Wall St. Protests….Taking Up Where We Left Off

“How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry…. Yes how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see….”

1969 protest

1969 protest

Whether or not you were one of the protesters in our youth railing against “the man” (corporate greed and corruption), or the pillaging of the environment, the majority of us still agreed that rivers burning with pollution and companies making millions (billions in today’s dollars) by exploiting their workers or the public at large, and forever destroying pieces of the earth for their financial gain, were worth fighting to fix.

And now, we’re the ones being protested against.

We are “the man” we so reviled as youth.  We are the ones in charge of Big Corp that guts the middle class so that CEO’s can buy that yacht and third vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard; we’re in charge of a Congress that votes to bail out Bank of America with our hard earned dollars and then refuses to ensure that the entity cannot ruin our lives again; we are the ones who have turned our backs on the environmental gains made as a result of our protests, through lifestyles that are built on rampant waste.

What happened?!

Some say that we just grew up…that once the realities of making a living and raising a family kick in, idealism jumps ship.

Some say that many of us really didn’t care about those things as youth, so simply continued to live our beliefs (it’s not greed when it’s “capitalism” because we all hope to get rich someday; the earth is here to serve our needs, not the other way around).

But, even if either, or both are true, neither falls even close to a good reason for leaving our children worse off than we are, ensuring that the top 10%  make and keep 93% of our country’s wealth while they continue to lay-off workers and off-shore jobs, or that pillaging the earth of her beauty and resources is right way to get our needs met…

So, to the former, I offer a suggestion; that we think “and/both” rather than “either/or” – we can strive to have a good life without gutting the earth and harming others in the process.

To the latter, I offer this quote, not by a Founding Father or a high profile preacher, but from a comic book of our youth: “With great power, comes great responsibility” – which of course we all understood to mean great responsibility to care for the less powerful, to use our own capacities to better the common good – not line the pockets of the few and the rest of society be damned.

And to those who say that there are just too many things “out of our control” so what’s gone wrong over the past decade or more is not our fault, I offer this idea to ponder: That which you believe to be out of your control…is, even those things that are well within it.  Think Bank of America is a corporate leech?  Close your account with them.  Believe in global warming as a real problem?  Drive a fuel efficient auto and demand/use recycyled goods.  Angry about off-shoring our jobs?  Then buy only “made in America.”

Our kids are taking up where we left off oh those many decades ago.  Which they must, because we left off.

Boomers & The Work Place…A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time…

boomers needing work…in a great land known as The USA, there were a whole bunch of people known as “Boomers” – in fact, there were almost 78 million of them!  They partied hearty as youngsters, and worked just as heartily when they got out into what was known as “the world of work”!  They worked and worked and worked, for many decades, and many of them rose to higher paying positions as a reward for all that hard work!

But alas, one day, The USA experienced a terrible “economic downturn” called The Great Recession, and as a result, businesses started closing up or getting rid of lots of their employees, so lots of people lost their jobs.  And the people who were hit the hardest were the Boomers.

That’s because the Boomers were now getting older, and because they were making the most money at these companies, they were the first to get what was called “the boot” meaning a kick in the a** out the door so the company could save lots of money on their salaries.

Alack, when those Boomers tried to find new jobs, they had great difficulty because of a number of “factors” otherwise known as “myths” that employers used to keep from hiring them:

  • Myth #1: Boomers cost more for health insurance (in fact, younger workers are more likely to get sports injuries, get pregnant, or have children in need of costly medical care)
  • Myth #2: Boomers are too old to learn the newest ways of conducting business (in fact, Boomers were always learning the newest ways of conducting business, including being the first to use computers)
  • Myth #3: Boomers don’t have the same energy as younger workers (in fact, Boomers are quite vibrant even at middle age, unlike any generation before them)
  • Myth #4: Boomers will take the job and then leave in a year or two for retirement (in fact, many Boomers plan to work for at least a decade to come, and with Social Security set to raise its age for qualification to 67, even those who didn’t want to keep working will have to)

The saddest thing of all was that of all the people businesses could hire, the Boomers had the most knowledge, experience, and skill-sets, something that “whippersnappers” as the young workers were called, wouldn’t possess for another 20 years….  And Boomers were willing to work for the same salary as the whippersnappers if that meant getting hired.

Even a child could see that hiring a Boomer would be a really smart business move!  Alas, children weren’t running the businesses…what a shame!  They’d probably be run much better if they were!

Well, our fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending…yet.  9 officials known around the land as “The Supreme Court” made it pretty much impossible to prove age discrimination, so the Boomers weren’t able to change businesses’ hiring practices that were really obviously discriminatory…another one of those things that the children could see…

But, there may be a happy ending after all!  If the Boomers learn the facts vs. the myths, they can use that information to greatly increase their chances of getting hired!  They can cover these concepts in their resumes and cover letters, and during the interview!  They can show a prospective employer that they are the best thing for the company, not the worst!  They can change what are called the employers’ “perception” about hiring an “older” worker by the way they present themselves!

Will the Boomers be able to do it?  Well, we have about 20 years to go to find out.

Dem’s, Rep’s & Money for Winning

Mid-term election season is in full swing…yea…

I say that somewhat sardonically because as much as I consider voting a deep privilege that I will never regard as unworthy of my time and attention (or, as in my rantings on the August 15th show, as a means of protest by not doing it…sheeesh, how ineffective is that?!), it’s distinctly about who has the most money, not who has the best leadership platform.

Unfortunate, given that there’s quite a few candidates providing a terrific alternative to both our very tired 2-party system, and/or ye olde politics as usual within it, who will never see anything but the visitors bathrooms in the US or their State Capitol because they simply have insufficient funds to compete.

But, hey, in a capitalist society, that’s how things get done…with money…and lots of it.

Of the two parties, well-connected Republicans tend to win the money-raising contest with their eyes closed (and their hands wide open…).  The reason:

  • Republicans represent the interests of business and the wealthy, primarily – both having deep and gold-lined pockets
  • Democrats primarily represent the interests of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the elderly – all with no pockets, and even less voice

Democrats too have both hands open for business…the only problem is their monied constituency is much more limited.

Yet Obama set records for his fund-raising in 2008 – winning him the election.  Huh?!  How can that happen given this equation?

He filled his coffers one $5 – $10 donation at a time.  The Teaparty is doing the same. It’s the power of numbers over the power of “numbers”.

So, anyone who believes the power of the “little people” can’t match or even surpass the power of Big Pharma, Big Biz, and Big Wigs, rent “Erin Brockovich”, revisit the 2008 Presidential election, and then make your little donation to your “underdog” candidate – and tell everyone you know to do the same.

History has proven that it really adds up....and it works.

Top 9 Boomer Markets

This 2008 list compiled by Forbes is as relevant today as it was then, so it bears repeating.  And right now, with so many Boomers wondering what to do in their “second act” or deciding whether to continue a job search or instead go into business for themselves, it’s timely as well.

This is particularly germane because who better to target a Boomer market than a fellow Boomer?!  And, besides the fact that this information was compiled by Forbes, a most credible source, this article includes the elements that make these businesses “top” for the Boomer market: They are in greatest favor with the most lucrative market – we Baby Boomers with the highest levels of disposable income, the highest levels of education (so we are savvy consumers), and the greatest willingness to spend our hard earned dollars.

Here are some statistics to support the smart marketing model of targeting fellow Boomers specifically and strategically:

  • 45% of the consumer market is aged 40-70 (Boomers were born between 1946 & 1964)
    That is larger than all the other individual market cohorts
    combined
  • Boomers spend a whopping $2.3 trillion annually on goods & services
    That’s $400 billion more than any other age cohort
  • In 2010, Boomers  control about 65% of the available disposable income

The bottom line?

  • If you’re considering starting your own business, these warrant close consideration (particularly if any one is your passion) for immediately heightened ROI results;
  • If you’re considering investing in someone else’s business, you’re smart if you choose one of these, and;
  • If you already own one of the types of businesses below, make sure you’re choosing advertising venues designed to specifically target Boomers…you’ll be very glad you did.

Forbes.com
September 10, 2008

Boomers generate $2 trillion in annual income, own more than 70% of U.S. financial assets and represent half of all discretionary spending, according to Age Wave, a San Francisco-based demographic-trend tracker. “Although marketers tend to pursue the youth market, that’s not where the money is,” says Age Wave founder Ken Dychtwald.

Here are nine ideas for tapping that huge demographic:

‘Active Adults’ Residences

For Boomers who like to stay active but would rather have someone else cut the grass, gated communities with organized activities like hiking trips, community service projects and educational lectures have become popular. (Prime example: communities developed by Del Webb, a unit of Pulte Homes.) Demand for the next step–assisted-living facilities–should also continue to grow, though the permits and operating challenges there are myriad.

Health Club

Boomers are all about being in shape. Gym proprietors that offer low-impact equipment and fitness classes in convenient locations stand to do well.

‘Cosmeceutical’ Retailer

Boomers gravitate to “hope in a jar” products that promise to keep Father Time at bay. Little wonder sales of cosmeceuticals–products that straddle the line between cosmetics and drugs, like fluoride toothpaste–are growing at double-digit rates. While also sold online, cosmeceuticals are still viable fodder for brick-and-mortar retailers, as customers want to see and smell what they are buying. (They also score juicier margins than clothing does.)

Beauty Salon/Spa

Aging gracefully may be a state of mind, but it’s also a decent haircut (if you still have hair) and maybe a stress-relieving back rub. Best are salons/spas that offer hair coloring and cutting, manicures and pedicures, massages, facials, waxing and makeup services, as well as hair and beauty products.

Specialty Contractor

Boomers need to age-proof their parents’ homes (or their own), including handrails, handicapped-accessible toilets and showers, escalators and wheelchair ramps. The designs have to be hip, too–no “hospital chic,” please:

Green Galore – Green is the new black in the remodeling industry as energy costs soar and global warning takes center stage.; “It’s clear we’re living in an era of scarce resources and we have to adapt to that,” said Rick McConnell, senior vice president of Hanley Wood Exhibitions. “That’s more and more reflected by the companies in the exhibit.”

Geocel introduced its green sealants and adhesives at the show, while other manufacturers slapped a green label on their older products.

For example, the Icynene Insulation System promises to slash energy costs by up to 50 percent if you replace the conventional foam in walls with its soft-foam variety.

“Obviously, high energy prices are driving the bus,” said Ron Hruz, regional sales manager.

Even those exhibitors without green credentials, from bathroom accessory suppliers to home finance companies, got in the act and offered tote bags that could double as environmentally friendly grocery bags.

Going Gray – Suppliers and manufacturers are ready for the onslaught of seniors as Baby Boomers turn gray.

“Baby Boomers are doing more for their parents now than for themselves, but they have it in the back of their minds for down the road,” said Jason Multanen, national sales manager for Best Bath Systems.

His company offers stylish tubs with doors and wheelchair roll-in showers accessible for everyone. The systems are backed by plywood thick enough that grab bars can be installed without extra reinforcement.

Similarly, AKW Medicare showed off its barrier-free showers and a half-height shower door that allow a caregiver to help bathe an individual.

Room Without a Roof – Contractors are taking their skills outside as decks, porches and terraces become the next popular “room” to redecorate. The show even offered a deck design competition with winners to be announced Thursday afternoon. Next year, show organizers plan to combine its Deck Expo with The Remodeling Show.

Making its debut at a U.S. trade show, Norway’s Kebony unveiled its durable wood products for beautiful decking or siding. Regular wood is infused with a bio-based liquid made from agricultural waste from sugar cane production. The result is a stronger and more stable version of the wood, which retains its natural grain.

“It’s like taking pine up to the hardness of oak,” said Douglas Murray Jr., Kebony’s head of North American operations.

The product also wards off termites better than poison-treated wood, Murray said, because the bugs end up starving to death on the agricultural waste. To boot, it’s environmentally-friendly too, Murray said, because it uses bio-waste and doesn’t leech off the environment like rain-forest wood that’s now popular in high-end deck design.

Hot & Toasty – You can keep your hands and feet warm with technologies rolled out by two companies at the show.

Watts Radiant Inc., based in Springfield, Mo., introduced its electric underfloor mats. Heating coils are woven into the mats, and regulated by a floor sensor, which can be turned on or off at any time. The cost for an underfloor mat run about $800 and up, per room, and operating costs average about a dime a day.

In the bathroom, MTI Whirlpools provides tubs and showers with radiant heating systems. The shower’s floors and seat offer two heated areas for comfortable entry. The tub has two similar areas, along the back and on the bottom, so a bather doesn’t have to sit and lean against a cold tub. It also can come with an air-jet system that gives a light, full-body massage.

Odds & Ends – Avoiding that kitchen makeover because of the hassle? A solution is in sight.

Dwyer showed off its freestanding, temporary kitchen for homeowners in the midst of a kitchen renovation. The portable unit looks like a large stainless steel island with overhead cabinets. Depending on the model it can feature a breakfast bar for seating, a dishwasher, one or two cook tops, a sink and a microwave.

Financial Advisement

With age comes wisdom–but not necessarily about where to invest your hard-earned stash. Even financial pros have trouble (as all the wise institutions who owned shares in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can attest). Assuming your clients aren’t looking for three stock tips a day, guarding their assets can be a fairly low-impact, low-overhead and scalable business (meaning that you can add more clients without adding a lot of expenses).

Errand Service

Here we’re talking activities like driving, cooking and maintenance (not nursing). While most boomers are still vital enough not to need these services, their parents may well be in the market.

Travel Agency

Many boomers have wanderlust. To compete in an age of Web-dominated trip planning, agents have to specialize–either by focusing on specific geographies or customer demographics, such as intergenerational family groups. “[Boomers] want someone to plan a trip to Hawaii where they can take their 100 year-old mother and 20-something children,” says Corinne Asturias, a boomer-consumer strategist with Minneapolis-based consumer researcher Iconoculture. “They want everyone to have privacy, but with at least some activities that entertain all.”

Nutrition/Weight-Management Consultant

Baby boomers are extremely heath- and weight-conscious. And while eating right may amount to common sense for many, there are plenty who seek extra guidance–hence the estimated $40 billion to $50 billion diet-products industry.

Restoring Honor…Boomer Style

This is an excerpt from a chapter of my soon to be released book Is That My Light at the End of the Tunnel? that speaks directly to what we Boomers can and must do to find our “lights” at the end of our “tunnels” – this one relating well to the notion of restoring what’s been lost:

Boomers, Unite!

Yeah, right….  We are about as single-minded on how to individually handle the important issues I’ve raised in our “tunnels” as are the Europeans on how to run their Union.

But, that said, there are some basic concepts which I believe the vast majority of us can comfortably get behind, and on which we can build our comeback.

These are the aspects of our Flower Power revolution (even without the LSD) that are a combination of common sense, common kindness, and the underpinnings of all the major world religions.  They are:

  • Living your beliefs while allowing others to live theirs (e.g. walk the talk…no finger pointing)
  • Being kind to our planet, and those less fortunate than ourselves
  • Actively rejecting any form of tyranny
  • Standing up against abuse and exploitation of other humans (which, according to Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel, was the correct reason for invading Iraq), and other species
  • Having one martini a night to get us through all of this (just checking to see if you were paying attention…)
  • Finding government and corporate deceit unacceptable
  • Believing in the power of love, from being non-judgmental of others’ lives to eschewing meanness

So, when it comes down to it, here’s the “honor” we must restore right now, associated with grinding issues we’re facing at this moment, based on the above ideals – we’ve lost track of them, and with our great influence/power must ensure we find again:

  • As the most educated generation alive today, start using our great brains to learn and work with the facts, whether we like those facts or not;
  • Remember and reclaim what we believed in our youth: love conquering hate, & equality for all (thus our fight for women’s/civil rights, eliminating discrimination in housing & hiring, etc.); to abandon those society-altering-for-the-better ideals with our Muslim neighbors because of their radical minority (hey, Christians have the KKK & Neo-Nazis) is beneath us;
  • Another reclamation from our youth: refusing to accept the poor behavior of “the man” we so reviled back then…which, by the way, is now us…we became “the man” (we are the ones in charge of most big corporations, and governments) – we can and must rise up against our own generations’ misdeeds, greediness, & complete lack of interest in the greater good.
  • Although history debates the motivation for our society-bettering deeds back then…was it out of pessimism or optimism? – I say it was a combination of both…pessimism about the direction our nation/world had taken, and optimism that if we fought hard enough we could change it.  In our age-related crankiness we have lost our optimism, settling comfortably into a world-view based too much on fear and self-protection.  Opening up our minds and hearts again is imperative if we hope to make changes that are for the better.

Do these things, and our honor – as the generation that historically made a greater impact on social change than any other in the history of our nation – will indeed be restored.