Tag Archives: baby boomers

The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials

The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials

“For the first time in America’s history, an entire generation of her citizens are poorer, more indebted, and less employed than the preceding generations.

That generation is the millennials – our generation.

The culprit, say some social commenters, are millennials themselves. In this telling, we are a lazy cohort of entitled and narcissistic brats — the proverbial Generation Me. But this is a classic case of blaming the victim.

The true cause of this unfortunate situation is clear: It’s the economy. The Great Recession stymied economic growth, halted job creation, kept older Americans in the workforce longer, and encouraged younger Americans to continue debt-financed schooling.

Moreover, the Great Recession was not merely a one-off calamity — it was a symptom of economic ills long perpetuated and ignored. And the criticism and labels that have been heaped upon millennials bear much more resemblance to the type of intergenerational stereotyping that has always existed (“darn kids these days”) than to any measurable reality.

The truth: The economic tragedy of the Millennial generation was written before many of us had even learned to read — Baby Boomer parents and grandparents who, at once, genuinely love and care for us, but have also created or perpetuated institutions, policies, and economic realities that have now hobbled us.

Our generation has been called “entitled.” We beg to differ. If any generation is entitled, it’s our parents’ and grandparents’ generation: the baby boomers.

True entitlement is tripling the national debt since the 1980s and using the proceeds to spend lavishly on tax cuts and government programs that primarily provided short-term economic boosts, while refusing to raise the Social Security age of retirement or to reduce benefits, even as the gluttonous program careens toward unsustainability.

australia2AAP Image/NEWZULU/ZOEA protester at recent Australia climate-change rallies in the lead up to the UN climate summit in New York.

True entitlement is allowing the reasonable minimum wage that Baby Boomers enjoyed when they were our age to deteriorate while opting to cut taxes on the gains from stocks and bonds that they accrued during periods of debt-driven economic and stock-market surges — creating an economy where wage earners at all income levels, as of 2012, receive a smaller portion of economic output at any time since 1929.

True entitlement is, for decades, enjoying the benefits of the lowest energy costs in the world while refusing to price-in the external costs of carbon emissions, exacerbating the real changes to our planet that pose profound risks to the environment and economy for which millennials will soon be the primary stewards.

These grave consequences were entirely foreseeable — but they happened. Young Americans have been fleeced in order to fund the transient excesses of the old — and yet millennials are labeled “entitled” because we were given “participation trophies” and “personal tutors” before we were old enough to vote … ?

Give us a break. Millennials are not entitled. But we are frustrated.

We’re frustrated, because the same baby-boomer bloc that created or tacitly perpetuated the policies that have hamstrung millennials now makes up almost a third of the American voting-aged population and holds nearly two-thirds of the seats of the US House of Representatives and Senate. This, during a decade-long span when incumbent House and Senate members are richly rewarded for being the most unproductive legislators in US history, respectively winning reelection 94% and 87% of the time.

millennials, workplaceITU/Rowan Farrell

Granted, many members of our generation need to learn how to vote every two years, not just every four. And we need to begin to fulfill the civic-minded label — “The Next Great Generation” — which social scientists have bestowed upon us. When we do begin to regularly share our opinions in the voting booth, not just on Twitter, you can be assured that we’ll act to keep this country great. We’ll make the “hard” choices the baby boomers have refused to make.

Already, we’ve learned how to be fiscally responsible — with the most student debt of any generation in history, we’ve had to. More than any other generation, we eschew expensive possessions like cars and large houses, opting instead for bikes and shared living spaces. Sure, we would like to own all that fancy stuff someday, but we realize that we can’t have everything we want.

We know that our government would be better off spending more of our tax dollars on jobs and education, and not just on Social Security and defense. We overwhelmingly recognize that the war on drugs has been an embarrassing waste of money and lives, and that anyone should be able to marry whomever they love.

Perhaps we millennials are entitled: We seemed to think that baby-boomer politicians would enact much-needed changes while we fiddled with our smartphones. We were definitely wrong on that one.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Boomer Housemates Have More Fun

May 22, 2013 3:00 AM
 
Group houses are becoming popular — again — among some single baby boomers, and not just for financial reasons. Marianne Kilkenny (second from right) shares her home in Asheville, N.C, with four other people.

Group houses are becoming popular — again — among some single baby boomers, and not just for financial reasons. Marianne Kilkenny (second from right) shares her home in Asheville, N.C, with four other people.

Mike Belleme/The New York Times

 

“Today more than 1 in every 3 baby boomers — that huge glut of people born between 1948 and 1964 — is unmarried. And those unmarried boomers are disproportionately women. As this vast generation rushes into retirement, there’s a growing concern among experts on aging: Who will take care of all these people when they’re too old to care for themselves?

It’s a question many of the experts take personally. “That is what scares me,” says Sara Rix, who works for the AARP Public Policy Institute, studying the economic prospects of women in the workforce. “Because I am one of those people,” she says, “and I do think about it.”

“Oh, I’ve got wonderful nieces and nephews,” Rix says, noting that’s what a lot of her boomer peers claim, too. “Well, in fact, they’ve got their families. They’ve got their in-laws. They’ve got their parents. And I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect much out of them.”

Kathleen Kelly, who runs the Family Caregiver Alliance and the National Center on Caregiving in San Francisco, says she’s seeing the same sort of concern in her social circle. “I’m in my 50s, and my friends are all talking about, ‘Could we all move in together? Could we buy an apartment building and all live together?’ There are all sorts of permutations of this conversation,” Kelly says. “But it really is something that people are thinking about, particularly women.”

Bonnie Moore, the founder of the Golden Girls Network, shares her five-bedroom house in Bowie, Md., with three other women in their 60s. Moore says, "It's a little bit like family, a little bit like roommates, a little bit like a sorority house."

Bonnie Moore, the founder of the Golden Girls Network, shares her five-bedroom house in Bowie, Md., with three other women in their 60s. Moore says, “It’s a little bit like family, a little bit like roommates, a little bit like a sorority house.”

Maggie Starbard/NPR

 

And, because boomers are boomers, some are doing more than just thinking about it. Already, there’s a small but apparently growing movement of boomer women forming group houses with their single peers.

One of those homes belongs to Bonnie Moore, a 60-something divorcee who lives in a well-kept, five-bedroom house in Bowie, Md., a cozy suburb of Washington, D.C.

To stay in her house after her divorce, Moore needed financial help. But she wanted to do more than just add boarders who would help pay the bills, she says. The home she’s organized instead is “a little bit like family, a little bit like roommates, a little bit like a sorority house,” she says from the sofa of her softly lit living room. “It just evolves.”

Moore, an attorney, isn’t actually childless. She has a grown son who lives in Utah and has been urging Moore to move there to be closer to him and his family. “He’s just sort of saying, ‘Well, Mom you’re old now; we have to take care of you,’ ” Moore says. “And I’m saying, ‘I’m not old. I’ve got 20 years out there in my yard, thank you very much,’ ” she says with a laugh.

Moore has been careful about selecting as housemates women who get along, but who also have a sense of independence. “All of us, we have our own separate lives,” she says. “We do our own separate things, but we’ll meet up in the kitchen and chitchat. And then we’ll all go our different ways, which makes it nice. None of us are joined at the hip, and yet we all live together and do our own thing and live in the same house.”

Lorene Solivan is one of Moore’s three current roommates — “the youngest,” Solivan says proudly, having just turned 60.

Solivan, an event manager for a food company, had been living in an apartment in Northern Virginia. But she was having financial troubles of her own and was looking to downsize.

“And then I saw the ad on Craigslist: GOLDEN GIRLS HOUSE. I said, ‘Oh, that looks like fun,’ ” she says.

Lorene Solivan moved into the "Golden Girls" house in October after seeing an ad on Craigslist. An event manager at a food company, Solivan says she often cooks dinner for the group.

Lorene Solivan moved into the “Golden Girls” house in October after seeing an ad on Craigslist. An event manager at a food company, Solivan says she often cooks dinner for the group.

Maggie Starbard/NPR

 

Solivan, who does much of the group’s cooking, says it’s been a nice transition for her. To live with a built-in social group of people your own age is “a big plus,” she says, “whether you’re 20, 40, or 60 — whatever the case may be.”

That’s why Moore is trying to take her concept and expand it. She already has awebsite and is working on a guide to help other single boomer women set up houses like hers. “I think it’ll be fun,” she says. “And I’d like to be part of various seminars and workshops for women [about] the whole idea of living communally and learning to get along in this kind of environment.”

Still, there are a lot of obstacles. One big one is that most boomers don’t realize they might need help getting or paying for long-term care if their health falters.

“I call it the 70-70-70 conundrum,” says Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation, which focuses on long-term health care issues. “Seventy percent of people over the age of 65 will need some form of long-term-care supports as they age,” he says. But when you look at polling, “roughly 70 percent of Americans don’t actually think they’re likely to need it, and roughly 70 percent think Medicare will probably cover it when they get there.”

The problem, of course, he adds, is that “those last two 70 percents are not true.”

Then there’s the numbers problem. “We know that … about a third of baby boomers are single,” says Kelly. “But we also know that there’s a large percentage of those that are in their 50s and 60s [who] are getting divorced, and so we’re going to have more single individuals in the future. We just haven’t seen this before.”

At the same time, most boomers have had fewer children than previous generations did, and many boomers have no children.

“So there’s less adult children to take the place of the caregiving cohort that currently is providing … caregiving to their parents,” she says. And today, family caregiving provides an estimated $450 billion a year worth of unpaid care.

 

Rix of AARP says a big problem for single boomer women is that they’re not financially prepared to hire the caregivers they might need if they don’t have family members to volunteer the time. “[These single women] are still likely to be concentrated in what we’ve traditionally called the ‘pink collar’ jobs,” she says, which are “the lower-wage, low-benefit occupations. So when they reach old age, they often reach old age without pension coverage.”

Most of these women will have Social Security, Rix says — assuming that they are eligible, and that the rules don’t change between now and when they retire. But for many older women, that will be all, or nearly all the money they have to live on, she says, “and it’s not going to pay for a lot of care — formal care. So it’s a frightening future for a lot of women.”

There are things women can do to make that future a little less frightening, says Kelly. Some suggestions are pretty obvious, like maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.

But another bit of advice may be less intuitive, Kelly says, “and that is to invest in social relationships and networks.” She doesn’t mean the sort of social networks people create on the Internet, but rather, “a community of individuals [living with or near you, so] that you may be able to share tasks and responsibilities as you grow older.”

That brings us back to Bonnie Moore, who says that deciding to form a group house was about more than just financial necessity. “I think women naturally are more community oriented,” Moore says. “It’s just part of the woman’s nature.”

And besides, she adds, “to come home and have someone say, ‘Hi, how was your day?’ … That’s really nice sometimes.”

So if you’re a boomer and you liked that group house you shared in college or just after, good for you. The United States is one of the few developed nations that have no organized public policy for providing long-term care — so group living may be in your future as well as your past.”

Leave a comment

May 23, 2013 · 5:47 pm