dodd- were not Boomers.

    • #9
  10. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    EThompson:

    Much of the music” is good?

    I think you’re blaming a generation and should, in fact, be pointing fingers at specific political decisions- see the Community Reinvestment Act which was legislated by pols supported by GGs, Boomers, and GenXers. There’s plenty of blame to spread around.

    BTW, the original sponsors of this bill-Ted Kennedy and Christopher Dodd– were not Boomers.

    The music – come on now.  There was a ton of good stuff….but what about The Monkees, Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band….need I go on

    Agreed that every generation has made mistakes….however, the Boomers were the first generation to make so many that life became worse for the offspring (that is not a music reference).  Thought police and speech codes at universities, Federal Reserve created boom and bust cycles, a ten billion page tax code, making the earth a religion…….

    • #10
  11. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    EThompson:

    Much of the music” is good?

    I think you’re blaming a generation and should, in fact, be pointing fingers at specific political decisions- see the Community Reinvestment Act which was legislated by pols supported by GGs, Boomers, and GenXers. There’s plenty of blame to spread around.

    BTW, the original sponsors of this bill-Ted Kennedy and Christopher Dodd– were not Boomers.

    The music – come on now. There was a ton of good stuff….but what about The Monkees, Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band….need I go on

    Agreed that every generation has made mistakes….however, the Boomers were the first generation to make so many that life became worse for the offspring (that is not a music reference). Thought police and speech codes at universities, Federal Reserve created boom and bust cycles, a ten billion page tax code, making the earth a religion…….

    I could bash the GGs for electing FDR to four terms and irrevocably changing my Boomer landscape for the worse and the Millennials for changing the tide in the 2008 presidential election, but I’m only going to argue this:

    1. Gates/Jobs/Grove/Ellison who paved the way for Zuckerberg/Page/Brin.

    2. Beatles, Stones, The Who, Kinks, Yardbirds, CSN&Y, Hendrix, Dylan, Motown, Bowie, Reed, U2.

    Next!

    • #11
  12. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    As a GenXer I tell lil’uns that when I was Their age I had to walk 10 feet through 8 inches of shag carpeting to change the channel…. both ways!

    • #12
  13. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    EThompson:

    I could bash the GGs for electing FDR to four terms and irrevocably changing my Boomer landscape for the worse and the Millennials for changing the tide in the 2008 presidential election, but I’m only going to argue this:

    1. Gates/Jobs/Grove/Ellison who paved the way for Zuckerberg/Page/Brin.

    2. Beatles, Stones, The Who, Kinks, Yardbirds, CSN&Y, Hendrix, Dylan, Motown, Bowie, Reed, U2.

    Next!

    Yes, the GGs were not perfect.  No generation is perfect.  However, they did blow up half the world resulting in the Boomers enjoying an abundance unheard of in human history.  The Boomers have, primarily, taken things earlier generations created and tweaked it to make it a little better.  Let’s look at life in 1920….electricity (maybe), plumbing (maybe), entertainment (a radio, maybe), 1950 (the Boomers) check all and add TV, phone, etc, 1990….OK, my TV is now color and we have two phones, great……..

    John Lennon (born 1940), Mick Jagger (born 1943), Roger Daltry (born 1944), Ray Davies (1944)…….these are Silent Generation, where are the Boomers?  Now, Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister (born 1955), there is a Boomer.  Is this what you are hanging your hat on?

    • #13
  14. otherdeanplace@yahoo.com Member
    otherdeanplace@yahoo.com
    @EustaceCScrubb

    What kids today do have is access to virtually every song ever sung, movie ever made and book ever written at their fingertips.(“When I was your age, if I missed a TV episode, I’d have to wait to see it until the summer rerun, if they played it them.”)

    Cheap (or free) communication to most every part of the globe.(“And I had to lick the envelope and the stamp!”)

    Cars that will parallel park for them.   ( “I think I can buff that out…”)

    Taco shells made out of Doritos.

    So they got that going for them.

    • #14
  15. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Jimmy Carter:As a GenXer I tell lil’uns that when I was Their age I had to walk 10 feet through 8 inches of shag carpeting to change the channel…. both ways!

    When I was a kid we had carpet in the bathroom.  The bathroom!  Who does that?  I’ll tell you who, Boomers.

    • #15
  16. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Eustace C. Scrubb:What kids today do have is access to virtually every song ever sung, movie ever made and book ever written at their fingertips.

    Cheap (or free) communication to most every part of the globe.

    Cars that will parallel park for them.

    Taco shells made out of Doritos.

    So they got that going for them.

    Yes, and no job and a spot in their parents basement :)

    • #16
  17. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    John Lennon (born 1940), Mick Jagger (born 1943), Roger Daltry (born 1944), Ray Davies (1944)…….these are Silent Generation, where are the Boomers? 

    Technically, Boomers were begat in 1946 so you’re splitting some hairs here. (Paul and George were born in ’42 and ’43.)

    In any case, the certifiable Boomers made these people famous.

    • #17
  18. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    EThompson:Technically, Boomers were begat in 1946 so you’re splitting some hairs here. (Paul and George were born in ’42 and ’43.)

    In any case, the certifiable Boomers made these people famous.

    ET – thanks very much for the lively discussion!  Helps distract me as I hear the kids screaming and tearing apart the basement.

    Granted I am splitting hairs.  But if there is one thing I learned from my Boomer parents it is to split hairs.

    For instance, how are we any different from other misogynistic cultures when we have men and women’s bathrooms?

    • #18
  19. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    EThompson:Technically, Boomers were begat in 1946 so you’re splitting some hairs here. (Paul and George were born in ’42 and ’43.)

    In any case, the certifiable Boomers made these people famous.

    ET – thanks very much for the lively discussion! Helps distract me as I hear the kids screaming and tearing apart the basement.

    Granted I am splitting hairs. But if there is one thing I learned from my Boomer parents it is to split hairs.

    For instance, how are we any different from other misogynistic cultures when we have men and women’s bathrooms?

    Separate bathrooms protect women from misogyny. I would go so far as to credit my successful marriage (in no insignificant way) to the fact that I have never shared a bathroom with my husband.  :)

    • #19
  20. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    As David Foot points out in Boom, Bust, and Echo, it depends on which Baby Boomers you’re talking about.

    The early Boomers (born about 1946 to 1959) were phenomenally fortunate.

    When these early Boomers started to enter the workforce (around 1964), US federal debt was about 40% of GDP, it had been falling for 20 years, and it would continue to fall for another decade. Unemployment was at 5% and would continue to go down for another decade.

    The later Boomers (born about 1959 to 1972, when the birth control pill was legalized for unmarried women) didn’t have it quite as good.

    When they started to enter the workforce (around 1977) unemployment was high and stagflation was in full swing. The early boomers had most of the jobs and enough new jobs to go around weren’t being created until the mid/late 80s.

    The next group, the Baby Busters (my group, born between 1972 and 1982, to pre-Boomer parents) were born in much smaller numbers and when we started to enter the workforce (about 1990) the early Boomers were poised to start retiring. As such, we had much less competition for jobs, and we were positioned really well to take advantage of the new technology revolution.

    Which brings us to the Boomer Echo (also known as the millenials).  These kids are the children of the Boomers.  Now, the Boomers weren’t nearly as fertile as their parents (thanks to the pill), but since there were SO many Boomers, their offspring make a pretty big cohort (Boom -> Echo, get it?).

    These kids are all competing for jobs that are currently already held by the Busters. The Busters haven’t moved up the chain of command because too many Boomers aren’t retiring, which means that there are fewer entry-level opportunities.

    Meanwhile, US federal debt is almost 80% of GDP, it has doubled in less than a decade, and the best-case-scenario is that it’ll stay at 80% for at least another decade. Etc, etc.

    In summary, the early Boomers had it great, the later Boomers not so much, the Busters (GenX, if you prefer) have it pretty good feeding off the Boomers’ spending, and the Millenials are competing with everybody.

    That’s if you follow David Foot’s analysis, of course.

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Pleated Pants Forever: John Lennon (born 1940), Mick Jagger (born 1943), Roger Daltry (born 1944), Ray Davies (1944)…….these are Silent Generation, where are the Boomers?

    According to Foot’s analysis, those born DURING World War 2 (the pre-Boom), were PHENOMENALLY lucky (economically-speaking).

    Firstly, there weren’t many of them, which means less competition for jobs.

    Secondly, they entered the work force just as the US was cornering global manufacturing (since every other manufacturing country had been blown to rubble).

    Thirdly, they entered the workforce and college before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. As such, they got a more decent and traditional education, before the reformers really started to mess things up.

    Finally, they were raised to be savers, by parents (often widows) who had lived through the darkest times.

    This was the Mad Men generation. They ran the show, because there was relatively few of them just at the moment when the economy needed workers.

    • #21
  22. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    EThompson:

    Separate bathrooms protect women from misogyny. I would go so far as to credit my successful marriage (in no insignificant way) to the fact that I have never shared a bathroom with my husband. :)

    Touche :) It was a struggle with my wife when we had one bathroom in different apartments in Chicago for 10 years before retreating to the suburbs.

    • #22
  23. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Misthiocracy:

    Pleated Pants Forever: John Lennon (born 1940), Mick Jagger (born 1943), Roger Daltry (born 1944), Ray Davies (1944)…….these are Silent Generation, where are the Boomers?

    According to Foot’s analysis, those born DURING World War 2 (the pre-Boom), were PHENOMENALLY lucky (economically-speaking).

    Firstly, there weren’t many of them, which means less competition for jobs.

    Secondly, they entered the work force just as the US was cornering global manufacturing (since every other manufacturing country had been blown to rubble).

    Thirdly, they entered the workforce and college before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. As such, they got a more decent and traditional education, before the reformers really started to mess things up.

    Finally, they were raised to be savers, by parents (often widows) who had lived through the darkest times.

    This was the Mad Men generation. They ran the show, because there was relatively few of them just at the moment when the economy needed workers.

    Agreed, but 5th (per my previous comment on this thread) they had the world blown up for them and were in a position to rebuild it.  Being a kid of the late seventies, I have the advantage of being a very small generation but without the non-competition WWII brought that doesn’t help too much.

    • #23
  24. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Misthiocracy:

    Pleated Pants Forever: John Lennon (born 1940), Mick Jagger (born 1943), Roger Daltry (born 1944), Ray Davies (1944)…….these are Silent Generation, where are the Boomers?

    They ran the show, because there was relatively few of them just at the moment when the economy needed workers.

    Actually, this isn’t the case at all regarding the British Invasion. I’ve read a few books on the subject, specifically Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney and what fascinated me was the fact that so many great groups came from blue collar communities in Northern England where there was an intense cultural emphasis placed upon the writing and playing of music.

    The over-representation of Brits in modern rock n’roll music was not unlike that of blacks in the NBA, Latinos in MLB, or Canadians/Russians in the NHL.

    • #24
  25. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    I’m the boomer father of four boys – my youngest turned 18 today, the oldest is 24. No political issue burns me up more than the fact that I know our political class has squandered their opportunities so that it will be much harder for them to achieve a decent lifestyle than my generation, or especially their grandfather’s, had. Trying to explain these facts of life is like pounding your head on the wall… but you didn’t study a STEM major in college dad, I’ll be fine, something will turn up, etc…

    • #25
  26. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Current US Population Pyramid
    56-69 – That’s the early Boom. Note how it ramps up rather than booming all at once.  That was one of the early Boomers’ advantages. They were on a growth path, but there weren’t so many of them that competition was too fierce.

    50-59 – That’s the peak of the Baby Boom. By the time this gang was working, they had to compete with each other for jobs.

    40-44 – That’s the trough of the Baby Bust (I’m 39. Woot!).

    20-29 – That’s the peak of the Baby Boom Echo.

    Those being born now (0-9 or so) will presumably have it better, much like the Busters have, since they’ll have fewer peers to compete against.

    Lesson for investors: While the early Boomers have already started to hit retirement age, the peak of the Boom won’t be retiring for another 10 years. Now’s a good time to invest in products/services that retirees consume.

    Meanwhile, in 10 years the peak of the Echo will be turning 30. That suggests that the next 10 years will be good for entertainment investments, as these kids drown their sorrows and defer growing up. Good time to open a nightclub.

    • #26
  27. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Petty Boozswha:I’m the boomer father of four boys – my youngest turned 18 today, the oldest is 24. No political issue burns me up more than the fact that I know our political class has squandered their opportunities so that it will be much harder for them to achieve a decent lifestyle than my generation, or especially their grandfather’s, had. Trying to explain these facts of life is like pounding your head on the wall… but you didn’t study a STEM major in college dad, I’ll be fine, something will turn up, etc…

    PB – Happy B-Day to your youngest!  As the product of early Boomers, I can tell you that talking to them about a STEM major is the right thing.  I graduated undergrad in 2000 (when everything was rainbows and unicorns) and ended up in the dumb end of the STEM continuum by accident (statistics and economics).  Thank goodness!  I know colleagues who, if they did not have their parents bank account as a backstop, would be on food stamps with their BA in awesome studies.

    Maybe we are going back to an earlier age.  My grandfather (far from a perfect man, but to prototypical GG….fought in the 3rd Army) always said “you need a trade”

    • #27
  28. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Misthiocracy:50-59 – That’s the peak of the Baby Boom.

    40-44 – That’s the trough of the Baby Bust (I’m 39. Woot!)

    20-29 – That’s the peak of the Baby Boom Echo.

    Those being born now (0-9 or so) will presumably have it better, much like the Busters have.

    M – you are a true demographic bore.  I love it!  I’m right in the waist with you (37).  However, with Boomers holding onto work due to not saving for retirement the only woo-hoo for us might be while drinking beer during the Simpsons marathon on FXX

    • #28
  29. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    Misthiocracy:50-59 – That’s the peak of the Baby Boom.

    40-44 – That’s the trough of the Baby Bust (I’m 39. Woot!)

    20-29 – That’s the peak of the Baby Boom Echo.

    Those being born now (0-9 or so) will presumably have it better, much like the Busters have.

    M – you are a true demographic bore. I love it! I’m right in the waist with you (37). However, with Boomers holding onto work due to not saving for retirement the only woo-hoo for us might be while drinking beer during the Simpsons marathon on FXX

    We’re not rich, but we’re employed, and we’re the ones in position every time a Boomer is finally set adrift on an ice floe. We’re also benefitting from a pretty big inheritance windfall, as there are fewer of us so the inheritance pie is cut into fewer pieces.

    We also have better taste in media. Since we were a trough, big media didn’t cater to us as much, which is why we were much more into independent and alternative film and music. The kids who came after us, by contrast, have been much more bombarded by the corporate media machine, hence their crappy tastes.

    We also benefited from the quirk of fate that the bill for previous social spending hadn’t come due yet when we were entering college, so education prices were still pretty low for us. We also benefit from falling house prices as Boomer empty-nesters downsize (not to mention the housing crash). We tend to be cash-poor but asset-rich, because we had “save and invest” beaten into us by our pre-Boomer parents. Sadly, at the same time that we invested for retirement we also ran up credit card debt, which eats into the returns.

    • #29
  30. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    “So they got that going for them.”

    Which is nice.

    • #30
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