Wednesday, December 12, 2012

So Long Twinkie Defense

By now, it’s clear to everyone that Twinkies are not coming back. Not unless some Chinese entrepreneur takes up the cause, and that may not be as ridiculous as it sounds. You read that here first.

You can blame baby boomers for the popularity of Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes, Snoballs, Devil Dogs, and Ring Dings, but remember that it was another generation baking up all these goodies and our parents who obliged us by buying them. They let us gorge ourselves on sweet treats that had absolutely no nutritional value and helped us on our way to becoming sugar junkies.

To be fair, they had about as much information about the dangers of so much sugar as they did about the danger of cigarette smoking. But let’s be reasonable – how could inhaling tar and nicotine be any good for you? Or consuming tons of sugar without a protein in sight?

We got smarter, and by we, I mean baby boomers. We demanded better foods and helped to advance the natural/organic food movement. Baby boomers helped to grow the exercise industry along with health clubs, work-outs, and the yoga and pilates movements. In short, we got off our asses (most of us anyway) and demanded a healthier diet that eliminated most of the sugar content that made up the diet of our early childhood.

Boomers started raising their own children and teaching them that “you are what you eat.” It was like Mother Earth redux. Much of the back to the farm movement is populated

by boomer offspring who were educated early in life about the value of knowing where your food comes from and who is growing it. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is clearly a movement that can be traced back to baby boomer interest in eating healthier and smarter.

As a result, the children of Millennials are most likely going to be denied the chance to eat a Twinkie or some other sugar-loaded snack treat. These kids are going to grow up eating healthy food and maybe reversing the upward spiral of obesity that this nation has fostered.

So if you want to blame boomers for denying the next generations the guilty pleasures that we had, go ahead. We can accept the blame for that as long as you give us the credit for getting everyone to eat healthier.

And now some crazy person won’t murder someone and try to get off using the Twinkie defense, so there’s that!

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, November 8, 2012

Read the Code

QR-1435-7484-9917B could faintly remember a time when humans actually spoke to one another. It was a long time ago, but QR-1435-7484-9917B remembered when humans shared thoughts and emotions. Little things, such as the weather and if it looked like rain. QR-1435-7484-9917B would ask about someone’s family, how were they getting along. When QR-1435-7484-9917B was happy, the emotion was shared with others, and when QR-1435-7484-9917B was sad, that was shared as well.

This was a time well before the QR Code made life so much easier. Now, humans no longer had to struggle to find the words that would convey their emotions. The QR code embedded in their foreheads was designed to relieve us of this burden, and it did so with great efficiency. Now, when you passed another human on the street, you could instantly learn their entire life story, their hopes, their dreams, whether it was a good day or a bad day, everything that could possibly be important to knowing who they were. What a relief this was to a race that was so weary of human interaction. In the early days, we tried using 140 character capsulations, but that too was insufficient as a means of understanding and relating to our fellow beings. The fact that it was based on one-way interaction soon became obvious, and reinforced just what a revolutionary advance the QR Code was in the way humans communicate.

With boring pleasantries out of the way, humans could get to the nitty-gritty of what we wanted or needed. Let’s say you need constant validation. The QR Code insures that every human you meet will know this about you in nano-seconds. Or perhaps you have an inflated sense of self. This is immediately obvious to everyone you encounter, relieving them of the boredom of learning this about you over an extended period of time. Almost overnight, there was a quantum leap improvement in mutual understanding. Yes, there were still disagreements, sometimes even warlike behavior, but at least we all knew instantaneously where we stood.

So what explains this interest in the so called “good old days of human interaction?” Nostalgia, plain and simple. In every era of human progress, there is always a futile yearning for “the way things were,” a desire to get back to our human essence for wanting to know another human’s thoughts by talking directly to them. Everyone feels this way at one time or another.

For QR-1435-7484-9917B – not so much.

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.

Show Me the Money

Why can’t baby boomers put away more money for their retirement? We know we’re going to need more than social security to live on, so what’s the problem? Besides losing a pantload of money when the market tanked, a slow recovery, and maybe losing your job, I mean what’s your excuse?

The conventional wisdom (sidebar: when did wisdom get conventional?) has it that boomers have selfishly squandered their money on or fancy cars, but that may be just one more myth among the many when it comes to baby boomers.

The National Center for Policy Analysis recently reported on how spending habits have changed over the decades. So guess in what areas boomers are spending more than prior generations. Let’s start with education: costs have increased 80% for 45 to 54 year-olds and 22% for 55 to 64 year-olds. Then there’s the continuing costs of supporting adult children. Remember when you got out of high school or college and then got a job? It has not worked out that way for a lot of the boomer offspring. About half of all boomers are still providing some financial support to their kids. Next up: housing costs have risen 25% from 20 years ago. And don’t forget healthcare costs: medical care and premiums have skyrocketed in 2 decades.

If all these factors are not enough to convince you that boomers have not been playing the profligates, consider how stagnant our earnings have been. Real median income in 1990 for 55 to 64 year-olds was $52,340. It peaked in 2007 at $60,345 and had fallen to $56,575 by 2010. I don’t want to know what it is in 2012, because it cannot have gotten any better.

So let’s review: everything is costing more but you’re making less. So how do we try to close that gap? We spend less on clothing, less on dining out, and less on transportation (there’s some very old cars out there). The experts advise us to focus on the spending categories that we can control but that seems difficult when it appears the cost of living is out of our control.

But let’s end on an upbeat note. Eventually your kids are going to have jobs and homes, and when they do, you can stake a claim on one of the bedrooms and live off their largesse for a while. No kids? It’s not too late to adopt.

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.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Shacking Up?

When was the last time you heard that phrase? For me, hearing those words was like traveling back in a time machine, to circa 1970. That was when baby boomers began living in sin, or more popularly, shacking up.

Scandalous as it was at the time, it made perfect sense to us. You love someone, you’ve had sex at least once but more likely a few dozen times, well, dammit, you might as well move in together. It wasn’t about splitting the rent (for most of us….can’t speak for some cheapskates), it was about setting up house, being together all the time, enjoying each other’s company, living our lives together, etc. Holy smokes, were we surprised when the greatest generation looked down their noses at us and began whispering about how their kids were “shacking up.”

We thought it was more like taking a test drive. We were compatible in so many ways, but could we really live together? Was marriage in our future? One way to find out was to move in together, and we did learn a lot. It taught us about respect for one another’s space, shared decision making, and who was not so neat (i.e. which one was a total slob).

So it was with some surprise that I recently read that baby boomers are in the shacking up mode once again. Cohabitation, as the researchers like to call it, is on the rise, big time. The number of unmarried people over the age of 50 living together had doubled in the past 10 years. About one third of all baby boomers are unmarried today, and it looks like the prospects are slim for them getting hitched again at this point in their lives.

In 2012, living together as opposed to marrying may have a lot to do with finances. Widows and widowers don’t have to give up their spouses’ Social Security benefits or take on each other’s debts. You can have your own bank account and there’s no legal bond that forces you to stay together. If you’ve already experienced one divorce, shacking up is a great way to avoid another.

As for the stigma of “living in sin,” whom are boomers going to offend? Their parents are gone (literally or just mentally) and their children are just fine with the concept. That leaves friends and acquaintances and they aren’t going to throw stones at someone doing what they might be doing someday.

It could be worse – we could be forced to live in shacks.

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.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mo’ Boom

So the sluggish economy sent the birth rate in the U.S. into a tailspin. Besides not buying homes or cars, people decided to put off having babies. According to a Pew Research Center survey, about 22 per cent of 18 to 34 year-olds surveyed said they postponed starting a family because of economic considerations.

And now what can we expect as the economy improves? That’s right – a baby boom. The children of baby boomers are going to be starting families in a big way, and it’s already being referred to as the “Echo Boom.” Personally, I prefer my own name for it – the Boom Boom. Not only does it have more alliteration, it also sounds vaguely like the name of a strip club (the Boom Boom Room?) with even more alliteration.

The typical American woman plans to have an average of 2.3 children. Don’t get me started on the .3 part of the equation because I have never been able to understand the existence of fractional children, and frankly, I’m not sure I want to know the explanation. What I do know is that the number of women entering their childbearing years is on the rise. They are between the ages of 20 and 35 and they want to have sex. More specifically, they want to have sex that leads to the birth of a child (they’re not just sex-crazed for crying out loud). Oh, and one more thing. They are our daughters.

When I say “our” I really mean “your” daughters, since I don’t have one, but the point is that there are a lot of baby boomers out there (78 million by most counts) and they have a lot of daughters. If only a quarter of them have 2.3 babies…..well, you can see where this is going. It may be time to buy stock in disposable diaper companies.

Personally, I couldn’t be happier that there is a new baby boom coming along. For one thing, it will give everyone a new generation to blame for being selfish/spoiled/self-centered/demeaning-adjective-of-your-choice. Secondly, we need more worker bees paying into the system so that Social Security remains solvent. If we scale back the child labor laws, we could have these babies working at the age of 10!

So I say bring on the Boom Boom.

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, September 3, 2012

Social Media. Oxymoron?

If you’ve read some of the nasty tweets that people have put out there and then had to apologize for, it makes you wonder what is so social about social media? When you can insult an entire race, country or individual in less than 140 characters, maybe it’s just too easy.

Perhaps Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and the other social media tools have actually become antisocial media. Trump insults everyone. Louis C.K. insults his fans. Courtney Love…oh, forget it. Hundreds of corporate employees have put Tweets out in the internet-o-sphere and then had to walk them back with major mea culpas if they wanted to keep their jobs.

And celebrity apologies? Take your pick. Oprah has had to eat her words. So has Ashton Kutcher, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Weiner (oy vey, not just words but pictures too), Adam Carolla, Kristen Stewart (sorry I cheated), Hugh Jackman, Spike Lee, Justin Timberlake, Roseanne Barr, Daniel Tosh, Kanye West, and the list goes on and on. If you don’t know some of these names, just trust me. They overshared or said something totally insensitive and idiotic.

But are celebrities really that different from journalists,

politicians and just plain folks when it comes to self-censoring their social media output? Email and social media have just made it so darn convenient to put words, thoughts and pictures out there without a second thought. Could your words be hurtful? Of course. Would be helpful if you reread what you just wrote and thought about whether some people might misunderstand your meaning or find it offensive? You bet. Do the serial Tweeters ever think before they type something and hit the Tweet button? Apparently not, as there are news items each and every day that detail the latest social media train wreck.

One can only guess where the social media phenomenon is headed. I can envision the day when you no longer have to type your thoughts because your computer (or the Mind Reader that replaces it) will know exactly what you’re thinking and blab it out to the whole world. There will be no opportunity for reflection or self-editing. Imagine projectile vomiting of your innermost thoughts if that metaphor is not too gross. If you think that’s what we have now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It’s off to work we go.

And the rest of the song lyrics?

We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig dig, dig, dig In our mine the whole day through To dig, dig, dig, dig, dig dig, dig, dig It’s what we like to do It ain’t no trick To get rich quick If you dig, dig, dig With a shovel or a stick dwarf miners

And boomers continue to dig – well past age 65. In fact, the percentage of baby boomers working past the traditional retirement age of 65 is now at a record high, and we all know why. They can’t afford to retire.

It’s not some dream retirement scheme that’s keeping them in the labor market. It’s way more complicated than that. Boomers are still working to compensate for the hit they took when the market tanked. They are still working because they are supporting offspring who have returned to the nest. They are still working because they realized they don’t have enough savings to cover life spans that are projected to last longer than ever. And many boomers are still working simply because the alternative lay-about lifestyle is an anathema to them.

If you thought you were going to die in your eighties, you might as well pack it in at age 65 and have Grumpy15 years to travel/golf/fish/knit/whatever. But if most of us are going to live well into our nineties, that’s 25 years to fill, or a hell of a lot of bogeys/fish/scarves. And even that assumes we will have the mobility for any of these activities when we’re in our nineties.

For many boomers, working is a habit that’s hard to break. Unlike our parents, perhaps, boomers are often defined by their careers. It can be a comfort to say “I AM a lawyer/doctor/designer/ manager/teacher/musician, than to say I WAS any of those things. Even if retirement brings new challenges and joys, the career that was your life’s work is completely in the rear view mirror, and that can be an unsettling sensation.

Speaking of unsettling, the statistic in the latest Labor Department stats that gave me pause was that for the first time ever, one in nine men over the age of 75 were still working, along with one in 20 women.

And here I was thinking that 70 might be the next high water mark for retirement.

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.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Who Says Boomers Are Selfish?

Sometimes it’s hard to refute the myth that baby boomers are self-centered. It’s not our fault that are parents led us to believe we were the center of the universe. Yes, we spent a good portion of our years on the planet taking care of business that would benefit ourselves, but the true measure of a generation is what we’ve been doing for everyone lately.

So what are boomers up to? How about their eyeballs when it comes to putting their parents and children ahead of their own interests? An Ameriprise Financial 2007 survey of three generations (boomers, their children and their parents) revealed that boomers were putting their children and parents in front of their own self-interest. Only 44% were saving for their retirement.

When the survey was updated in 2011, the number had sunk to 24%. That’s right – only one in four boomers were saving for retirement. Where was the money going? More than half of the surveyed boomers were supporting aging parents, paying for groceries, medical expenses and utility bills. That’s on top of paying tuition, insurance and car payments for their kids.

The big irony underlying the survey is that the boomers thought their children were deficient in their knowledge of how to handle money and their children thought that their boomer parents were not going to have enough savings on which to retire. Now there’s a perfect illustration of how difficult it is to be part of the sandwich generation. Pulled in two directions financially, boomers are going to have to figure out what’s got to give.

Financial planners are telling boomers that they have to cut the cord and start saving again for their retirement, because there’s a good chance their offspring will not be able to support them to the same extent that boomers have supported their own parents.

The other irony to the survey is that when asked what choice they would make between retirement savings and supporting their children, most boomers claim that they are choosing retirement savings. But the claim is not backed up by the reality. Boomers are still giving preferential treatment to their kids and their parents, and shortchanging themselves when it comes to retirement.

Bottom line, boomers may end up destitute, but don’t forget, they were looking out their parents and their kids, and that’s not selfish, that’s selfless.

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, July 2, 2012


Forget new car ads aimed at twenty-somethings – that’s not who’s buying cars. Insert sound of CAR-BOOM!! here.

A new study by J.D. Power (who is that guy, anyway...and who are the associates?) and AARP showed that people over 50 are now buying 6 out every 10 new vehicles sold in the U.S. And if you look only at the big three carmakers in the U.S., 67% of new models are bought by boomers.

So what’s the deal? Retirees who want some new rides is one big factor. Maybe they have been scrimping for a bunch of years driving ten year-old used cars, but they want that new car smell again.

It could also be that boomers are the only people who can afford new cars. Have you looked at the prices lately? It sounds awfully cliché, but who doesn’t remember (circa 1969) when you could buy a brand new car with all the options for around $3,200? Try multiplying that figure by a factor of 10 to arrive at the average cost in 2012. Another factor is that younger workers have been harder hit by the recession than boomers, so they are the ones foregoing new cars and hanging on to their used vehicles for longer periods.

And maybe, just maybe, boomers are acting out what that tiresome bumper sticker says – “We’re Spending Our Children’s Inheritance.” Maybe some boomers are tired of paying for elder care, tired of subsidizing unemployed/underemployed offspring, and just plain tired. And as everyone knows, the cure for this particular malaise is to go shopping. For a new $30,000 car. It may also explain the increasing popularity of leasing. That way you can get a new car every two or three years by making exorbitant monthly payments. Is it really cost-effective? No, but who cares. Life is short and the least you can do for yourself is have a nice ride – or two. Don’t forget all those retirees that have also bought old trucks and muscle cars to play with on the weekend.

If you’ve been on the fence about buying a new car, this should give you the confidence to just do it. You’ll be helping the economy. Your kids really don’t want that big inheritance anyway. They know it will just spoil them for the way the world really works.

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.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cloak of Invisibility

Get ready to be ignored. That’s right, the older you are (i.e. the more gray hair and wrinkles), the more likely you are to become invisible in the near future. Whether it’s a bank, a store, a pharmacy or a doctor’s office, if you are accompanied by a younger person, you will notice that the doctor, clerk or pharmacist will ignore you in order to talk to your “minder.”

As Nancy Perry Graham, editor in chief of AARP Magazine, explains it, “Older people are invisible in society after a certain point. It’s one of the last remaining acceptable prejudices.”

I get that some older individuals may have hearing problems or Alzheimer’s disease, but we’re talking about perfectly healthy, normal functioning adults. If you arrive somewhere with a son, daughter or younger companion, you will observe that you are bypassed as the conversation is directed toward the younger person. Part of the problem is purely observational. A clerk greeting an older person accompanied by a younger person automatically assumes the older adult requires assistance. Maybe they needed someone to drive them to the store, but it does not necessarily mean they are incapable of understanding how to purchase a laptop computer.

It’s one thing if we’re talking about you taking your invisible man85 year-old mother to the doctor, but it’s going to be a whole different matter when it’s baby boomers that are getting the cold shoulder. Imagine a tsunami of baby boomers, who are not about to be patronized, descending on malls, DMVs, and medical offices. They are going to behave as though they are entitled to have you speak directly to them, not some intermediary. Maybe the greatest generation is okay or accepting with someone else doing the speaking and the listening for them, but it’s hard to imagine boomers letting go that easy.

What I envision instead is a major retraining and sensitization effort on the part of any business or organization that deals with the public. With a large cohort of 60 plus customers/clients making it clear they want to be heard (and seen), management is going to want to make sure that they maintain/earn our patronage. Or pay the price when we vote with our feet and support businesses that get it.

Whatever happens, like much else associated with baby boomers, it’s going to be interesting to see how society decides to deal with us.

Let the games begin.

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, May 23, 2012

Workplace Bullies?

Next time you hear someone complaining about bullying, it may not be a taunted ten-year old, but someone like yourself….over 50 and still working. That’s right, now it’s baby boomers who are fighting off the workplace bullies. If it was the last thing you ever thought would your co-workers would do to you, it can be quite a shock to be on the receiving end of some very mean spirited comments. Being called stupid, too old to keep up, or ready for the scrap heap by your fellow employees are all forms of workplace bullying and their occurrence is on the rise. Maybe it’s your boss hinting that you should be thinking about retirement, or a co-worker who thinks you’re not up to the task (and they might also want your job), or a client that thinks a younger employee would be a better fit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seeing an increase in claims for what they call age-based harassment, so the problem is real. What is it? According the Workplace Bullying Institute, it is repeated health-harming mistreatment of a target by one or more perpetrators, and it includes verbal abuse and offensive nonverbal conduct. Some of this bullying is almost sanctioned by the employer because they want to drive out the more experienced, higher-paid workers.A 2011 survey by CareerBuilder indicated that 29 percent of workers over age 55 say they have experienced bullying, while only 25 percent of workers 25-44 reported the same treatment. What do you do about it? Pretty much the same thing you do with any case of employment discrimination. Document the occurrences of who said what and when. Check to see if your company has internal policies regarding harassment that may have been violated. Consult an attorney if you’re not sure if you have a case. And unfortunately, brace yourself for retaliation or having to find a new job, because that’s often what happens to workers who report workplace bullies. But who said life was fair?

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, April 10, 2012

Assisted Living -- Can’t Wait

Oh yeah, assisted living is most likely in all of our futures, but it’s already clear that it won’t be your father’s assisted living. Baby boomers are going to want to play by different rules and the assisted living industry is already planning, or should I say bracing for the changes.

Designers of 50+ communities are creating roomier floorplans (cuz we’re bringing ALL our stuff with us), more contemporary furnishings, added workshop and gardening spaces, and accommodation for pets. When we sell the house, that does not mean we’re giving up all our stuff....we’re just going to reposition it.

Location is a bigger deal now as well. The next generation of assisted living residents is not going to be happy stuck out in the burbs. They are going to want urban locations with easy access to cultural and dining options. According to a report from Bankers Life and Casualty Company Center for a Secure Retirement, boomers are going to be looking for “resort style of design” when choosing an assisted living or 50+ option.

Golf and shuffleboard are on the outs, but personal trainers, Wii and dogparks are on the way in. Boomers are not going to retire so much as go on vacation. And I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t mind living somewhere that felt like every day was a vacation.
And you can be sure boomers are going to want to have a say in how the place is run. Governance is not going to be left in the hands of those “who know best,”that’s for sure.

Broad-band access and WiFi....check. Cable TV with the premium packages....check. Closed circuit security cameras....check. These places are going to be bristling with the latest tech tools and toys, because that’s what boomers will be demanding. Everything from automatic and individualized temperature control to lights and doors that operate automatically.

Imagining retirement housing 20 or even 10 years from now is not just a fun pastime for futurists. The influence and impact of baby boomers is going to sea change the entire concept of retirement housing.

So cheer up, we’re going to be the Jetsons!!

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 27, 2012

Going It Alone

It’s official. More boomers than ever have made the decision to go it alone. Demographers at Bowling Green State University analyzed census data and found that the divorce rate for boomers over the last 20 years has increased by more than 50 percent. At the same time, more boomers are remaining single. Around one third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010, while back in 1970, it was only 13 percent.

Why should you care? Most elderly persons depend on their spouses for care, but with so many boomers opting to go it alone, federal and local government may very well have to pick up the slack. If you are an unmarried boomer, you are five times more likely to live in poverty than married boomers, and three times more likely to be receiving public assistance of some kind (foodstamps, disability, etc.).

The increased numbers of older, unmarried boomers is driven by a number of factors. We’re living longer and that means some boomers are faced with remaining longer in an unhappy marriage. Women have become more financially independent and therefore more willing to live on their own. And the stigma of divorce is almost extinct, so there is less social pressure to marry or stay married.

Many of these unattached boomers say they experience a sense of liberation when they decide to go it alone. It’s a chance to start over and remake their lives, even if it comes with a high degree of risk and uncertainty. They often find new partners to live with, but marriage is not in the offing. The number of unmarried adults ages 50 to 64 living together but not married is on the rise when compared with 2000.

The new found freedom does come at a price. Battered by the recession, these unattached boomers may not have children or financial cushions to fall back on, which means there could be financial hardships in their future.

For now, at least, the sense of liberation and independence outweighs the risk. How many of us want to spend today worrying about tomorrow?

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 6, 2012

Messages From Beyond

Oh. My. God. That’s what you will be saying when you get a load of a new messaging service called These enterprising folks seem to think that there is a surging demand for ways to let your online friends know that you’ve moved on to the great beyond.

That’s right, for just $47 (they call it a lifetime fee) you can have a message that you have authored sent to your online contacts so that they know you’re dead. And you can can sign up for a 2 week trial period, which had me wondering what happens if you die in those first two weeks. Will they send your message out anyway? I mean fair is fair.

You say you have more than 50 online friends? (you’re one of those Facebook addicts who’s friended the entire population of Croatia) No problem. Myobitlist offers a premium package for $87 (that’s a lifetime value) that will get the word of your demise out to 200 of your online buds.

It’s like a Constant Contact mailing from the great beyond, only it might more accurately be called Not So Constant Contact since you get only the one message before the lights really go out.

The Youtube video that extolls the virtues of this service is hilarious, if only because you keep thinking that you’re really watching someone’s crazy clip over at Funny or Die. But there is no punchline at the end of the video to let you know this has all been a spoof and it’s not real.

Their main pitch is that if something were to happen to you (i.e. you drop dead), who would tell all the friends you’ve accumulated over your lifetime. We live in such a “connected” world now, that it would be just awful if all those connections were to be ignorant of the fact that you’re gone. As in logged off permanently.

One can only presume that as baby boomers approach the finale of their lives, many more services such as are going to be there for us. Either that or a truly enterprising group is going to come up with a way for us keep on sending messages from the hereafter. Talk about Facebook hell!

I’m thinking that it’s either going to be called Heaven Sent or Hell Bent, but one way or the other, we’re going to stay connected.

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, March 2, 2012

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Reaching their retirement years, some former commune residents are actively planning to head back to the place where they spent their formative years. That’s right -- they’re Going Back Up The Country -- and probably playing Canned Heat on the ride up!

Known as intentional communities, a term applied to living situations where the residents have common values or vision for their collective lifestyle, these communes are attracting boomers who have fond memories of life on the commune.

It’s estimated that there about 4,000 intentional communities and the Fellowship for Intentional Community has a substantial directory organizing them by type and location. There may be as many as 100,000 people residing in these communes

For many, the attraction is a simpler back-to-the-land lifestyle and a distaste for the materialism outside the commune. They may have outgrown the concept in their twenties and moved on to the conventional material world, only to find that now that they are in their sixties, they miss the spirit of collective living.

The newest trend is for first-timers who are taking a serious look at co-op housing options. The living quarters are smaller but there’s much more common space that is shared by all. It’s a recipe for interdependence that many boomers find most appealing.

Can you really live out your final years on a commune? Hard to say. Commune members from the earliest days in the late 60s are just now reaching that place in life. A few never left the commune and have marked their 40th anniversary there. If you’re an aging boomer, you would have to think long and hard about whether the commune’s collective spirit can support you well into your final days. Part of the equation is attracting younger commune members who will take on the task of supporting the oldest residents.

So it’s a gamble for many returnees, who have to hope that the communal spirit will be sufficient to meet their needs. But it may not be any riskier than any other retirement plan that relies on property values, investment success, good health and a decent social security benefit.

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, February 20, 2012

Boomers Suffering from Withdrawal?

Not likely you say? Since when are baby boomers getting shy? Not talking about that kind of withdrawal. We’re talking about the kind of withdrawal you make at the bank, and specifically, what happens to the U.S. economy when a lot of baby boomers start withdrawing their savings and portfolios all at once.

Is this scenario just one more event that the 24 hour news machine would have you freak out about? Or is it real?

Let’s look at the numbers. There are 78 million or so boomers -- but they are not all retiring at once. However, according to the Investment Company Institute, 44 percent of all mutual-fund shareholders are baby boomers. So let’s say that over the next couple of decades, they all start drawing down on these funds. Are there enough younger investors behind them to pick up the slack? Doubtful.

The theory is that the economy drives the market, but you can’t discount demographics. Ten thousand people retiring every day for 20 years (and drawing down on their savings) is going to have a dramatic effect on the markets. Twenty years from now, almost 20 percent of Americans will be age 65 or over, and that’s a lot of people slurping away at their savings. Experts point to Japan’s stagnant economy for a lesson in what happens when more than a quarter of your population is over 65.

Yet another sign of trouble in paradise is the increasing number of boomers who are shifting to bonds and dividend income stocks as they near retirement. Investing for the long-run is no longer a viable option for boomers on the cusp of their twilight years.

So, is the sky falling or not? Boomers did have a bunch of kids and those kids are now investors themselves. That helps, but experts suggest three specific courses of action: 1) Avoid Japan and Europe and look to invest in countries with younger populations. 2) Match stock picks to national demographic trends (e.g. agriculture in India). 3) Stick with income-producing equites and corporate bonds.

Finally, my personal advice: stop watching the 24-hour news cycle and try to enjoy your final years on earth.

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.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I’m Gonna Live Forever

Like the theme song from Fame.

Baby, look at me
And tell me what you see
You ain't seen the best of me yet.
Give me time,
I'll make you forget the rest.
I got more in me,
And you can set it free
I can catch the moon in my hand
Don't you know who I am?

Remember my name. Fame!
I'm gonna live forever expectancy. What a cheerful topic. Sure, our peers are beginning to drop off the planet, but baby boomers are certain that they will live forever (or a reasonable facsimile). If you’re a man born in 1946, you can expect to live to age 83.5. Plus, if you make it to age 70, your redline increases to 84.7. HOW ABOUT THAT, as sportscaster Mel Allen used to say (before he stopped....because he died).

Census figures show that there are now over two million ninety-plus folks in this country and that number is expected to balloon to eight million by the year 2050. We may not be around to ring in that stat but plenty of younger boomers will make it 95 or even 100.

If we approach aging the way we approached everything else, we’ll have it mastered in no time. With better nutrition and better exercise, boomers will most likely be going full throttle in retirement. I’ve heard it said that retirement is not a passive sport anymore, and from what I can see, boomers are setting the bar very high for how much activity one can handle in their lives.

It all does come back to that old cliche: you’re as young as you feel. And boomers are clearly taking that to heart. How many times have you heard someone say that 60 is the new 40 or 50 is the new 30. The reality for many boomers is that they wake up feeling younger and more vital than their age would indicate. Aches, pains and maladies come with the territory, but boomers remain a remarkably resilient (maybe stubborn too) bunch.

So go ahead. Live forever. I’ll be right behind you.

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.

Put Your Money In Ambulances

That’s right -- the next big investment opportunity if you want to see your money grow --buy an ambulance company. Competition among ambulance services for nonemergency medical transportation is getting fierce. Knoxville, Tennessee, for example, has two dozen services vying to take you to the hospital. Most of the runs are for pre-scheduled trips where a patient needs assistance, but there’s also the standby service where an ambulance is needed at sporting events or concerts. Think heart attack while rocking out to the aging Stones -- or maybe one of the Stones goes down. Either way, you can be assured that an ambulance is waiting outside to shovel up the afflicted (or affected) boomers and get them poste haste to hospital.

I can see where this may be going. At first, boomers will be content to use a standard ambulance, but as the competition heats up, they are going to want something different, something unique. I’m thinking muscle cars from the 70s. Convert a Pontiac GTO or Dodge Charger (maybe called the General Hospital) into an ambulance and boomers will climb all over that trend. Or how about a woody surf wagon with the surfboards still on the roof, Jan and Dean blaring on the sound system?

If you follow this logic to its inevitable conclusion, some boomers will start getting picky about what kind of ambulance they want to take to the hospital. Picture the guy who says, “I’ll wait for the next one,” in hopes of getting a cooler medwagon. Seem farfetched? Not if you’re talking about baby boomers who are very concerned with image. Arriving at the hospital or doctor’s office in a plebian, vanilla ambulance could wreck havoc with their reputation for good taste.

My suggestion would be if image is that important to you and you have the financial resources, buy your own ambulance and keep a driver/EMT on standby. That way you will always have a cool ambulance at your disposal, whether you’re at the beach or just taking in a ballgame. As crazy as it sounds, would you take a bet that it won’t happen?

Me neither.

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, January 3, 2012

Will to Live Trumps Living Wills

I guess you could blame the “forever young syndrome” (just made that one up), but what else would account for the fact that 64 percent of boomers admit to not having a health care proxy or living will. This startling fact comes to us via an Associated poll.

Bottom line, boomers are feeling healthy and don’t wish to dwell on death. Therefore, they feel they don’t need to address end-of-life issues. Despite plenty of high profile cases where individuals had no explicit instructions as to their medical care, more than half the boomers born between 1946 and 1964 have opted to ignore the potential for such calamities.

Ahem, ahem. That’s me -- clearing my throat. I don’t like to dwell on death either, but look around people. Friends and acquaintances you used to know are not with us anymore. When you were in your 40s or 50s, it didn’t seem like a big deal when you heard that someone in their 60s had died. Then, ever so gradually, you started to hear about people who died and were the same age as you. Creepy, but you put it in the back of your mind. Fast forward to present day, and now you’re realizing that more folks that you know are dropping out of your cohort (a new euphemism for the act of dying). The reality for all of us is that we are going to continue to lose these friends and acquaintances -- at an alarming rate -- in the not too distant future.

Experts remind us that even if you’re the picture of health it’s still a good idea to have a living will that specifies your wishes for medical care if you’re unable to communicate those wishes to your doctor. At the very least, a health care proxy gives you the ability to select someone you trust to make decisions about your medical care.

Do yourself a favor (and for those who love you) and visit this link on how to create your own living will or advanced medical directive. Each state has different laws regarding living wills but the Resources link will help you sort that out.

Denial is a big river. But when the boat starts to take on water, you might wish you had a can to bail it out. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little planning for when the day comes that you’re unable to express yourself. And therein lies a poignant irony. Boomers are known for expressing themselves, and yet, the death denial response is so strong that we/they/you cannot bring ourselves to plan for that inevitable day. The river doesn’t flow forever.

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.

What Golden Years?

It’s tough enough that boomers need to keep working because of shrunken retirement funds, but even worse when we’re accused of preventing the next generation from assuming our jobs.

Edward P. Glaeser is a professor of economics at Harvard and the author of “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier.” He wrote a piece for the New York Times titled Goodbye, Golden Years.

So when he says that it’s a myth that boomers are robbing younger workers of their chance to move up, we should listen.

Glaeser notes that boomers keep working because they believe they cannot afford to stop. About 40 percent of 55 to 64 year-olds do not have retirement accounts. Almost a quarter do not even own stocks or savings bonds. Their median net worth is now $254,000 (including housing), which is down from $273,000 just three years ago.

But Glaeser thinks that boomers remaining in the workplace may turn out to be a good thing for young workers, even if it sounds counterintuitive. Boomers may crowd out younger workers in some instances, but as older workers continue to earn wages, they buy more products produced by younger workers. Boomers will also continue to pay taxes that help our overall fiscal problems gold nestegg while they bring a diversity of perspective and experience to the workplace.

Glaeser’s hope is that older workers, who may be more inclined to be entrepreneurial, will start new businesses. Statistically, the older you are, the more likely you are to become self-employed. And that self-employment in turn can generate jobs and taxes.

Maybe the whole idea of retirement at 62 or 65 was a mid-century aberration. It was not always a foregone conclusion that workers would throw in the towel as soon as they hit the magic number.

If boomers find fulfilling work or self-employment well into their 70s, they just might find that the golden years are golden after all. Or at the very least, a little more time to earn some green.

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.