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.