Killing The Golden Goose

Hello Boomers,

Tis the season to be thankful for all of our blessings and many of us are truly blessed.  Blessed with health, family and friends.  Blessed to have a job, to be able to pay the bills, perhaps to save for our futures and to take care of our families. 

But many Baby Boomers are not feeling very blessed this year.  In September, the U. S. Census Bureau released data showing that many more in the 55 to 64 age group have fallen into poverty.  In 2007, the rate among this group was 8.6%.  That number has now risen to 9.4%.  

While the rise may not seem too severe in an economy that has been absolutely brutal in terms of job losses for the same age group, we need to put it into perspective.

All across the country, unemployed Baby Boomers have tapped into their retirement nest eggs to make ends meet.  Many have tapped into their home equity too. For all too many, the funds that were earmarked for retirement have been depleted early to pay the bills, to help mom, dad or the kids. 

So very many have held off the worst for a very long time by trading their future security to pay for today’s obligations.  But they are fast approaching the depletion of their assets  and may soon also fall into poverty as the jobs picture fails to improve soon enough to save them from financial ruin.

While large numbers of those over 50 continue to struggle to find jobs, our economy continues to sputter.  There is a direct connection between consumer confidence and the employment outlook.  Perhaps for no other generation is the correlation so key to our economic recovery as it is in the Baby Boomer generation.

Boomers represent the largest number of the long-term unemployed.  Surveys show that the biggest fear of employed Boomers is losing a job and not being able to find another.   As the largest generation in terms of size and purchasing power, it should come as no surprise that our economy continues to struggle as Baby Boomers struggle with employment issues.  

When 78 million consumers pull back, when they fear they may lose their jobs and won’t be able to get another, when they are unemployed long-term and cannot find a job, they stop buying which cripples job growth and economic recovery. 

While Baby Boomers won’t always be the drivers of our economy, they have been for many years.  They likely would have continued their pattern of consumption  for at least another 20 years.  But ageism is alive and growing.  Baby Boomers have seen their employment future and it looks bleak. 

It is unfortunate that employers haven’t discovered that hiring a Baby Boomer is good for business, good for our economy.    It is unfortunate that the largest spenders have now become justifiably scared, very cautious, and unlikely to go back to their former consuming ways.

Perhaps in its zeal to cut labor costs, American Business has inadvertently killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.  Even an abrupt change of heart in the hiring arena likely won’t be enough to revive that goose because now many of the 78 million American Baby Boomers have much to make up and little time to do it.  Those who have remained employed are eager to protect what they have so will spend far less.

The recession has been brutal for many but Baby Boomers have seen their financial security devastated and have watched as a bright future disappeared.  As consumers, 78 million U. S. Baby Boomers are unlikely to help drive our economy back to health any time soon.  And for that, none of us should be thankful.

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