Editor’s Viewpoint: The young, old and middle-age madness
Almost every generation of Americans is dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, and when you think about how each group’s expectations are working out these days, it begins to make sense. Let’s start with my generation, the Boomers. (I think we can finally drop the “Baby” part.)
We followed in the footsteps of the previous graduates of the American economic system — The Silent Generation — who paid their dues through the Depression and World War II, and you could easily say they earned their Social Security and Medicare, although many of them paid far less into those systems than they took out. They also had homes that kept their value, pensions that were honored and a general retirement picture that doesn’t look like ours.
In contrast, in addition to the uncertainty of the basic underpinnings of our retirement — Social Security and Medicare — and because of less-than-solid pensions or other sizable retirement accounts, we are concerned that we will have to work well into retirement age while at the same time being worried about keeping our jobs, or worse, finding a new job if our old one has vanished. The Boomer bottom line? We’re threatened by our future, not comforted by it.
And, how are we doing on the opposite end of the life cycle? Generation Y clearly sees that the idea their parents or grandparents adopted, the Middle Class Package Plan — college, job, home, children — hasn’t earned the expected payoff. And, if that weren’t enough, the recession has hit them the hardest in the job market. Now, even with a college education and a job, they are reluctant to buy a home, get married, or otherwise continue down the same path as their parents. Bottom line for them? They aren’t happy about their future but have time to wait it out, which is something their parents or grandparents don’t have.
Next up, Gen X. Their life cycle position always is uncomfortable, being squeezed by the generation they are raising and the one that raised them. Unlike Gen Y, they don’t just see the problems faced by their parents, they are living with them, which just adds an additional burden to an already uncertain future. They don’t really have time for a bottom line, at least until their merry-go-round slows down enough to think about it.
Last in the lineup, Gen Z, also named the second Silent Generation who, I can only imagine must be sitting there looking at the world they’ve been born into and wondering, “Why do they all look so worried?”
Let’s hope that by the time they learn the answer, the fixes we make, and the lessons we learn by making them, will give them confidence in their own futures.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.