By Larry Teren
Don’t blame the baby boomers. It’s not our fault. Although it seems as if everyone wants to blame social and economic ills on us. One pundit says that we boomers do things in a herd mentality. Duh, all subgroups within a society do things in a herd mentality. That’s why it’s called a group- we share common experiences and aspirations.
For baby boomers, its reacting en masse to cyclical changes where the rules have altered in the middle of the game. Is it our fault that we still want to work but there are not enough jobs for us along with the younger, less experienced folk who are also trying to get a foot in the door somewhere? It used to be that the effects of a recession would linger for no more than a year. Well, we are into at least the third year of this one.
We baby boomers were the age group that became technically adept when there was no precedence to learn from. We went from writing longhand on a piece of paper to typing onto a computer screen. We were the last to memorize the multiplication tables instead of having a calculator to rely on. And we were more than entertained viewing television in black and white- we didn’t need colorful high definition fifty inch screens to see if the halfback made a first down.
The last group of people who went through such upheaval was probably the great-grandparents of boomers. They lived around the latter part of the 1800s until the 1930s. They went from lighting a gas lamp to electric light, from riding a horse to driving a car, and from digging a hole in the ground to indoor plumbing. Even if there wasn’t the safety net of Federal Government sponsored social security and welfare back then, there was still ample labor opportunities. It just depended on how much money you were going to take home and how many hours you worked.
Today, the cost of living has skyrocketed beyond reason compared to the escalation of income and income opportunities. Here are two examples of the desperation people are faced with:
1. Ma is outspending her monthly social security stipend by several hundreds the past few months due to unexpected bills from a hospital stay. This is even after she got a fifty dollar a month raise for the first time in two years.
She receives a $50 commission check in the mail from an insurance company Dad brokered.
The check is written to his name. He has been in the next world for the past three years. His
name is no longer on her bank accounts. She cannot deposit the check. Now she has to wait
for the insurance company to have her sign paperwork that affirms her to be the legal heir to his
vast (yeah, sure) fortune and then they will re-issue a new check in her name. All for a measly
2. A baby boomer friend today tells me that now that he is 62, he signed up for early receipt of his monthly social security stipend. I asked why he didn’t wait until 66 when he will probably get $300 more per month. He said that he did not trust that the money will be there in four years and that they will be severely cutting how much they dole out. So he wants to grab while the grabbing is good. The fact is he doesn’t need the government handout but feels he is entitled to it because he paid in all those years. It’s probably Medicare that he really wants to latch onto but will have to wait for three more years.
Is my boomer friend’s action unfair? Is he being selfish? Maybe short-sighted because he should wait and get the better handout. But not selfish. You cannot tell people that they are not entitled to something because they were lucky enough to stash money away prudently throughout the years. But there are a lot of younger folk who blame us baby boomers because they see in us a herd of buffalo running through a china shop breaking up our economy.
Somebody older than we boomers – aged 72- recently commented on this blog to stop whining and get out and get a job. I can answer the critic that there are many baby boomers who are willing but cannot work for half the salary than they used to and for less health coverage that is more expensive. They didn’t create the situation. Social Security is well-funded. However, the politicians keep on stealing from it to pay off other Federal debts. Don’t blame the baby boomers.