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.