Growing up a baby boomer allowed for a life filled with exciting new discoveries and previously unimagined advancements. Here’s a look at the impact, good and bad, this generation has had on the world:
Screen time. Baby boomers were the first generation for which the television became a central part of their lives. They were able to witness news as it happened and enjoy diverse entertainment never before available in such a medium. However, baby boomers were also the first to be pervasively bombarded by advertising, which quickly capitalized upon the captive television audience. Everything from what you should wear to how you should smell to what should be on your dinner table was pounded into receptive and somewhat defenseless heads.
A captive audience. Advertising helped to fuel a competitive desire to better one’s situation in life, but also often depicted an unattainable ideal. According to author Laura Lee Carter in her book “Find Your Reason to Be Here,” unlike parents who compared themselves with friends and neighbors, boomers were exposed to constant advertisements depicting the lifestyles of the richest, most famous Americans with whom they compare themselves. Obsessively striving to be like those fortunate few in the top 10 percent of the population can be frustrating when you just don’t make the cut.
Unequal society. The baby boomers made advancements in many areas, but that does not mean it is now any easier to make a living. Some 85 percent of those who describe themselves as middle class say it is more difficult now than it was ten years ago to maintain their standard of living, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey. Since 2000 the middle class has shrunk in size, shed income and wealth and lost some of its faith in the future, according to the report.
More debt. Being a baby boomer does not automatically mean wealth or financial security. The credit card economy took root among a generation that preferred to have things now rather than save and wait until they could afford them. The parents of baby boomers tended to save up for purchases, while baby boomers used credit cards in droves. Although boomers enjoy the highest income of any age group, they believe it is harder to get ahead than it was ten years ago, Pew found. Despite their great strides in the workplace, boomers rate their overall quality of life as lower than other generations.
Working longer. Job competition is fierce among this group partly due to the sheer number of members, but also because of multiple economic upheavals, changes in the nature of work due to increased automation and movement of some jobs off shore. It is increasingly difficult for those over 50 to find employment. Once they lose or leave a job, it generally takes older workers much longer to secure new positions than their younger counterparts.
Living longer. Although average life expectancies continue to raise, those typically longer lives will be burdened with rising health care costs. More money going to health care expenses makes for hard decisions when it comes to basic things like food, rent and living the retirement lifestyle we want.
Entering retirement. Being born a baby boomer has not necessarily been an easy road. Along with the wild success stories are many sad stories of difficult times. The oldest baby boomers have already begun to turn 65. This generation that changed the world in many ways is now about to leave their stamp on retirement.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.