Do We Owe Our Progeny an Apology?

According to some featured graduation speakers as reported by the Wall Street journal (& commented on by Rita Robinson of the Seattle Press -reprinted here), we most assuredly do:

“Is it necessary for baby boomers to apologize to younger generations for their excesses?

When I was reading The Boomer Blog, I found an article in The Wall Street Journal called “Boomers to This Year’s Grads: We Are Really, Really Sorry.”

These are among the quotes in the article:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 60 years old, told the graduating class of Butler University last month that boomers have been ‘self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often just plain selfish.’

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, 55, told Grinnell College graduates in Iowa that his was ‘the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts.’

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, at 44 barely a boomer himself, told seniors at Colorado College that the national creed of one generation standing on the shoulders of the next was at risk ‘because our generation has not been faithful enough to our grandparents’ example.’

The article said the collective advice of the speakers for the class of 2009: Don’t be like us.

What do you think of these apologies?”

I’m glad to hear ’em – and my hope is we’ve just begun, at last, to recognize the damage we’ve done as a generation over the last 25 years, when we started with such promise.  Remember when we fought against “the man” and all his excesses, his polluting ways, his corporate greed, and his disdain for anything but his own bottom line?  So we changed the world for the better w/civil rights, environmental controls, and the uncovering of corporate shenanigans?  We were good!  Then we went bad….

Robin goes on to say that Gen Y/X experience their share of excesses, so it’s not just us…but gee, who raised them?  She states that there were/are those of our parents’ generation who have as well lived lives of excess….in contrast to ours, they were in the minority – and it was not a generational past-time to live beyond their means & consider themselves worthy only if they had more things, as it was ours.

Finally she says: “I know boomers who are environmentalists and live a simple lifestyle. Not all boomers practiced instant gratification.”  Yep… all three of them.

Then, there’s this from Harry Dent of the Miami based HSDent research firm as reported in the Newark Star Ledger, about how Boomers are the prime cause of this recession (as he predicted would be the case back in the ’80’s) – but this time for the opposite reason of the apology:

“Q: You said years ago that the spending habits of the Baby Boomers will eventually cause the economy to crash. Why?

A: This Baby Boomer generation is massive — the largest we’ve seen in a couple hundred years, probably since the American Revolution. They’ve been entering the work force, getting married, raising families, buying houses and earning more money since the early ’80s.

…We said 20 years ago, “Hey, there will be an end to this.” They’ll peak in their spending cycle after they buy houses, raise their kids, get them into college and all that good stuff.

Now, they’re just doing predictable things as they age. In other words, they’ll become savers, not spenders. They don’t need a bigger house. They don’t need more cars. The kids are gone. That’s what happening. They’re going to spend less and the economy’s going to get slower and slower.”

To Mr. Dent I say…”yeah…right…apparently you’ve not been keeping up with your fellow Boomers spending habits…”  We may down-size some things like our home space (although many are actually up-sizing as they “retire in place” and make room for children and/or parents to move in w/them), but we are not down-sizing our willingness to spend for things that keep us feeling good about ourselves. From ultra-expensive “cosmeceuticals” to high-end vacations, our penchant for instant gratification and determination to halt the aging process will well make up for any “savings” we embrace in other areas. 

And please prove me wrong, my fellow Boomers, but once this econonic crisis passes, and our portfolios make a come-back, too many of us will go back to our old ways.  We will be the first generation to leave less for our children (inheritance) than we spent on ourselves.

But all is not lost, says she who has so far filled this post with a quite curmudgeonly “bad Boomers!” diatribe.

I always have faith in my generation, it is faith in ourselves that I fear we lack.  We still don’t recognize the enormous power (for good or ill) we wield (lost track of that once we moved from our youth to becoming “the man” in adulthood), and the immense changes for the better of which we are capable if we put our collective will to it.

If we make driving small, fuel efficient cars the thing to do, they will sell like pork-barrel projects in Washington!  If we make it a priority to hold our legislators accountable for their behavior, we will have far better government leadership.  As the current corporate leadership, if we move from an emphasis on gluttony to one of benevolent leadership (as we demanded of those in this same position in our youth), we will change the face of corporate America.

So, Boomers, as has been the case for the past 40 years, the proverbial ball is in our court.  Will we use our collective might to fix what’s wrong today, and leave a legacy perhaps not equal to but near that of our parents’, or will be continue to ignore our power and by doing so remain destructive?

You tell me.

 

What We Can Do to Keep This Great Obama Feeling Going

…and the beauty of my idea is its simplicity – note I didn’t say its ease… but it is quite simple.

Don’t be shrill.

You were McCain/Palin: it’s unfortunate your pick didn’t win; now get behind who did.

You were Obama (few really care about Biden….): that’s lovely but don’t gloat.

We want Obama to “not overreach,” the Democrats to “not let their increased majority go to their heads and and as result forward ideology rather than pragmatic solutions” and our national leadership to stop back-stabbing and start healing the body politick. 

None of this is possible with a shrill electorate.  Whether you believe it or not, your elected officials do, more often than not, follow your lead.  If you scream, they scream.  If you stay calm, determined and focused, they will, too.

Catch yourself overreacting, taking the election results as some sort of reflection on you personally (either “winner” or “loser”), fearmongering.

We have a huge role to play if this “new feeling of hope” we’ve clearly given the planet is to take hold and stay longer than a few months. 

Mr. Obama has led us to the well.  We decide whether we drink, or continue to thirst.

Top 6 Things President Obama Must Handle in the First 100 Days

We Boomers pretty much embody the nexus for the nation’s most pressing ills that must be made well if America is to once again be great.   As far-reaching as that sounds, it couldn’t be more true.

Using myself as an example, I am:

  • a business owner;
  • a mother of young adults in the work world;
  • a person who is nearing retirement;
  • a caretaker for elderly parents, and;
  • a person who is part of the generation that called for an end pollution and corporate bad behavior

These correlate to the following ills already identified as most pressing by voters and pundits alike (in order of appearance above):

  • Taxes and global trade laws
  • Job creation; adequate healthcare
  • Social Security & Medicare; retirement account capacity
  • ditto; plus Healthcare
  • Clean energy/energy efficiency

So, here is my guidance to our young and idealistic President Elect – the top 6 things to be handled in the first 100 days from a Boomer’s perspective:

  1. Economy: Ensure the proper handling of the immediate steps needed to begin meaningful economic recovery by seeking/receiving ideas from economists, not politicians, from both ends of the “how-to-fix-this” spectrum, then doing what falls in the middle-ground
  2. Healthcare: any form of “universal healthcare” is at best a long way off in this country (rightly or wrongly…) and at worst not going to happen at all in this country; ensure a first step response that will at least mitigate the outrageous costs of healthcare/health insurance, thus providing immediate relief that will go far to create a healthier populace (on which, after all, all else is dependent)
  3. Taxes: Immediately roll back or eliminate tax breaks for companies that cheat (off shore bank accounts to avoid taxes, for example), steal (eliminate jobs here in the US so their CEO’s can grab hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation), and pollute without care for the planetary result but to increase their bottom-line; rework the tax code to eliminate huge tax loopholes for those making over a certain amount (your cut-off of $250,000 is fine) so they are paying a fair ratio of income tax to income
  4. Social Security/Medicare: SS – move the cap at which SS deductions are taken, from the current $89K to $250K; Medicare – immediately establish a department that investigates/handles only Medicare fraud, as I can tell you from first hand experience that what we’re doing now is completely inadequate, and the money being greedily siphoned from this excellent program could pay for it and the department’s salaries, possibly 2X over
  5. NAFTA: do not eliminate this treaty, instead make it more effective and even-handed for all countries involved (including ours….)
  6. Job Creation through Clean Energy Sources (value added…Energy Independence): In addition to the aspects of #’s 3 & 5 above that will result in the creation of a certain amount of jobs, immediately invest in alternative energy projects and the job training needed to prepare unemployed/soon to be unemployed folks from last century industries, for those jobs.

And your foundation for all of this: Be unwavering on your determination that ideology will not trump reality, particularly within your own party.

My fellow Boomers and I were around in the heady days of the 60’s/70’s that America (if not the world…) is in process of reliving.  Unfortunately, we became “the Man” we so distrusted; we became the polluters and resource wasters we so derided; in essence, we got lost from our ideals, too busy making a living to remember the importance of sustaining life.

Do not get lost once in the Oval Office.  Keep your grounding.  Make sure that you and the youth you so inspire, don’t stop living your ideals as we did.

Build on our historic successes and don’t repeat our failures.  Then, maybe this time around America can finish what it started.

Boomers + Economy: Doesn't Need to = Panic…

Yes my fellow Boomers…you’re hearing it everywhere; our current state of economic affairs are ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING for us as we head toward our much anticipated retirement days in the sun.  Here’s an example (contracted) from US News and World Report:

3 Ways the Economic Crisis Is Destroying Baby Boomer Retirement

  1. Stock Market declines: During the past 12 months, retirement accounts have lost $1.6 trillion or 18.3 percent of their value, according to Urban Institute
  2. Falling Home prices: The average home price fell 3.9 percent from January 2007 to May 2008, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight
  3. Decreasing Job markets: Contracting credit markets could weaken the labor market, thus limiting employment opportunities for older adults

And although the writer of this USNWR article does provide ideas for how to offset today’s admittedly troubling economic conditions, many others do not, staying firm on the newspaper-selling, google-search-engine attracting, dire news, all of which can understandably make a Boomer feel…well, panicky.

Don’t.

Here’s why, issue by issue.

Stock Market Declines

Will the recovery from this mess take years?  As Sarah would say, “you betcha!” 

But the operative word is “recovery”.  We do, in fact, have a few years to hold on and wait out this inevitable, years-in-the-making, needed correction to our (and our nation’s) overspending, under-saving, and the massive, voter permitted deregulation of an industry that has proven itself at least 2 other times in the past 30 years of being incapable of controlling itself (but immensely capable of poor decision-making and business practices founded in greed).

Panic, sell off your stocks, and you create precisely the situation you fear; a self-fulfilling prophesy.  My guess is that all of us were smart enough to have generally diverse portolios.  This economic situation is why we have such diversity, so trust it.  Selling your stocks will just make your situation worse (because it will take the market into a greater downspin), and has no upside (because you’re selling at such a huge loss).  Worst case scenario, you will have to work an extra year or two to compensate for the losses your portfolio is experiencing right now.  But your investments will come back.  If you don’t panic and crash the system.

Working

OMG, as our kids would text-speak, there is plenty of work for us right now!  Whether you’re recently laid off (due to the economy…) or seeking your retirement second career a little sooner than you’d originally budgeted for, there are “recession-proof” industries/jobs that will snap up a Boomer with our experience and background, in the proverbial heart-beat!

This from the Miami Examiner’s Baby Boomer Expert (Paul Briand):

Uncle Sam to Baby Boomers: I want you

The last time some Uncle Sam needed some Baby Boomers was during the Vietnam War … as soldiers.

Now, according to a new partnership, there is need anew … as workers.

The Partnership for Public Service has started the FedExperience pilot program with federal agencies, corporate partners, and other stakeholders to match government’s critical hiring needs with the talents of experienced, older workers.

The partnership sees a win-win relationship between the government and older workers.

I’ll add to that a list of other, Boomer friendly and recession-proof jobs available right now:

  • Mechanical and Electical Engineer
  • Sales Executive
  • Technology Executive (for those of you with or able to get quickly get your Computer Science degree)
  • Customer Support/Management
  • Database Administration
  • Product and Project Management
  • Testing/QA
  • Financial staff at every level (from Finance execs, to accountants and bookkeepers)
  • Business Analysis & Development
  • Adminstrative/Executive Assistant
  • Nursing/PA/NP

And yes, you may have to put off for a little while your dreams of business ownership, but there’s no need to throw out that dream.  Just postpone it perhaps for a year or two.  That said, if you do want to go for it now, sign up for my free report Forbes 9 Best Boomer Markets: http://tinyurl.com/3rlrpe

Retiring

Is your house worth less right now?  It is.  But the housing market is already reaching its bottoming-out point and will rebound in less than one year.  So just hang in there a little longer before you take that reverse mortgage or consider moving.

Will you have to revamp your retirement timeline or plans?  Perhaps, but again, our retirement is hardly IN RUINS!!!  It is on hold for a while, or will look differently than we’d hoped for a while.

Ultimately, Boomers, this is not a catastrophe; it is a major but temporary inconvenience.  It is scarey, but not fearsome.  We will not all be living a new millennial version of The Grapes of Wrath; we will be living a little leaner, which isn’t a bad thing anyway, really.

We’re going to be fine.  But not if we panic.