Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Introduction: We’re Here. We’re Angry. And It’s About Time Someone Listened To Us

Turning 46-63 in 2009 and making up about one-third of the US population, America’s vast Baby Boom generation may now be the angriest cohort in recent US history.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

You’re Decrepit, Greedy, Narcissistic Luddites – Plus You Have Cooties! Play Golf, Bake Cookies, and Turn Over the Country to Us

If you don’t think there’s a highly-organized propaganda campaign being waged against Baby Boomers, perhaps they’ve already messed with your mind and spirit. The fact that it’s bad politics doesn’t seem to deter our detractors. Maybe ridicule will help.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-8

Back To Sophisticated Communes – Will Baby Boomers Come Full Circle? Scott’s Story

After lifetimes of aggressive independence, Boomers may seek a sense of community as we age. The co-housing movement looks back to the free-spirited hippie communes of our youth but forward to a Utopia of health, learning, and productive work – without skimping on material comfort.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-x

Re-Engineered to Smithereens – Art’s Story

Once upon a time, when Baby Boomers ventured into the business world, those who could manage operations were Kings. But the ascendancy of financial re-engineering changed all that. Along with product lines and business units, even the most talented individuals turned into Pawns – and thereby became expendable.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-B

Will Boomers – and the GOP – Save Twitter?

The twin forces which could destroy Twitter are immature game-playing and political correctness, both taken to unreasonable – and sometimes illegal – extremes. The antidotes? Maturity and a renewed sense of inclusiveness.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-K

No Gold Watch – Nor Golden Parachute – When You Work For Pariah Corporation: The Story of Melissa and Phil

With close to 65 years of big-company experience between them, this perfect corporate couple kept their noses to the grindstone and their feet on the ground – until they lost a million dollars one very bad afternoon.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-N

A Chance For Romance – Annie’s Story

The Good News: More than half of all Baby Boomers are single. The Bad News: Hey! there isn’t any! If you’re a Baby Boomer, and you want to find new love or companionship, you can do it. And the current sea change in our national and personal value systems makes it easier.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-R

A Daughter Among Daughters Reaps Scorn – Suellen’s Story

When her elderly parents became ill, she gave up her job, her security, and her comfortable middle-class existence. If something isn’t done soon, she says, Baby Boomers will become the New Poor.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-1M

Who’s A Boomer? (And Who’s Not?)

Many people from other age groups – and even some members of the media – seem to have a rather fuzzy idea about who is and is not a bona fide member of the Baby Boom generation. Here’s the beginning of a helpful guide to some prominent Boomers among us.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-1Q

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

With close to 65 years of big-company experience between them, this perfect corporate couple kept their noses to the grindstone and their feet on the ground – until they lost a million dollars one very bad afternoon.

“Call me naive, but I really believed in the Myth of Corporate America,” Melissa tells me. At 50, she is still a Texas belle, charming and well-mannered. It’s easy to see why she fit in so well as a big-company manager, serving 27 years in one industry, until her entire division was disbanded, virtually overnight, in August 2007.

Since then, she’s made do with consulting jobs in her specialty area of housing industry software, but “each contract has become progressively less lucrative,” she says. Attempts to get back to full-time work have been rebuffed with responses along the lines of, “You’re too senior for this position,” or “Your experience is too specialized.”

Melissa thinks her story is “very typical of what so many Baby Boomers are going through right now. We put in decades of hard work and dedication to companies that have either suddenly shut down or not come close to showing the loyalty they expected and required of us. Not only was there no gold watch. In many cases, there was neither a warning nor so much as a thank you.”

Her husband Phil is still employed. But as a First Boomer of 63, less than two years from his company’s formal retirement age, he’s “sitting on pins and needles” waiting to see how long his division will stay afloat. It’s up for sale. And he’s been told that if it isn’t purchased by the end of this year, its parent company will shut it down forever.

That parent company – let’s call it Pariah Corporation – has virtually imploded over the past year or so, one of the twenty or so big companies in the financial services sector which quickly descended from Powerhouse to Poorhouse for reasons both general and specific. Externally, they fell victim to worldwide recession, the massive market meltdown, and a rapid shrinking of consumer and corporate demand. Internally, Pariah and its Shameful Brethren were wracked by scandals, incompetence, internecine feuds, and executive suite greed unmatched since the days of the Gilded Age robber barons – although with tales of gluttony, orgies, drunken revelry, and toga parties, maybe the Roman Empire is a better analogy.

‘Twasn’t always so. Phil, a lanky Arizonan, spent over half of his near-40 corporate years with Pariah, and he remembers how thrilled his parents were when they heard about his first job there. “We’re so proud of you, Son,” Phil’s Dad told him. “There’s no better company in America than Pariah.” Adds Phil, “At that time, he was probably right. Our founder was considered one of the titans and visionaries in financial services. Pariah was respected and revered, not just here, but around the globe.”

Since its downfall, however, Pariah’s managers, even those far from the boardroom and free from blame or scandal, have been subjected to escalating harassment from the general public. “There have been some death threats,” says Phil. “A few of my colleagues have been accosted by irate shareholders. One man I know was literally beaten up in an airport lounge.”

Some Pariah employees conceal where they work from friends and neighbors. Phil doesn’t do that, but he finds it depressing that while once upon a time, “you said you were with Pariah, and everyone looked at you with admiration. Now they look at you with pity or scorn.”

Gutted Accounts, Dreams on Hold

Phil has more than simple scorn to be depressed about. Over decades of service to Pariah, he’d amassed stock options that were worth a cool million dollars – until one afternoon last autumn, when the company’s stock turned into confetti, taking Phil’s nest egg along with it.

“It represented our dreams of a worry-free retirement,” he says. Melissa is an accomplished cook, and the couple had hoped to spend their golden years running a small inn or bed-and-breakfast. If they decide to do that now, it will have to be with the help of bank loans, mortgages, and the financial obligations they entail.

Despite years of respectable earnings, an extravagant lifestyle hasn’t been in the cards for Phil and Melissa since their respective companies relocated them to northern California eight years ago. Previously living in the southeast, they found California so outrageously expensive, they decided to rent a modest townhouse, rather than buy a new home.

That seems a prudent decision after the housing crash. But it also means Melissa and Phil won’t have equity in a home to cash in, if they decide to relocate a few years from now. And though they certainly don’t begrudge it, in retrospect, they’ve spent an enormous proportion of their life’s earnings educating Phil’s three children from a previous marriage, who now range in age from 22 to 35.

The kids attended top-notch universities and graduate schools, which cost a not-so-small fortune these days. “Our youngest daughter, Allison, graduated last spring,” says Phil. “One year of her tuition cost as much as a nice-sized house – or maybe a small island – did thirty years ago.”

Even with that fancy education, Allison has had trouble finding lucrative work – as has Melissa since her layoff. “We’ve heard the stories about bratty Millennials dissing Boomers and scheming to take our jobs,” Melissa says. “But good kids like ours empathize with Boomers, because they’re in the same boat. There aren’t enough jobs now, no matter what your age.”

Melissa thinks the nature of work may change for many Boomers in the years ahead. “So many of us feel betrayed by big companies, I think we now have mindsets that are both defensive and proactive.” She sees herself having a “portfolio career” from now on, where she does “a little of this and a little of that.”

While continuing to accept software assignments that come her way, she’s also earning a real estate license and is taking courses towards becoming an holistic nutrition educator and consultant.

Melissa and Phil sense they’re in a transitional stage, both in their careers and in their lives. “Solidity and permanence just aren’t there any longer,” says Phil. Although still an employee – for now – he shares his wife’s disenchantment with a corporate career and where it has taken him.

“You go into corporate life seeking recognition and security,” he says. “You work extremely hard, move around the country, make all sorts of sacrifices – only to see it shatter to pieces.”

“We’re questioning whether we should have been there in the first place,” Melissa adds. “At this point, we are truly disappointed.”

What Do You Think?

Do you work – or have you worked – for one of the Pariah Corporations in the financial services sector? Tell us about your experience.

Are you disenchanted, discouraged, or disappointed about spending your life in the big-company sector?

In retrospect, are you sorry you didn’t work for a smaller company or become an entrepreneur?

Do you think you made too many sacrifices – like moving frequently – because your company told you to?

Have you been hit by a stock options or 401-K meltdown like Phil’s?

Has paying your kids’ college tuitions taken a toll on your savings?

For the Introduction to Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

For Ellen’s hard-hitting piece on Anti-Boomer Propaganda, see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-8

For a related story on Financial Re-Engineering: http://wp.me/pxD3J-B

To hear about How Boomers May Save Twitter: http://wp.me/pxD3J-K

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.
 
Turning 46-63 in 2009 and making up about one-third of the US population, America’s vast Baby Boom generation may now be the angriest cohort in recent US history.
 
If Demographics is Destiny, that fate seems to have turned violently against us recently, as our generation has collectively borne the brunt of a seemingly unending series of social and economic events, from outsourcing and the hollowing out of America’s manufacturing base to the collapse of home equity financing and the recent drop in home prices to last year’s stock market crash and its demolition of a lifetime of hard-earned savings.
 
Now, a well-organized – and often heavy-handed – propaganda campaign seeks to push Boomers off center stage in our nation’s political, economic, and cultural life, while we are still very much in our prime and in the age range normally considered the peak of one’s capacity for achievement, productivity, and earnings.
 
Nearly every Boomer I know is angry about this state of affairs – angry at our government, at both major political parties, at the economic and media Establishments which are trying so desperately to marginalize us at the very moment our problems and concerns need to be taken more seriously, if this nation is to regain its footing as the Land of Promise and Plenty it used to be.
 
This series, Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, will attempt to make sense of what our still powerful and influential, but deeply troubled and perplexed generation is feeling right now.
 
We will seek to hear from, talk to, and present the stories of Baby Boomers from every region and from a range of educational, professional, and political backgrounds – those who believe they’re doing well and those who think they’ve hit a brick wall; those who think things are getting better and those who think they’re getting worse; those who are hopeful and those whose hope has fled.
 
Some stories in the series will be humorous, others dead serious. We’ll hear from experts and pundits of various kinds. But we’ll also hear from your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues, your brothers and sisters – and maybe from you
 
If you’re a Baby Boomer living in the US or Canada, I’d love to talk with you. I’ve set up a new Internet E-mail address just for this series: angrygeneration at optonline.net.
 
We can correspond by E-mail only, or we can talk over the phone. And while I must be able to confirm your identity and that you’re a Baby Boomer, I will identify you by name in future articles only if you give me your permission. If you care to comment anonymously, I will honor your request to the letter.
 
I’d be especially interested in talking with people with these specific backgrounds:
   
     **Engineers and others whose jobs and/or manufacturing companies were lost or destroyed because of the “hollowing out” of the US manufacturing base the past couple of decades.
 
     **IT professionals and others whose jobs and/or small to midsize companies were lost or destroyed, as large parts of their sectors were “outsourced” to other countries, either earlier in this decade or within the past few years.
 
     **Anyone believing their jobs or small to midsize businesses have been either hurt or helped by the influx in immigration within the past decade.
 
     **Those whose professional lives and/or life’s savings have been badly impacted by the recent market crash. I’d like to hear from both “passive” investors and from active traders or managers of small funds which have been hurt.
 
     **Financial sector professionals, including attorneys and bankers, whose careers have come to a temporary grinding halt.
 
     **Anyone hurt by the housing debacle, including employees in the real estate, mortgage, or construction sectors.
 
     **People coping with rising college costs, medical emergencies, or the contingencies of aiding aging parents.
 
     **Nonprofit managers, social workers, and local political leaders, coping with the effects of economic distress in their own communities.
 
If you belong to none of the above categories, but would like to have your voice heard, you are very welcome!
 
As this series develops, I hope that we will begin to hear The Voice of a Generation, telling politicians and others in positions of influence that far from being willing to settle for less than is our due, Baby Boomers are already fighting back hard to regain our prominent position in national affairs.
 
We already make up the greatest proportion of US small business owners, and a new burst of entrepreneurial spirit among Boomers is now at hand.
 
Far from playing second fiddle to younger Americans in technological matters, Baby Boomers are in the forefront establishing companies based on new technologies.
 
We still dominate managerial positions in sectors crucial to America’s future, from environmental protection and urban planning to senior services and education.
 
And Boomer politicians hold the majority of legislative and executive positions at the national, state, and local levels.
 
This last statistic makes the anti-Boomer propaganda push the last several months particularly surprising. For Boomer legislators, Boomer corporate executives, or Boomer media pundits to push for their peers, their brethren, and possibly their former colleagues to retreat to low-paying “encore careers,” so that what they fear is a shrinking economic pie can be served up to the clamoring younger generations behind the Boomer mass . . . Well, to say this is a misguided and cynical effort is a vast understatement.
 
We cannot and should not accept an intragenerational split between a very few Haves and many Have Nots, particularly if the instigators of this split are working against their own generational peers for what seem to be purely political motives.
 
Moreover, perhaps it is the very idea of a shrinking economic pie that needs to be turned on its head. Perhaps it is time to embrace a new optimism about this country’s possibilities. And perhaps the best way to do this is by allowing the Generation in its true prime of life – the Baby Boomers – to regain its footing and its prominence as quickly as possible.

Start letting your voices be heard!

For the second article in this series, which focuses on Anti-Boomer propaganda, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-8

For a story on the co-housing movement, which may return Boomers to “Sophisticated Communes,” see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-x

For a story on how Financial Re-Engineering is Turning Erstwhile Corporate Kings into Pawns: http://wp.me/pxD3J-B