The Trouble with Boomers

-By Ross Johnson-

Revenge of the Old

Baby Boomers are defined as the generation of people born in between 1946 and 1964. Many people know them more affectionately as our grandparents. At the moment they are also changing the national job landscape. Unfortunately for the upcoming generation, they are not changing it for the better.

A common problem in high school is not having enough money, and a common solution is to find a job to provide that money. A job is wildly different from a career though, and people coming out of college are finding their career ambitions stifled, and often derailed due to the lack of higher paying positions. Now the job market has suffered, but the already diminished positions are being taken before these fortune seeking college graduates can even get hired, by baby boomers that have been in those positions for decades. Companies are reluctant to lay off such experienced employees after years of dedicated service. Thus, younger adults aren’t getting the valuable experience of being in a high responsibility position. This while nice for our beloved grandparents, is terrible for workers of our generation.

Baby Boomers come from an era where large families were the norm, often having five or more children. Today’s families have around two kids, which figures to be a problem in the near future when Baby Boomers do eventually retire. The average age of retirement is increasing which is an exception; not the usual trend. As they retire Boomer’s will expect to receive pensions, social security and other services that the elderly usually obtain. The people expected to pay for it is their children, or our parents, and there simply are not enough of them to support such a massive group of people getting on social security at the same time. This will add further stress to the already strained Social Security system, a problem the millennial generation (our generation) will have to deal with.

As much as the world appreciates the hard work and dedication that the Baby Boomers have done, it would be very much appreciated if they would enjoy the retirement they so richly deserve. Then our generations can take over, and take care of them.



8 comments for “The Trouble with Boomers

  1. lhsrev
    February 8, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Dear LHS Revolution:
    I just wanted you to know that I’m a Baby Boomer, if you hadn’t already guessed. The article that was written about the Baby Boomer generation even though written with good intentions, I believe it was written a little out of ignorance. Today it seems all you hear from today’s youth is give me, give me, give me. Where is the mention of work ethic in this article? Too many people today want instant gratification or jobs without putting in the time or effort it takes. Just because you have a college degree or education doesn’t award you a good or high paying job. The Baby Boomers’ parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression; they were unable to give much to their sons and daughters to build their futures. So my advice is, do what the Baby Boomers did: Work hard; go out and create new businesses, jobs, and opportunities, instead of asking those who have worked all their lives to stop working and just give you their jobs. It took most of the Baby Boomers all their lives to get where they are. Do you want them just to walk away from what they built and give it to you? My advice to any generation who just wants us to give it to them: Quit making excuses for the way things are; instead, go out and work hard; start from the ground floor and work your way to the top. Hard work is what built this country. None of the Baby Boomers were given their jobs from other hardworking individuals as hand me downs. My dad used to say to me “TINSTAAFL” and when I finally asked him what that meant, thinking it was some kind of new cuss word, he replied, “There Is NO Such Thing AS A Free Lunch.”
    Stan Woodworth

  2. Martha Wood
    February 8, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    First, Ross, you have passives in your article. Bad Ross! Bad! Bad boy. Second, most, if not all, of those baby boomers paid into Social Security for many years. Why is it wrong for them to expect to collect? My late husband, a military man, paid into Social Security every year that he was in the service and continued after retirement when he worked for Computer Science Corporation. Many years ago, our then governor, Mr. Lamb (can’t remember his first name), commented that the elderly have a duty to die to leave room for the younger generation. (I wonder whether he still feels that way now that he is elderly.) This reminds me of Andre Norton’s book, Logan’s Run, in which all citizens must report to extermination stations when they reach the age of 30. Logan rebels and runs. A recent study indicated that many younger people “job jump.” Many of the ones surveyed had held four or five jobs before they reached 30. This wasn’t because they bettered themselves with each job change. They jumped because they wanted continual gratification and weren’t finding it in their jobs. Their employers spent time and energy training them only to have them move on when the inevitable day to day annoyances and minor boredom set in. Perhaps, they got out of those jobs exactly what they put into them. When we first moved to Colorado, I applied for a teaching job. I subbed for eight full years before I was hired. Another substitute teacher wanted me to join her in a class action suit against the district for perceived discrimination, but I refused. I wanted to teach in D20, so I persisted. Perhaps those young people who assume that they will step into posh jobs as soon as they can persuade a baby boomer to depart will find instead the nasty realization that they have to “pay their dues” first, as I did. They want to start at the top, not at the bottom. I recognize that today’s college graduates have debt that we didn’t have because most of us didn’t have to take out student loans. Our young teachers are finding it difficult to support themselves on their beginning salaries AND make the payments on their loans. Must I now begin looking over my shoulder for young people wanting to push me out the door?

  3. lhsrev
    February 8, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Dear LHS Revolution:
    As a Boomer who is still working, I take exception to Ross’s recent article in the LHS Revolution. According to Ross, Boomers who are still working are taking jobs away from teens who need our jobs; while Boomers who are retired are taking money from his parents who are forced to contribute to our retirement pension funds or social security.
    As a Boomer who is still working, I am continuing to contribute to my retirement plan. I’m also creating disposable income which I spend to fuel the economy in retail sales, restaurants and recreation (industries which often employ teenagers like Ross). I’m also saving income to provide care for myself if I should need specialized care as I age. These savings will spare my children (and, possibly, grandchildren) of providing funds to care for me in later years. Because of economic fluctuations, especially affecting the stock market and real estate, Boomers (along with all of us) have been negatively impacted, creating the necessity for us to work longer than we had originally planned.
    Because my parents (survivors of the Great Depression and veterans of World War II) worked hard and sacrificed for my brother and me to obtain college educations. My husband and I also worked hard and sacrificed to raise and educate our children (those in Ross’s parents’ generation). My children are currently working and sacrificing to raise and educate their children. I hope we can all appreciate the sacrifices and opportunities each generation provides for their children. We are not, as Ross suggests, competing among generations. Instead, we are interdependent among all generations to work, learn and provide for ourselves and others. Only together can we turn this economy around and bring about shared prosperity.

    Carol Wallander

  4. lhsrev
    February 8, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    LHS Revolution:
    Here are two links that provide additional insight into the financial plight of current Baby Boomers and even compares their employment history to today’s teens. This is good food for thought for Baby Boomers AND teenagers!

    Link to New York Times article on same subject.

    Carol Wallander

  5. lhsrev
    February 8, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    In my most recent article about “the Trouble with Boomers” I was blatantly on the side of the teenage generation, and upon receiving letters from Boomers, I realized that I need to clarify some statements that I made in my article.
    The economic downturn has affected all Americans, every age group and every class. To cry about the plight of the young was only a rudimentary glance at the total dilemma that this recession has caused. Jobs are scarce all around and as I was further researching that fact, I learned that teenagers are out of work for an average of 19 weeks, whereas Baby Boomers average around 53 weeks. That was a tad bit eye opening, but of course with experience comes rewards and the very thing that makes Baby Boomers desirable, also makes them unwanted by fledgling businesses. So I was wrong; everyone is struggling, and I should have focused on the total plight of the American citizen.
    However, the great points that both Mrs. Wallander and Mr. Woodworth bring up are the issues I need to clarify. The “no such thing as a free lunch” is a very true statement; we should not just be handed a job on a platter. I am not asking for Baby Boomers to simply raise their arms and say “I’m done, good luck.” Rather, I am saying that the kids that are passionate about their field of work will take the opportunity with both hands and run with it. I’m not asking for resignation, only a chance to prove our worth. I personally believe every generation has the feeling that the next generation is going to be the total downfall of all civilization, and I’m sure I will be saying the exact same thing about my kid’s generation, but I truly believe that my generation is very good at rising to the challenge set before them.
    Mrs. Wallander brings up the point that all people should work together to fix the economy and bring about the return of prosperity in America. I whole heartedly agree with that statement. The Baby Boomers carried America on their backs for many years, now it is time for my generation to help shoulder that burden, and carry the nation alongside them.
    Ross Johnson

    • Alan Thimmig
      February 8, 2013 at 5:32 PM


      Thanks for reading these comments, taking them to heart, and providing a nice response. My parents are baby boomers who just retired within the last two years. Both of my parents put in a lot of sweat equity to earn what they have today – a modest life – no glamour – no fame – just enough to get by. What they taught me as part of the X Generation (known as Gen X) is that you never get anything worthwhile without working for it. This was never more evident than when I went to college. My parents ended up going bankrupt at the end of my freshmen year in college and told me the bad news that they would not be able to help me return to college. I frantically filled out every financial aid form I could find (I didn’t qualify for financial aid my freshman year), and luckily earned enough in student loans, grants, and work study to continue my college education. I graduated in four years with a business degree, over $10,000 in student loans, and no career prospects. I ended up working three jobs – working 16-18 hours every day just to make my rent payments. When it came time to start paying back my student loans, I didn’t have enough money so, of all things, I went back to school to work on a teaching degree and a master’s degree. I ended up with another $20,000 in student loans and barely made ends meet (thank goodness I lived next door to my grandma and grandpa who often fed me dinner for free). After receiving my teaching certificate, I got my first teaching job in northeastern Colorado at a whopping $18,000 per year. At the same time, my pickup I had been driving for years died so I had to get a used car to get me back and forth to work. My student loan payments were more than my house and car payments. While my parents were back on their feet, they still didn’t have the funds to help me. I kept plugging away, living a very conservative and modest life. After many years, I finally paid off my student loans, am able to continue working in this amazing profession, and am still living a modest and conservative life. In the end, my parent’s telling me that you never get anything worthwhile without working for it, has never been more true. I hope “Generation Me” will learn what Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers have learned – you have to work for what you want in order to say that you truly earned it. My kids will learn what I learned – there is no golden platter in which to feast from. Instead, you will have to work hard in order to buy that platter and the items you want to place upon it.

  6. Martha Wood
    February 9, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Ross, your response is thoughtful and insightful. But of course, I wouldn’t expect anything else from you. Anyone who can come up with a foolproof mnemonic device for remembering how to spell lose and loose can certainly do well writing for a forum! Part of the problem is one you addressed. Every generation firmly believes it worked harder and was more productive than the next generation. Perhaps we all have selective memory. The American Dream is still alive and well, though a bit tattered along the edges. We teachers sometimes lose hope when we have students and their parents who want top grades without the elbow grease it takes to earn them. Because I teach mostly AP, I don’t see as much of that as my colleagues do. What I DO see is the performance or lack thereof of young people in the work force. Prowling the aisles looking for a clerk to take my money, then finding one who signals with a raised finger that I should wait until she finishes her text message is disheartening. Then I remind myself of a former student–I’m using the term loosely because he was anything BUT academic–who worked for a local hay provider. He was such a terrific employee as a junior in high school that his employer felt comfortable going on a minivacation and leaving the boy in charge of the whole business. I don’t know where he went from there, but considering his work ethic and dedication, I’m sure he is doing well. I might be naive, but I firmly believe that our young people who have drive, energy, ethics, and good manners will be successful and productive. We oldsters will leave the country in good hands.

  7. Becky Sutton
    February 11, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    Hi Ross,
    I don’t think we have ever met, but thank you for your article. I do have one thing to point out, though. Did you realize that the two arguments you made came down on opposite sides of the issue?

    Your first point was that boomers are staying in the workforce longer, which keeps employers from hiring replacement workers, and this is bad for new job seekers. However, the fact that older people are working means that they are not drawing Social Security. This means that younger workers have fewer people to support with their current social security taxes. According to your second point, isn’t that better for the younger workers?

    True, unemployed teens may not see older people working longer as better for them, but also realize that each retirement will not necessarily create a job opening. In this economy, many employers are choosing not to fill a vacancy that comes open. Instead, they are asking their current workforce to become more efficient, or possibly work more hours.

    From what I am reading about the job market, I think that the real issue is much deeper. We actually have hundreds of thousands of highly desirable jobs in this country that are going unfilled, because we do not have enough Americans with the skills to fill them. In other words, not only are teens competing with baby boomers, but for many of the best jobs, they are competing with the rest of the world!

    Savvy teenagers will pay attention to where the job opportunities are, and will go after the education that will prepare them for these fields. For example, I have two sons who recently graduated from college. Both are in computer science, and doing very different things with it. It is a wide-open field. When they graduated, every student graduating in their departments had job offers, because in computer science, the unemployment rate is miniscule. Remember, jobs don’t exist to meet our wants. Employers only hire people who can meet their needs.

    Becky Sutton

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