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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Who Got Screwed? Talking About My Generation


My father always told me, “I want you to be better off than I am.”

I wish it were so. My father died 21 years ago. When he was alive, I was getting close to doing better than him. Now, unfortunately, his dream doesn’t look like it’s going to come true.

At the peak of his life as an appliance repairman for General Electric, Clarence Bernard was making about $40,000. So far, my best salary has been $52,000, but that was seven years ago. Since then, I’ve been laid off, but by cobbling a few part-time jobs together, I might be lucky to make $20,000 this year.

I’m not alone in this dilemma. For the first time since the Great Depression, most Americans are headed toward a retirement in which they will not be better off than their parents.

The recent recession stripped nearly two decades of wealth, according to a Federal Reserve report last June. Also, the Fed reported that median net worth sank by nearly 40 percent from 2007, at $126,400, to 2010, at $77,300.

Much of the net worth dropped because of plummeting housing values, but median income also fell nearly 8 percent in that same time frame, to $45,800 in 2010.

How did we get into this mess? I’m blaming the Baby Boomers. The 1960′s Hippies who lamented about a generation gap when they were young are creating an even deeper chasm as they reach retirement age. This age group, who ripped their parents’ materialism, became the self-centered Me Generation of the 1980′s.

And even in old age, the Baby Boomers, as they have done their entire lives, are the center of the nation’s attention.

Why else do you see ads for adult scooters, adult diapers and Viagra, things paid for by Medicare or Medicaid? Because the Hippies of yesterday are worn out, incontinent and impotent.

They also have something else – jobs, and often good-paying ones. They’re the ones I’ve seen who were hired in leadership positions in their late 30′s and 40′s and have stayed fat and comfortable in those same jobs while workers 10 years younger have remained stagnant on the lower-paid rungs of the ladder.

And the Baby Boomers are refusing to let go of their positions. They have watched their stock mutual funds nosedive, and they won’t retire until those funds are growing and profitable.

Meanwhile, those that follow the Boomers get screwed in so many ways. They can’t get the jobs that the Baby Boomers are still clinging to. In my workplaces, those 10 years younger are bypassed, and instead people in Generation X, those born from about 1967 through the 1980s, become the bosses. Baby Boomers think the younger generation will have new, fresh ideas that will appeal to young consumers, not like my less technologically savvy generation.

Adding insult to injury, these Baby Boomers are also the ones who have decided they can make more profits by cutting workers, especially ones 10 years younger who are supposed to be nearing their salary peak.

Those laid off were loyal to the company for decades, but the Baby Boomers, who benefited from such commitment from their predecessors, have instead selfishly focused on getting everything they can, and to hell with loyalty and to those who foolishly followed it.

Every generation seems to have a name. The Baby Boomers, in my eyes, were born in the period from 1946-52. They benefited from all of the expansion after World War II. They found plenty of good-paying jobs and trashed their idealism of the 1960′s for materialism.

Generation X Americans seem to have reaped the benefits and will benefit more as the Baby Boomers finally retire.

Generation Y, also known as Echo Baby Boomers, the children of the Baby Boomers, from about the mid-1980′s and into the 1990′s, also should be able to adapt to the changes, especially as older generations retire.

Those born in the 2000′s now are known as the Baby Boomlet, or, Generation Z – children of Gen X’ers.

So what do we call the group of people falling between the Baby Boomers and the Gen X’ers? This group is born from 1953-66. No, we’re not Baby Boomers because we haven’t garnered the benefits that group has reaped.

What do I call my group? I call us the Fucked Generation. The term may be derogatory, but the word is used in plenty of movies, on cable and in junior high hallways.

Why are we the Fucked Generation? Because we will be the first ones, and maybe the last, not to be better off than our parents. We’re the first ones from a generation of college grads to experience massive layoffs, especially of white-collar jobs or banking and teaching, because Baby Boomers take all of the benefits.

We’re the Fucked Generation because we might not be able to have Medicare until age 67, but we’ll also have to pay huge premiums for health insurance.

Because of the Baby Boomers, we might not get full Social Security benefits. And our 401(k)s will fall once the Baby Boomers start cleaning out their funds and not putting any money back in.

It’s just our lot in life, but the Baby Boomers and others need to realize that the Fucked Generation’s buying power will be gone, too. By taking money away from this group in so many ways, there might be a lot less for entertainment, travel and even the general necessities of life.

The economy will slide further, and there will be a real possibility of deflation, where prices go into free-fall because no one has the money to buy anything.

What can be done for the Fucked Generation? Have the wealthiest of Baby Boomers sacrifice, show some of that 1960′s idealism and give up some of their questionably-attained assets to create more jobs for my generation.

We need some help because it appears we won’t be dying before we get old.

 Additional source, Washington Post.

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Roy Bernard (4 Posts)