Boomers – The Selfish Generation?

The WorkforceThere is no doubt that the tight labor market has produced a battleground where many older workers are reluctant to cede work territory to younger workers. These older workers, the Baby Boomers, aged 51 – 69, are holding on – like a G.I. Joe with a kung fu grip (do they still sell those?) – to their jobs longer than ever. What does this mean for younger workers?

Many Gen Xers – those born between 1965 and 1980, my generation – often find themselves stuck in middle management as they wait for upper management and leadership positions to open up. The cohort following Gen Xers, Millennials (aka Gen Y), may have it even worse as they are struggling to just get their feet in the door … decent jobs are scarce. Many have decided to stay in college longer and go to graduate school, racking up more debt, in an effort to improve their employment opportunities and wage prospects in future years.

The Scourge of Student Debt [RetirementSavvy]

The bottom line is that Boomers are remaining in the workforce longer, Gen Xers are stuck in the middle and Millennials struggle mightily to find decent employment. The financial impacts to Gen Xers and Millennials are pretty straight forward. Fewer promotions for Gen Xers and reduced employment opportunities – and mounting student debt – for Millennials means reduced opportunities and available funds to contribute to retirement accounts for both cohorts. So the question is, “will Baby Boomers ever leave the workforce, freeing up jobs and promotions for younger workers?”

Unfortunately for Gen Xers and Millennials, I believe the answer is a resounding ‘No!’ Based on my reading of news stories and reports, conversations with friends in different industries, and observations in my own workspace, I attribute the reluctance of most Boomers to leave the workforce to one of two reasons.

First, there are a fair number of Boomers, with good jobs, who are in their prime earning years, making more money than ever. Their attitude is, “why leave?” Many are working less hard than in their earlier years and making a lot more money. They are fully aware that they longer they hang around, the more they negatively impact the ability of younger workers to get into the workforce and snag promotions. However, tweaking the words of Dylan Thomas, they simply don’t want to go gently into that good retirement.

How to Find Your First Ever Job [Money Bulldog]

The second reason, and I suspect the primary reason for most, is that they simply did not properly prepare for retirement; they don’t have any other choice but to remain in the workforce. Many Boomers often state that they wouldn’t know what to do in retirement and/or they really love their job. While that is certainly true in some cases, I believe that is true only for a very small minority. Simply put, too many can’t afford to quit the 9 to 5.

So what is a Gen Xer or Millennial to do? That’s a conversation for another day. Stay savvy, my friends.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

15 Comments

  1. I’m a Millenial (1983), and I think we have it better than any other generation in the past when it comes to “starting”. With social media, technology advances, little $$ needed to start, and youth – we have every opportunity literally being thrown at us. If a Millenial is underperforming, its not because of the baby boomers or the gen x-ers – its because they are CHOOSING to. Go out, kill something, drag it home and eat it. Millenials don’t need to wait and wonder what happened – there just isn’t time for it

    • “Go out, kill something, drag it home and eat it.” Love the attitude! Just as I do believe Boomers hanging around longer in the workforce does impact opportunities for younger generations, you are absolutely right that nothing can be gained by sitting around lamenting the fact. As you say, they need to go out, kill something, drag it home and eat it.

      As I noted in an earlier comment, I hope you take the time to stop by again next week when I look at what Millennials can do to overcome the fact that many older workers are not leaving the workforce. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation, Chris.

  2. Millennial here. 🙂 I think these comments are some wide generalizations, but not a typical for people looking at younger generations. Think of how the greatest generation viewed boomers in their youth!

    Personally have worked a ton to get to where I am today, and I have no illusions about how far I have to go. Have never been unemployed except a brief stint to rededicate myself to school. And I’m not alone. Many of my peers have side hustles or even second, third jobs just to make ends meet. If anything, I feel like we’re more realistic about what awaits us after having lived through the great recession.

    Are there those that feel entitled? Absolutely. But there always has been. I’m willing to bet a vast majority of us are working incredibly hard not in spite of the lack of guarantee of a pay off, but rather because of it.

    • There is no doubt that there are lots of Millennials working hard. As a member of the older cohort – Generation X – I am not among those that believes they are lazy, take things for granted or are, in general, any less able than earlier generations. As you note, I have no doubt that many have side hustles and second (maybe even third) jobs to make ends meet. Been there myself. My observation that each successive generation is less familiar with struggling is definitely not an indictment of one single generation. I believe it is simply the result of the desire of each generation for their children/grandchildren to have more and to have to work less hard for it … it’s a natural desire. In my own case, there is no doubt that I have struggled less than my parents, work less hard than they ever did – and they did so in a more hostile work environment – and yet I make significantly more money and am more comfortable than they were at a similar age.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and add to the conversation. I hope you take the time to do so again next week when I look at what Millennials can do to overcome the fact that many older workers are not leaving the workforce, limiting job and promotion opportunities for younger workers. Side hustles, something you mention, are certainly one way to mitigate the impacts of a tight labor market.

      • Will do! And I hope you know my comments are actually not so much related to the article, but I figured someone had to play devil’s advocate to the comments section! 🙂

  3. Tweets from a follower …

    “No! But I would encourage them to do so! I left early & I have no regrets & if I had known what I know now I would have… ”

    “Well if you have planned well financially & you’re able to do so! I would encourage you to go ahead & make that move!”

    “Left even earlier! And I liked doing the work I was doing!”

  4. I have witnessed Millennials’ disappointment at the fact they wouldn’t be able to start out in their dream job. With my own kids, who are just 13 and 15, I see a lack of drive. I often wonder if the fact we’ve worked so hard to give them more than we ever had has set them up for higher expectations and lack of motivation.

    • “I often wonder if the fact we’ve worked so hard to give them more than we ever had has set them up for higher expectations and lack of motivation.” Great point. I’ve often said that one reason all great societies eventually fall is because as they start to achieve (have) more, each successive generation is less familiar with struggling, is less able to overcome adversity, is a little softer and is less ambitious. As most people that have a little age on them and some experience, there is often great value in the struggle.

      Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation, Jayleen.

  5. A Google+ reader states …

    “If your job is fun and rewarding, why quit?”

    • Agreed. However, as I note in the post, based on my reading of news stories and reports, conversations with friends in different industries, and observations in my own workspace I suspect the primary reason most stay in the workforce well into their 60s and beyond has less to do with enjoying the job and more to do with an inability to retire. Many have not properly prepared for retirement and they don’t have any other choice but to keep on working the 9 to 5.

  6. Perhaps the boomers are a bit selfish , but we had a willingness to start at the bottom and a drive to attain more than our parents had . I have noticed a disdain by gen xers and especially millennials to jump in and get dirty ,so instead of whining about a lack of job opportunities maybe they should get off of their parents couch and get a job , any job and create an opportunity for themselves .

    • Thanks for stopping by, Brad and kicking off the conversation with a bang. As I alluded to in the post, I don’t believe that most Boomers are selfish. In fact, I believe the reason most remain in the workforce is because they cannot afford to retire; a result of no/poor planning.

      With respect to Millennials getting a job, any job, I believe that is the heart of the issue. I don’t think it’s so much that they can’t find jobs, it is that they can’t find jobs that provide an adequate income on which to live (e.g. housing, food, vehicle costs, etc.) and save/invest at any appreciable level.

      • Looking back at my own situation it was that early financial struggle(working more than one job to make ends meet , giving blood for cash etc…) that gave my wife and I the incentive to attain a higher standard for ourselves . I think a desire to make things better for our kids has created a generation of young adults that want the rewards of a top job without the struggle of earning it . If the job you get does not cover the basics get another job to supplement that income . I have not met one single person of wealth that was waiting for a boomer or any body else to vacate a position for them to get what they have today , so I say again get a job any job.

        • Thanks again, Brad. You definitely make some points that are worth consideration. Like you, I have been in a position (two times while I was on active duty) where I picked up a second job to augment my primary income and I have given plasma for extra money. I plan to follow up this post with another next week that addresses what I believe Millennials should be doing in a tough work environment to not only live for today, but to save for tomorrow.

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