Monday, October 26, 2009

The Gray Ceiling

Isn’t great that at least once a month someone comes up with a new baby boomer phenomenon with a clever name?

Now it appears that because boomers won’t get out of the workplace fast enough, they are forcing Gen Xers to hit their heads on the Gray Ceiling.

By the year 2016, one quarter of all U.S. workers will be age 55 or over. Are we working longer because we want to? Maybe a small percentage find their work that rewarding, but I would guess many would be happy to blow off work today if they felt monetarily secure enough to retire.

A Pew Research Center report indicates that 63 percent of workers age 50 to 61 will stay on the job past their planned retirement age because of the current state of the economy. Given that we are looking at a long slow recovery, the joke that we are going to die at our desks does not seem far from the truth.

For employers, the gray ceiling means they have to get their boomer employees to share some of the knowledge they currently use as leverage to stay on the job, without giving the sense they are going to be pushed out to make room for the Xers.

It doesn’t help that boomers are comfortable with a seniority system while Generation X is more inclined to want to be rewarded for their contributions rather than time served.

Companies that want to negotiate this intergenerational gray balding mandivide are replacing the career ladder with a career lattice. Generation X is moving laterally in the organization rather than always assuming they need to move up. Boomers can be mentors in this process as they also learn to play a different role than in the past. Another way to make room for the next generation is to move to part-time or consultant roles where boomers can still share their knowledge and experience while the Xer learns to take the reins.

I’ve always felt that “gray matter” can be useful to any organization. There is a lot to be said for knowing where the bodies are buried, what’s been tried before, and just as importantly, what might be worth trying again. If Xers and boomers can powershare effectively, not only do the generations win, so does the organization.

Viva la eminence gris!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

House Shrinks

A number of recent articles have focused on baby boomers who are shrinking the nest as a prelude to emptying it out all together. Harvey Araton recently described such families in a New York Times piece called When Home Shrinks.

What surprised me was how whiny some of the children were about losing their palaces. They had a pool, hot tub, trampoline, swing set, basketball court and each had a room to themselves.

I don’t want to do the “had to walk five miles to school” routine here, but an inflatable wading pool and a rickety badminton net on an uneven yard hardly adds up to what these kids have.

So Mom and Dad decide that with this uncertain economy and the need to put the three kids through college, this was the time to downsize and move to a more affordable energy saving home. Do the kids appreciate this sacrifice? Do they realize that the parents who have fed, clothed and nurtured them for their entire lives are looking out for their best interest?

Hell, no. They’re whiny. The oldest kid who’s leaving for college mind you, says, “We always believed that was going to be the place we would come back to with our own kids for Christmas and Thanksgiving…We kind of felt lied to.”

Reading this, you just want to reach out and put your hands around his neck while you tell him, “Listen, you little brat, nothing in this world is forever and you’re damn lucky your parents are being frugal enough to pay for your education. So sit down and shut up.”

Maybe it’s going to turn out that the small houseworst legacy of baby boomers is the sense of entitlement that they have instilled in their offspring.

When I left for college, I returned on Thanksgiving to find that my former bedroom that I shared with an older brother had been turned into some kind of Barcalounger den of iniquity with a color TV in the corner. They were just waiting for me to scram. Was I mad? A little put out that the deed was done the moment the door hit my ass on the way out, but they earned it.

And I did walk a mile and a half to school. In the snow. When it was bitter cold. But not barefoot.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Can We Meet Big Bird?

Bert and Ernie. Wow. You know you’ve arrived when PBS decides to do a 20 part series on baby boomers. Called “Life (Part 2),” the series will take an in-depth look at baby boomers as we make our transition from Act I to Act II.

Okay, some of us maybe are skipping Act II and going straight to Act III (the one where you die) but let’s not get morbid about this thing.

According to executive producer Naomi S. Boak, “This show is designed to inspire boomers’ own self exploration of how they can make a fresh start at any age… of how they can live 20 or 30 more years of vigor, engagement and impact, defying ageist stereotypes while still having a clear-eyed view of the challenges that come with this new territory.”

That sounds an awful lot like the slogan on our masthead above, only we managed to say it with 7 words: Your whole life’s in front of you.

The host for the series will be New York Times journalist Robert Lipsyte and he will do roundtable discussions with various guests. Now that I have you on the edge of your seat, get a load of the guest list. We’ve got Martha Stewart, because she is so relevant to baby boomers (or at least those of us who have done time for securities fraud). Former Governor Mike Huckabee….will he sing or just talk? David Hyde Pierce and Joy Behar? You’re losing me fast. You say Phil Donahue will also be a guest? Now you’ve really peaked my interest. Seriously, is this the best and brightest of potential baby boomer commentators to be found out there?

Since I am a stereotypical self-centered boomer, I guessElmo I will have no choice but to perch on my sofa each week as the series explores such topics as:

* How to overcome ageism and experience a financially secure second act;
* How to balance financial needs with those of their grown children and aging parents?
* What are the secrets to relationships that last through the decades and what are the challenges facing newly single baby boomers when they start to date again?
* Can plastic surgery and eliminating the “boomer belly” renew their feelings of confidence and sexuality?
* How can boomers, who pride themselves on their youthfulness, cope with their body changes and the aches and pains of aging?
* How can they keep their brains in peak condition and distinguish between forgetfulness and early Alzheimer’s?

Somehow, I’m not feeling so uplifted by the potential of these topics. Maybe Martha could get us backstage to meet Elmo and Big Bird? Maybe Bert and Ernie could be the hosts of the show…that I would watch every week.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Going Up the Country

According to the Economic Research Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), some parts of rural America will be getting a steady influx of baby boomers in the coming decades.

Appears we are taking the timely (if you can call the 40th anniversary of Woodstock timely) advice of Canned Heat and we are going up the country.

The report, titled “Baby Boom Migration and Its Impact on Rural America” indicates that as you might expect, baby boomers are going to seek out the rural areas with the greatest number of amenities. This trend is going to favor “counties with specific attributes—employment opportunities, scenic amenities, reasonable real estate prices, proximity to large cities, among others.” The net migration to the 500 rural counties with the most scenic amenities will increase from 520,000 in the 1990s to 720,000 in the 2010s.

This so called “rural rebound” has already begun, as many boomers have pulled up stakes in cities and suburbs in favor of a quieter, more laid-back atmosphere that can be found in some counties.

Studies show that after people reach their mid-fifties, they tend to migrate toward lower density locations. Some empty-nest couples move closer to urban centers for the cultural amenities while others seek out the recreational opportunities, lower cost of living and a slower pace of life in the countryside.

It wasn’t that long ago (try the early 70s) that an earlier rural renaissance was happening, and lots of boomers joined communes, read Mother Earth like it was the bible, and began growing their own food. My guess is that this time around they are going to want the quiet life of the country but with a lot more of the creature comforts they had in the city or suburbs.

Exactly what impact all this rural migration will have on some smaller communities is hard to predict, but I think it’s safe to say there will be a greater variety of coffee drinks at the general store, not to mention Wi-Fi.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Deathwatch? Got Better Things to Do

For the longest time, my only interest in obituaries was how in the hell those people always die in alphabetical order. The companion joke is attributed to George Burns. He said "When I get up in the morning the first thing I do is read the obituaries. If my name's not in there, I shave."

After age 50 or 60, obituaries are no longer the butt of jokes, but rather a perverse obsession with how many people who are dying are younger than yourself. Who thinks about their mortality when they think they are invincible?

Michael Winerip, author of the New York Times Generation B column recently wrote how nervous the obits were making him as he noted a rash of deaths in the age 50 cohort (some even younger!). With a history of heart disease in his family, he decides it’s time to become more proactive.

For the rest of us, every little ailment is the one that could bring us down. Sure, men and women are living longer, but a casual review of the obits reveals that a substantial number are not making it to the 70 or 80 mark. If age 50 is the halfway point, you can take the position (as we do here at BoomSpeak) that your whole life’s in front of you (or a good half anyway). Get out there and do things, eat better, exercise, live well and live longer. Conversely, you can adopt the attitude that it’s all down hill from hegravestonesre. If the big C doesn’t get you it will be H1N1 or an infected hangnail. So you might as well push back on the recliner and wait for the end to come. Grab your laptop and visit According to their homepage,

ObitKit allows you to personalize the obituary process while creating a written legacy to leave family and friends. It is a creative and upbeat way to leave a guide for loved ones so they can carry out your final wishes. ObitKit is a workbook that can be filled out alone or with a spouse, partner or even a book club. It’s a fun way to see how far you’ve come – with a hint of where you’re going and how you want to get there.

So there’s one less thing to worry about. Am I getting an ObitKit? Don’t think so. I’ve got better things to do than waiting for death.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

It’s Weisure Time?

When you can’t tell where work ends and play begins, or you can’t stop reading your work-related email at midnight, you’ve entered texterthe “weisuretime” zone.

Coined by a sociology professor at New York University, the term refers to the way we have all squeezed fun onto an endless treadmill of working. Instead of enjoying life and making time for work, we work all the time and try to find moments of leisure.

There was a time when we debated whether we should live to work or work to live. That seems like it was another century. Wait – it was another century ago. The debate is over and the live to work crowd has won. Nine to five is just a memory in a world that’s gone 24/7. There was a time when only workers who collaborated with fellow workers in another time zone we’re up at 4 am or still working at 2 am.

Workers feel guilty if they don’t take their office Blackberry with them on vacation. They check their email constantly to make sure they have not been sidestepped or sidelined. Taking time off from work is now literally a guilty pleasure.

Multi-tasking has evolved to dizzying heights where one has to answer email, read an instant message and follow someone’s tweets while speaking laser hair removalon the phone – and for the really savvy – texting too. So many forms of communication, so little time. Does anyone have time for real work or is everyone caught in the maze that passes for a communication system?

Can anyone really increase their productivity and still follow what Ashton Kutcher is up to? Can you tweet so much that you become incapable of writing anything that exceeds 140 characters? Does any or all of this social networking bring anyone closer together?

In another ten years, workers won’t be able to tell the difference between work and play, so your only option will be to pick one or the other. So after forty years of work or more, we’re just about right back where started – choosing between living to work or working at playing.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Vanessa’s New Baby

If you spend as much time on the Internet as we do, you eventually run across the meme phenomenon. It rhymes with cream and refers to all things viral. If you have seen the YouTube video of dancing baby...or Susan Boyle singing on Britain’s Got Talent, you’re as much a part of the meme scene as anyone.

If you want to immerse yourself in these things, there’s a whole timeline of memes on

What I’ve realized lately, however, is that there is a genre of memes that can be viral on a very localized level. Have you ever gotten an email intended for someone else, and they have copied about 40 people on it? Then when each of the 40 people responds and is rude enough to hit the REPLY ALL button, it becomes the gift that keeps on giving. It goes viral and becomes a meme, but only locally, within your own email inbox.

My latest experience with a local meme was the receipt of an email from a manager at a real estate office in Malta of all places. The subject line read “Vanessa’s New Baby.” The original message, sent to 40 friends and colleagues:

Hi Guys,

During one of our student representatives discussion we decided that it might be a great idea if we buy a bunch of flowers and a card for Vanessa’s upcoming baby. Thus we will be collecting €1 from each student, remember that this is optional and feel free not to participate.

Should you have any other queries and issues you want to discuss (no recession problems please ), please do not hesitate to contact me.

I knew immediately that it was misdirected because I don’t know anyone who lives or works on Malta, I don’t know a pregnant Vanessa, and I don’t have €1 note. But I was fascinated by the message. What did the author mean by “new” baby? Was Vanessa always pregnant? Did she have some "previously owned" babies? Notice the use of the smiley face regarding issues with the recession. Well, that makes sense – they are in the real estate business and that's about all the smiles they get. Bad timing for Vanessa, eh?

It really became amusing when the responses went viral in my inbox. “Count me in,” says Ryan. “I’m in,” writes Samuel. “Same here,” from Clinton. Then I hear from Milos, Keith, Kyle, Earl, Jeffrey and Vladimir. They are all in. I noticed there were no women responding and began to think that’s how Vanessa may have gotten pregnant in the first place.

After about twenty of these replies to the original message, I realized that this meme has helped me coin a new euphemism for email that goes to unintended recipients – as in, "I got a Vanessas Baby today from some guy in Nigeria."

All of this goes to prove that time on the Internet isn’t wasted.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Messengers of Bad Tidings

Guess what? If you’re an out of work boomer or can’t afford to be retired anymore, you can find work as a handholder/bearer of bad tidings. Of course the work is only temporary, but come on, you can’t have it all.

Michael Winerip of the New York Times writes a great column called Generation B and he recently highlighted the work of an employment agency in Denver called the Boomer Group.

Boomers are particularly in demand for the empathy skills. Got lots of bad news about your product or service and need to set up a phone bank to handle the irate callers? Boomers are your guys.

That’s right. If it’s a shoot-the-messenger type of situation, you’re going to want baby boomers to be your cannon fodder. Why? We have experience. We have values. We have a work ethic. We are good under pressure.

Crikey, if we have all that going for us, can’t we do any better than temp jobs? It sounds like those are the qualities every employer dreams of having throughout their workforce.

Somehow, our primary skill set has become the ability to deliver bad news or commiserate with angry people who have already gotten the bad news. It’s nice to be valued for your talents, but what effect does all this empathy distribution have on us?

Several temps mentioned that they may have over-empathized at first or that it was hard to listen to people vent all day long, even swear at them. Yeah, that would be hard to do all day, even as a temp. But when the Gen Xs and Ys stay in bed on the day of the snowstorm, you can count on the boomers to come through. We’re too mature to be ducking out for a mental health day, though God knows we need one as much as the next worker.

If boomers have all these great qualities and if Woody Allen was right that 90% of life is showing up, we should be on top of heap, but more often than not, we’re being heaped with scorn. What’s up with that? You love us as worker bees, you just hate what we’ve done with the planet, we were rotten parents, and we’re too selfish.

It’s okay. We’ll just take those temporary jobs and try to rebuild the 401-k. Remember, we work while you sleep in.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Boomers Hot for Tats

Maybe it’s because they’re not working for “the man” anymore, or they’re not working at all, or they just don’t care. Whatever the reason, more and more boomers are getting their first tattoo.

When we were in our 20’s only military veterans and bikers had tattoos and who was going to give them a hard time about it. If you were going into a profession (teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer, whatever), a tattoo was taboo. So even though we were born to be wild, we were doomed to be mild.

Now everyone has tattoos so no one worries about the job interview anymore. The guy doing the interviewing has as many tattoos as the applicant. They probably end up comparing their tats before the interview is over.

What accounts for the renewed interest in tats by boomers? We’re all free to speculate here. Some think it’s a Bucket List phenomenon – get it now before you die. Maybe it’s a reflection of the greater acceptance that tattoo art now has. Angelina Jolie’s career has not suffered and she’s up to about sixteen tats and counting. Many boomers choose to commemorate important life events – grandchildren’s names are a reoccurring theme.

They’re not getting tramp stamps (those big tattoos that run just above the butt crack of a lot of young ladies – you figure out where the name came from). Boomer women will still go for the less ostentatious butterfly, heart or flower in a place or size that won’t catch too much attention in the light of day. Men go for the barbed wire around the biceps. And of course, lots of tat seekers are checking out Asian, Arabic and Hebrew letter characters, despite the fact that most of the time they have no idea what they mean.

The reality shows about tattoo artists (Miami Ink) either hurts or helps the cause, depending upon your opinion of reality shows. In any case, you can’t go anywhere without seeing mainstream tattoos. Your waitperson in the restaurant has some, so does the mail carrier, the barista and the produce manager. If your priest or rabbi has one you probably would not know it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

You missed Woodstock, so why not catch this wave before it goes back out. Just don’t tell your mother.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Love the Attitude, But Are They All Wearing Thongs?

We’ve all seen the Red Hat Society ladies when they storm the mall or whatever attraction they have targeted for the day. It’s like a swarm of red and purple locusts devouring all in its path. I admire their enthusiasm but their crustiness scares me. In the end, I think it’s great that they get together and have fun as opposed to sitting around alone and feeling sorry for themselves.

So the good news is that baby boomers now have their own social networking group. The bad news is they are calling themselves the Blue Thong
Society. Their website is quick to point out that just because they call themselves the Blue Thong Society does not mean they have to wear a blue thong all the time (phew, I say to myself). But they do prefer that you have no visible panty lines.

Co-founder Kelly Golden says "It is really not about being able to wear a thong. It is about the mentality that goes along with a thong." Add to that their mantra, Fight Frump Forever, and you get the idea.

The weird thing is that their logo looks more like a flip flopthong than underwear, but they say that was intentional.

So what is the mentality that goes along with a thong? Is it an uncomfortable pain in your butt crack? I don’t think so. According to the website:

We really felt and knew there was a HUGE need for a cool and fun group of women to connect from our unique generation. A group to encourage and educate all of our girlfriends, not only from our generation, but all our younger sister generations on the benefits of staying hip, beautiful and chic forever. We will never give in or stop fighting for what we believe in, and above all, we will Fight Frump Forever, and one way to do that is to never stop wearing Hip-Huggers and Bell Bottoms!

So there you have it – hip, beautiful and chic forever. Well, the group did start in Southern California. And it’s a lot better than sitting home with blue hair. So maybe they are right. The best thing to do is relax and have another blue martini.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.
Some last words of wisdom. They say 50 is the new 30 but tell that to your ass.

Kidless Communities: The Next Ghetto?

There seems to be no shortage of communities for the 55 and over cohort, and given the huge demographic shift of boomers moving into retirement over the next 20 years, the number will soon skyrocket. With increased life spans, and not withstanding our current economic fix that will inevitably delay some retirements, it’s expected that we may spend one-third of our lives retired. If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will. By 2014, there will be 85 million retirees out there (and 40 million of them may be driving golfcarts!).

I have no problem with the basic concept, though I’m not getting in line to join the trend. Personally, I need more diversity. I want to see kids being kids and young parents raising families. I want to know what twenty-somethings are listening to on their iPods and watching on TV.

Leisureville by Andrew Blechman may exaggerate the pitfalls of the over-55 communities, but there can be a dark side to a monocultural environment. Blechman calls it geritopia but beyond all the terrific amenities there may often be a sense of isolation and a penchant for rigidity that may rub baby boomers the wrong way fast. Some of these communities limit the stays of children to no more than 30 days a year. Anecdotes about arbitrary rules abound. Dogs have to be weighed periodically to make sure they do not exceed the thirty-pound limitation. The height of your lawn grass is prescribed. Some communities have their own newspaper and security force – both supplied by the developer.

While other countries encourage extended families to stay together, here we put retirees out to pasture in idyllic, albeit isolated splendor. And it’s not like we make them go there under the gun. There are plenty of retirees who can’t wait to get to the retirement village --- like eternal spring break for geezers. More power to them. Why not live somewhere where there’s less friction and you feel safe?

My answer to that question would be that segregation, even when self-imposed, has the effect of creating alienation and intolerance. Every assisted living facility goes out of its way to promote programs that bring in children and pets. Why? Because every human needs that stimulation to create a happy medium between being overstressed and living in a bubble.

I’m looking for more than a cocoon when my time comes, and I can only hope that as a society we figure out a way to mainstream our retirees. If I can put a bumper sticker on my golf cart it will be the one that says Geezers Just Want to Have Fun.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Pillage and Plunder

Whether you’re over 50 or over 60, you must have noticed that pills are more in your life now than at any other time you can remember. When we were kids, it was just vitamins. As we got older, there were cold and sinus pills for when you were sick, but in general, we sailed along without popping much of anything other than extracurricular drugs (you know who you are).

Now look at us. We have Centrum Silver vitamins to start the day, statin blockers for cholesterol, Pepcid for heartburn, motrin for muscle aches, enough kinds of antidepressants to float a ship, Viagra for ED, hormone therapy, and the list goes on and on.

There was a time when the term “stash” meant the place where you kept your illegal drugs. Now it’s the place in the house where you keep all your legally prescribed drugs. And who would have thought medical marijuana would be legal in so many states by now? With the economy in the crapper, legalized drugs that are taxed may be just around the corner.

The fact is, there’s a pill for everything, and no shortage of doctors to write the scrip and drug companies to keep inventing the pills. It wasn’t that long ago that you only learned of a new drug from your doctor. Now you can watch TV and see one commercial after another exhorting you to “ask your doctor” about the new drug, tachanotherpillicine. Do they have it backwards? Do you invent a drug and then find some ill that it cures, or are they supposed to be researching new drugs for society’s most problematic health problems?

The U.S. may be the only industrialized nation where drug companies are allowed to hawk drugs on TV. You see depressed people who are dragging down their mates and families make 30-second recoveries to enjoy a life of happiness and contentment. I still don’t know what is the significance of the man and wife who sit in side by side bathtubs after he has taken an ED pill, but they will be very clean by the time they get around to making sure the pill worked. If I were directing the ad, I would have put them in the same spa tub, but maybe there’s a prohibition on featuring naked couples in the same tub (even if they are married).

You can even watch these ads in your doctor’s office while you are waiting 45 minutes past your appointment time (which does not include the extra 15 minutes they request that you arrive before your appointment time). I’ll give you three guesses who paid for the TV and the presentation, but the first two don’t count.

I’m doing my best to not get too worked up over this pillage, because I know that the real danger is that my stressing over this is just going to require another prescription. I’d rather spend the money on a vacation.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gallows Humor for Gallows Economy

You know how to tell when the gravity of this recession has really sunk in? When the gallows humor brand of jokes start making the rounds.

It started a few months back when my accountant told me that his wife was going to work until age 84 while his plan was to die at his desk. We’re all concerned about our future, financial and otherwise, but when everything looks darkest is the best time to laugh our way through this mess.

Baby boomers have lost as much as anyone else, only they have lost monies and home value that they were counting on for retirement. At least the jokes come cheap. There’s the one about how your 401k has been converted into a 201k. Or how we now have boomerang parents that are moving back in with their kids.

Financial advisors probably have the largest cache of jokes as they try to make sense out of this mess and maintain some perspective. Some of the best jokes are actually revised definitions. To wit:

CEO -- Chief Embezzlement Officer.

CFO -- Corporate Fraud Officer.

BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

BEAR MARKET -- A 6- to 18-month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.

VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

BROKER -- What my broker has made me.

STANDARD & POOR -- Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST - The idiot who just downgraded your stock.

FINANCIAL PLANNER -- A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION -- The day after you buy stocks.

CASH FLOW -- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

And finally, here’s some food for thought. If you had purchased $1000 of AIG stock one year ago, you would have $33 today. If you had purchased $1000 of Lehman Brothers stock one year ago, you will have $0 today. However, if you had purchased $1000 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all of it, and turned in the aluminum cans for recycling, you would have received $214. Therefore, the best investment plan is to drink heavily and recycle. It’s called the 401keg Plan.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Out of Work Boomers Need Facebook?

I know times are desperate for many people facing unemployment, foreclosure, or bankruptcy, but can Facebook hold the key to reinvention for baby boomers? Please, God, say no.

The New York Times’ Eilene Zimmerman writes a column called Career Couch and recently offered advice to jobseekers 55 and over. Most of it was useful, if not common sense tips, such as eliminating from your resume the year you went to college and/or graduate school and instead just summarizing the degrees you hold. Make your age and experience into an asset rather than a liability, etc. If employers are worried about an older employee’s energy level, you need to prove you’ve still got some zip, so list hobbies such as running, snowboarding, or skydiving.

It was at this point that I began picturing myself at an interview (and that has not happened in 30+ years) wigged out on five cans of Red Bull and repeatedly using the word “insane” to describe everything. “Is this your employee break room? Those inspirational posters on the wall are INSANE!!”

The advice that really had me worried, however, was how to prove to a potential employer that you can keep up with changing technology (as if all the post boomers can do that). I get that an employer is going to want to know that you can go online, write and answer email, operate word processing software and other applications that are pertinent to the job, but one human resource expert suggests you join social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook and then list your URL on the resume.

So this is what it’s come to? Leaping, lemming-like over the cliff onto the Facebook heap? Baby boomers who have worked hard to support their families all these years, who have paid their taxes and supported their communities, must now drink the Kool-Aid (or in this instance, Red Bull) and prove their bona fides by joining Facebook. This will clearly demonstrate their technological superiority (or at least parity) with any Generation X, Y or Z. And while you’re at it, why don’t you Twitter the human resources director and let her/him know what you’re doing now in 140 characters or less (“hurling chunks after job interview, surprised at how nervous I was”). Better yet, text them while you’re driving home after the interview. “Tht wuz fun. Look 4wrd 2 hearing frm U, my new BFF.”

Yeah, that’ll work.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Barbie Is a Boomer?

Who would have thunk it? She looks so young and stylish. And the body, oh my God, the body. Word is that she has never been touched by a plastic surgeon’s knife, but can anyone look that way at age 50?

Barbie showed up at the New York Toy Fair on March 9, 1959 and the hair color and style has changed about one hundred times, and she’s had that many careers as well (fashion model, tennis pro, ice skater, astronaut, flight attendant, ballerina, nurse, gymnast, Miss America, TV reporter, teacher, rock star, doctor, Army officer, pilot, rap musician, presidential candidate, police officer, baseball player, Rockette, diver, lifeguard, chef, photographer, producer, racecar driver, and zoologist, to name a few). Talent and looks --- the complete package. Word is that she was modeled on Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.

The thing is, I never stopped to realize that she’s a boomer. Maybe it’s the whole eternally young thing and the way she has reinvented herself time and time again. But baby boomers have done that as well. For every stage of life, we have morphed into what we needed to become. The difference is that Barbie still looks like she’s 17 or 18 years old, while the rest of us are definitely showing our age.

I was startled to see her dump Ken back in 2004. You expect aging men to cast off the mate in search of the younger model, but Barbie? And Ken hadn’t aged any more than Barbie. Word is that she dumped him for the Australian surfer dude, Blaine. Ken and Barbie had been an item for 43 years, so you wonder if Ken even saw it coming or just turned into the headlights of the bus as it ran him over. Sure, Barbie says they’re still friends, they needed space, they had grown apart – all the usual clich├ęs but they add up to the same thing. Ken was toast. Nothing more than another accessory for Barbie to play with.

Now she’s turned 50 and will need to face a life without a significant other. Can she go it alone? Does she turn to eharmony? Sure, she still has the hard body (plastic is great that way), but what’s going on in the cute noggin of hers? As her maker says, Barbie’s more than a doll, but will she need to become even more than that for the second half of her life?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

You Like Us…You Really, Really Like Us

Another study (will they ever stop?) has concluded that baby boomer buying power remains strong. Another DUH Moment. Of course it remains strong – we were trained to consume from an early age. From the moment I was plunked down in front of the old black and white TV set and Gabby Hayes’s grizzled face filled the screen, I was predestined to see things that I would want (and plead with my mother to buy).

The Nielsen and Hallmark Channel report indicates that of the annual $230 billion in sales of consumer packaged-goods products, boomers represent 55% of the total. And here’s the kicker – we only represent 50% of the population! Unless you are math challenged therefore, you can see that we buy more than we need – because WE CAN!

Boomers have been on a buying spree for quite some time now. With two-car households, second homes, exotic vacations, home theatres, you name it – we want what we want. And it’s not selfish purchases. We have been acquiring plenty for our offspring, making sure that they have enough iPods, computers, and other techno wonders, not to mention $40 k a year on a college so they get the best education that money can buy. You can’t accuse the boomers of not spreading their wealth like some sort of miracle fertilizer for the rest of the economy.

The report also indicates that boomers as a demographic do not have the brand loyalty that age18 to 43 households have. Maybe that’s because we have been around the block a few times and have figured out that there is no difference from one brand of deodorant to the next, or maybe it’s because we were not bombarded by as many commercials as the 18 to 43 cohort. Or maybe we just know that every commercial is a lie on some level because we have so many trust issues.

Any way you look at it, baby boomers are still a driving force in the economy. We have both the clout of sheer numbers and accumulated wealth. And that means that consumer goods manufacturers like us….they really, really like us.

But will they still like us when we switch from buying deodorant to buying Depends? Something tells me they won’t care what we buy, as long as we keep buying.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Hair, Hair

Never mind the whole gray versus dyed debate – what about losing hair in the places you want it and gaining hair in the places you don’t. No one told us about this phenomenon (i.e. we didn’t sign up for this).

Why can’t the hair growing in your ears just move up a little to the back of your head? Would that be so hard? You can feel your hair thinning, even hear it if you still have any hearing left, but the hair in your ears and nose just marches on, oblivious to the irony of it all.

And if you want to moan about another irony, consider the fact that the same hormone that causes baldness, dihydrotestosterone, is believed to be responsible for the increase ear and nasal hair. According to one study, 76% of women surveyed were turned off by a hair nose. Good to know, right?

Boomer women report that facial hair has become more annoying and what husband hasn’t been asked by a mate, “is there a big hair growing under my chin?” Hair growth on women’s legs may be slowing down with age, but where’s the big consolation in that?

Excessive hair, wherever it’s found, is known as hypertrichosis. Some scientists still believe it’s all passed on with the Y chromosomes, so your fate was sealed the moment you were conceived. Most aging man have ear hair that grow as much as 1 cm per month. You take a guy like Anthony Victor, who lives in India -- he has some serious ear hair. In fact, he is the Guinness World Record holder for longest ear hair at 7.12 inches. So quit your bitching!

Face it. Excessive ear and nose hair is just more proof that getting old sucks. You can use a special scissors to clip it, use your electric razor to shave it, get laser hair removal, melt it with a chemical product, or apply a depilatory cream. None of these treatments get rid of ear hair forever, so either buck up or think about going for the new Guinness World Record – how hard could it be to grow an 8 inch ear hair?

Finally, for really overactive nose hairs, the most creative solution I’ve heard so far is to grow a really bushy mustache.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Waiting Game

Even before the financial melt-down, boomers were thinking about ways to work longer, presumably to save for their retirement. Now that everyone's portfolio is in the dumper, even more boomers are opting to stay in the workforce. Some call it “recareering” or “encore careers,” but that was when it was a voluntary option. Now, the idea of working until you die at your desk has become an imperative.

All of this throws a mighty big wrench into the gears of the theory that as hordes of boomers retired there would be shortages of workers in critical industries or professions. It also pisses off the next generation of workers behind us who have been waiting patiently for us to beat it. If you think Gen X, Y, Z and whatever else they're calling themselves were mad at boomers before now, wait until they find out we just won't get out of the way.

If you're 60 years old and you have 40 year olds circling around you like buzzards, it may be time to look at a power sharing arrangement. You really can sympathize with both parties. The boomer needs to work until age 70 just to afford a decent retirement (and to try to rebuild their 401k or retirement account). The Gen Xer has paid her/his dues and is ready to take the reins. If you think about it, the potential for an ideal partnership is all there…boomers have experience and wisdom to contribute and waiting roomGen X has the energy and ambition to blaze new trails.

All that's needed now is a push from government and business, to not only recognize the problem, but to impose the power sharing arrangement. People throw around the term “win-win situation” very randomly, but in this instance, both boomers and Gen Xers really do stand to come out winners if they team up with each other.

The transition from one generation to the next is not going to happen as planned, so the real test is how we not only manage to react to this change and but capitalize on it as well. If you're an optimist (as I am), you have to think not only will this work, but it just might be the best thing that could happen to us. Intergenerational cooperation is good for all of us and possibly a great way for us to dig out of the economic hole we find ourselves in.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Unnatural Acts?

I am not a natural hugger. Maybe I missed out on the touchy-feely gene. In fact, no one in my immediate family is big on hugging, so the genetic explanation for my lack of hugging instincts may be more than a feeble theory.

For some reason, I have become a late-in-life hugger. Either I’m trying to figure out what I have been missing out on all these years or aliens have taken control of my brain. Whatever the case, you can tell that I really lack experience. I keep going in the wrong direction when someone is zeroing in with a hug. I think they will go to left and instead they go to the right. This results in awkward head bumping while everyone readjusts their final trajectory to move in for the squeeze.

It appears that a lot of young men do a shoulder bump-handshake hug (apparently called an A-frame hug), but that involves logistics that would only further complicate my ability to pull off the greeting. And let’s just pretend that chest bumping never happened, okay?

So what’s up with the hug anyway? From a novice’s perspective I can say that it is a great way to pick up on someone’s personal scent. You get a pretty good idea of what soap they’re using (if any) or what perfume they have on while your nose hovers over the back of their neck. And speaking of necks, you get a great view of it when you’re locked in a longer than usual clinch. I find that I like to get in and get out pretty quickly, but then I’m not a natural hugger.

Some people seem to hug with only the top 10 percent of their chest. You have to bend your upper torso quite far so that only your collar bones are touching and maybe a cheek brush on the way in, but not too much action with the arms (how can it be a hug without arms?). It seems half-hearted to me. If you really want to minimize the contact, why hug at all?

Deciding who gets a hug and who gets a really, really warm handshake is another point of friction. Do we hug only family and friends? What about a client with whom you have a very warm relationship? If you hug them once, do you hug them every time thereafter? Maybe all these questions are just symptomatic of my hugaphobia.

All I can tell you for sure is that if I ever meet Pamela Anderson, you can bet that I’m going to give her a very, very big hug.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.