Boomer Wealth & Work: What a drag

Fri May 16, 2003

When it comes to money, it’s best to ask “where’s the beef?”

Boomers actually are not as well off financially as their Silent Generation counterparts. Although they control nearly all political and media outlets, more than 20% of their wealth is a result of inheritance (i.e. one-shot deals).

The Great or G.I. Generation was loaded, and the Silents made out pretty well, too, but the economy has never bounced back to its pre-1962 level. Add to this the fact that Boomers started working later (both because they avoided the draft by staying in college longer – at least to begin with – and because they struggled with the shitty economy during the oil embargo of the ’70s) and you have a bunch of disgruntled middle-mangers.

And nothing pisses them off more than seeing enthusiastic Gen Xers breathing down their necks,
waiting to have a shot at career advancement. Many people in our generation find ourselves working for much less educated, less ambitious Boomers. The pipeline is definitely clogged, but it’s hard to know what will happen when Boomers start retiring.

I don’t know if anyone remembers the promises suggested by Future Shock. In that book, Gen Xers would hardly have to work at all because Boomers would overproduce and under consume – remember: they are anti-materialists! Or at least this is how it looked in the early 1970s – so that every Baby Buster would have his or her pick of the low-hanging fruit. There’s less farce and more tragedy in today’s situation, where young people find themselves paradoxically the hardest working, most productive, most underpaid employees at any company.

We will soon be the most educated generation in American history, not because we like learning
particularly (the humanities are dying off left and right), but because it’s the only way to survive. What we lack in specific skills we make up in our adaptability, and this is why I think MBAs are so
popular: They’re educational currency. No, you might not be a master of IT, know Victorian literature or have a clear understanding of Freudian psychoanalytic discourse but you know “business,” whatever the heck that means, and so you have a job.

Your boss might only have a certificate from an imaginary college, but he isn’t getting out of your way any time soon.


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