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Are Boomers Really So Privileged?

29 August 2012

Baby Boomers have sort of gotten a bad rap over the past little while across the country. People seem to be looking at this group as though they’re somehow privileged, walking around with their noses in the air looking down at any of us that weren’t lucky enough to be born during a certain time frame. But are Baby Boomers really that privileged?

Sure they didn’t have the tuition costs we do today for college and education (and hey, some Boomers even got their education for free!) And sure, maybe for a couple of decades they were the ones scooping up all the jobs, leaving a long line of Gen X-ers in the unemployment line. And of course, they lived in one of the most prosperous times our country has yet to see. They certainly didn’t see a lot (if any) of the war-torn countries their parents immigrated from; and they didn’t have the astronomically-high house prices, coupled with a small job market, that their children do. Given all the arguments, it certainly seems that we’ve been right all along in saying that the Boomers are a privileged generation.

But, we might just all want to step off our high horses for just a minute. A recent study done by Ameriprise Financial shows why we just might want to give the Boomers a break. Although the results are American, it’s easy to see how the results would be very much the same for Canada (especially considering how many Gen-Xers are still living at home with their Boomer parents.) The chart below breaks down the findings of the study.

  • A whopping 93% of Boomers provide their children with some type of support
  • 71% of Boomers help their kids with college tuition
  • 55% of Boomers allow their children to live at home, and rent-free we might add
  • 53% of Boomers have helped their child buy a car

So yes. While Boomer parents might have had it easier to grow up and make a life than their children are, it’s very evident that they’re aware of this. And that they want to help. But it’s not just their kids Boomers are offering support to – it’s their parents too. The below chart shows how much, and in what areas, the Boomers are helping out there.

  • 58% of Boomers help their parents out with household tasks and maintenance
  • 22% help their parents pay for groceries
  • 15% of Boomers help their parents out with medical bills
  • 14% help their parents out with utility bills

So maybe we ought to give the Boomers a hand, rather than a hard time. Yes, they might have lived during one of the best times this country has seen yet. But is that really their fault? It’s not like they’re rolling around in their wealth laughing at all of us who weren’t “privileged” enough to be born during the years of 1945 – 1955.

The Boomers seem to understand that things may not be so good right now for the generations that came just before or just after them. But they’re willing to help. And they’re willing to help quite a bit!

The survey also showed that despite the fact that many Boomers are also facing unemployment and financial insecurity; but still 86% said that if they had the chance to offer help all over again, they would. And 20% reported feeling guilty that they couldn’t do more for their children.

Maybe instead of sneering at the Boomers due to all the privileges they’ve received, we should be thanking them for passing those privileges on.

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