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The Washington Post published an interesting – and alarming – story about the increase in suicide attempts among the Baby Boomer generation. According to the article, some of this increase follows a natural trend toward suicide among older individuals, however the actual rate of suicide has also increased – in some cases by as much as 50 percent – between 1999 and 2010.
The article goes on to speculate on some of the generational norms that may contribute to this increase. Interestingly, these are the same norms that have shaped how Boomers perform and behave in the workplace. I am not at all speculating that Boomer work ethics and suicide go hand-in-hand – although the article does reference the impact of unemployment and financial distress on those who have had their identities closely tied to their careers and role as providers. No, what stands out to me in this report is how globally influential generational norms can be.
My work focuses on how these norms are changing the workplace, but they are also changing the fabric of society. Always have, always will. Let’s hope the focus of important support resources can help shift this unfortunate effect for the Boomer generation.
You have to appreciate the irony of a totally younger generation communication tool being used to explain an older generation. Check out this info graphic/comic that attempts to convince advertisers and businesses that their traditional target demographics are not aligned with the actual buying power in the country today.
There are so many things I love about this. As I mentioned, an info graphic is such a Gen X and Millennial way of looking at things – content may be king, but only if it is entertaining! And yet the comic styling is classic Boomer. It really is brilliant piece. And so is the point being made – Boomers are still holding the purse strings in this country and will for years to come.
What this graphic doesn’t touch on, however, is how intertwined Boomer spending is with the desires and priorities of the younger generations. Millennials, especially, have tremendous influence on the purchases of Boomers. So perhaps the advertising world doesn’t actually have it so wrong?
Secession planning is an important part of any organization’s business strategy, and the onslaught of Baby Boomers entering retirement has been woven into news reports for several years now. So why did a recent study by executive search firm Odgers Berndston find that nearly 60% of executives surveyed were unprepared for the change?
Turns out they may be ignoring the cultural differences among the generations. That is, while they’ve identified who is leaving and are dutifully transferring business knowledge down the line, they may not be looking at the more subtle – but significant – differences in how each generation views leadership, collaboration, and work ethics. The result could be messy – not because Gen X (and eventually the Millennials) can’t lead, but because they do it differently.
An organization not prepared for a shift in leadership culture will have its work cut out for it. I’ve been blessed to work with many companies that are truly ahead of the curve in this area. They’ve had the foresight to make incremental – and sometimes monumental – shifts in culture and even organizational structure as they adapt to a new style of workforce and leadership.
While these organizations are getting themselves in a great position to face the Boomer retirement surge, it is not too late for those businesses that have been content to stay the course and are now headed into stormy waters. A little more frantic, perhaps, but with the right approach you can avoid capsizing.
When I was growing up a popular show on PBS had a song that teased “one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same.” It’s becoming clear that etiquette, common sense and social media just do not belong in the same sentence and it is affecting the one of the most etiquette-focused areas of the business world: the job interview.
Yes, the “I can’t believe somebody actually did that” HR files include job candidates who have texted or accepted cell phone calls while in an interview, according to this story from USA Today.
Normally I’d take the time to tell you how the generational norms make this understandable, but today I’ve got nothing. Well, that’s not true. I can tell you where it comes from but that still doesn’t tell you why they don’t know any better. Sometimes I do join you in SMH. (That’s text for “shaking my head.”)
And for the younger folks out there reading this – turn off the phone when you walk into an interview. It’s that simple.
While tradeshow and event managers pride themselves on creativity, the basic structure and components of special events have been somewhat tried and true. A recent report by Amsterdam RAI demonstrates why savvy companies are smart to look at events and event marketing with a whole new light. Changing demographics = changing demands, and the younger generations have explicit expectations for how they wish to be engaged. According to the report, Millennials crave engagement and Generation X continues to be skeptical.
This corroborates the experiences of many professional association clients that have expressed frustration with younger generations not attending their flagship events, such as annual conferences, with the same consistency and enthusiasm as their Baby Boomer members have reliably demonstrated for years. We’re seeing that the difference is directly related to generational values.
For example, Boomers value face time while Gen Xers value personal time. It stands to reason then, that Boomers will place a priority on gathering with their peers for a week of education and networking while Gen Xers will need to be convinced of reasons to spend several days away from family and friends.
Similarly, while the Boomers place great trust in authority and therefore may be attracted to keynote speakers and marquee presenters, Millennials put more faith in their own experience and will be drawn to events where they can be part of the action. Hands on learning labs and collaborative activities are likely to increase attendance.
Apply creativity to the event structure, not just the themes, and you may find a greater range of generations present and engaged.
A lot has been written about the effects of Baby Boomers retiring en masse over the next couple of decades – on employers, on markets, on healthcare, etc. Now, a new analysis from the Metropolitan Research Center suggests that aging Boomers selling off their homes will lead to the next big crisis in the housing market.
Over the last few decades of the 20th Century, Boomers drove demand for single-family homes and accounted for most of that market. As they retire, they will begin to sell those homes but the market for them will be considerably smaller.
First, the generation just behind the Boomers, Generation X, is smaller in size. Next, both Gen Xers and Millennials are less keen on single-family homes than their Boomer parents. Many more of them are interested in urban condos and town houses than previous generations. Finally, those younger generations have less wherewithal to buy a first home, especially the Millennials, who otherwise would have the demographic weight to generate some demand.
The study projects the effects to be felt beginning around 2020. “If there’s 1.5 to 2 million homes coming on the market every year at the end of this decade from senior households selling off,” said one researcher, “who’s behind them to buy? My guess is not enough…. That’s going to hit us. Not right now. But my guess is that about the turn of the decade”
While everyone seems focused on capturing the attention of Millennials, the Baby Boomers are still the “most valuable generation,” according to a Nielsen report. Over the next five years, Boomers are expected to account for 50% of all consumer spending and to control 70% of all disposable income, according to Nielsen.
Fueled by aging Boomers, the over-50 cohort will account for 50% of the population in 5 years. That age group is growing at 3 times the rate of the coveted 18-49 demographic. Still, it accounts for only 5% of advertising.
Boomers stand to inherit $15 trillion over the next 20 years and, as they retire, they intend to spend what they have – two thirds say they will spend more on their hobbies and interests.
Moreover, Boomers now account for a third of heavy internet users, online consumers, and social networkers, offering marketers as much opportunity to reach them as the plugged-in Millennials.
The two youngest generations, Millennials and Generation X, are the ones most concerned about their spending, saving, and investing, according to a TD Canada Trust survey. In contrast, 80% of Boomers feel they are managing their money well, even if 56% feel they don’t have enough of it.
Millennials are most likely (65%) in the survey to worry that they are spending too much, compared with 56% of Xers and 44% of Boomers. Millennials are also most likely (55%) to want to learn more about finance and money management.
Meanwhile, Generation X has the most competing financial concerns, including retirement (55%), mortgages (44%), loans (38%), and credit card debt (37%). 70% of Xers say they are not saving enough.
The overall picture is that generation is a key factor in financial outlook. “This decision-making process is influenced by the generation to which we belong, and the corresponding cultural and economic factors that make the future appear differently to us,” said one of the study’s authors.
The wealthier the Baby Boomer, the more likely he or she will seek financial advice, according to an analysis by Millionaire Corner. Meanwhile, middle income or “Mass Affluent” (net worth between $100K and $1M) are more likely to self direct their finances.
Only a quarter high net worth Boomers (>$5M) self direct their investments even though, as a group, they consider themselves very knowledgeable about finance. Meanwhile, 40% of the Mass Affluent group calls their own financial shots even though only 7% consider themselves “very knowledgeable.”
Mass affluent are also the most likely (32%) to use an advisor on an “event-driven” basis, for one-time transactions occasioned by life or economic changes. The high-net-worth group is the most likely to use advisors regularly (27%) or to simply hand the reins over entirely to an advisor (18%).
The irony exposed by the study is that the wealthiest and most knowledgeable investors understand the needs for both risk and advice, but the investor class that might benefit the most from both is not taking advantage of them.
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Along with widespread discussion about what happens when all those Boomers retire, a parallel discussion has emerged about what will happen if they don’t. As Boomers reach retirement age, many of them just keep on working. Some can’t afford to retire and some just like their work. Remember, this is the workaholic generation.
A debate has begun about what effect the non-retirement of Boomers will have. On one side, some have argued that it will mostly be positive: less demand on retirement systems and more wealth to fuel Boomer consumption, expanding opportunity for everyone.
For the other side, Boomers sticking around on the job presents a series of challenges. A recent US News analysis summarizes them nicely:
- Fewer opportunities for younger workers, both in employment and advancement, as senior Boomers continue to occupy positions at the top of the chain.
- Younger bosses and older workers: an issue that occurs with increasing frequency and can be difficult to manage.
- Conflicts in corporate culture as companies try to adapt to rapid 21st century changes in the marketplace but have leadership that is set in its ways.
- High health care costs for a workforce with the healthcare needs of seniors.
The likely outcome will likely be a mixture of negatives and positives. Either way, the Boomers will have again redefined a key life stage.