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Baby Boomers will drive this economy

Commentator Judy Muller asks listeners to lay off Baby Boomers. She saids that trends suggest Boomers'll spend a lot of money and create job opportunities for the younger generation.

Tess Vigeland: Seems everyone has an opinion about Baby Boomers. Love 'em or loathe 'em, their sheer numbers mean Boomers are a major force in the economy. Commentator Judy Muller is one of them.

Today we debut her new regular segment "Senior Moment," Judy's exploration of her generation and its entry into retirement.


Judy Muller: "The tragedy of old age," wrote Oscar Wilde, "is not that one is old, but that one is young."

I recently turned 65 myself, but in my head, I hover right around 16. It was a good year for me, and I like to hold on to it. And I'm not alone. A lot of 60-somethings, and 70-somethings, for that matter, tend to re-define the term "old age" with each successive birthday. For me, "old" is now right around 85.

Still, my real age puts me squarely at the forefront of the Baby Boomers, a huge bulge in the population that annoys other age groups simply because there are so many of us poised to suck the lifeblood out of Social Security.

Unfair, I say. I mean, can we help it if our parents were overly amorous after World War II? At any rate, here we are, a huge number of Boomers about to enter our Golden Years, with a huge impact on the economy -- an impact too big to ignore. Every 8.4 seconds, another Baby Boomer turns 50. By the year 2030, 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65. I can see how those numbers might sound like an advancing plague of locusts, but consider this: These 78 million people account for more than 50 percent of discretionary spending! They don't call us the Me Generation for nothing.

The mind boggles at the goods and services that could be developed; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Boomer and older generations now represent a $2.6 trillion annual market. And reaching them is hardly a problem; one in three Facebook users is now over the age of 50. That's a total of four million Boomers and seniors with Facebook pages!

Instead of seeing the Boomers as a cash drain on the economy, we could be seen as cash cows. And here's another factoid to ponder: Recent studies show that Baby Boomers now boast the highest growth rate of entrepreneurship in America. The lowest rate? That belongs to the 20-34 demographic. That means seniors could have it both ways -- cashing in on ourselves, the ultimate in Me Generation economics.


Vigeland: Judy Muller teaches journalism at USC's Annenberg School for Communication. And yes, she's totally cool with calling this segment "senior moment." At least I think she is. I can't remember, actually.

About the author

Judy Muller is a professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
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I'm 35 years old and my take: They have DRIVEN THIS ECONOMY INTO THE GROUND AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO in the future. They have consistently enriched themselves at the expense of others and seek to do more self- enrichment in the future. Who do you think came up with all the cost-cutting ideas? The boomers. Now, they want their pensions and health care to be shouldered by my generation and younger. Unfortunately, I see many of them out in the cold in the coming years. I love it when some out of touch 60 year old wonders why their children can't get good jobs and judges their own children as somehow "less" then they are. A lot of them got lucky and can't comprehend that they are not as important as they think they are. Only time will tell, but I'm amazed at how little they care about the welfare of their children in the future; It seems their parents left them money and property and they don't want to do the same for their kids. They'd rather blow it all on alcohol, marijuana, and travel in their "golden" years!!!

Actually, unless followed by "partner in the firm" most Boomers don't respond well to "senior"; not surprising that most marketing decision-makers don't get it that we're a huge consumer force...they're barely drinking age themselves; and, some in the media are at last catching on that Baby Boomer is a moniker, therefore capitalized. Hope APR does soon!

Judy's right that Baby Boomers are an economic force to be reckoned with, but anyone over 55 is basically ignored by the advertising industry. Imagine this: Nielsen ratings -- the dominant way of 'scoring' TV audiences in order to determine the value of TV ad space -- don't even break out viewers over 55. That's because, for years, marketers assumed that anyone over 55 was a creature of habit, immune to new ideas. As a Boomer myself, I know that, ironically, the people with the out-of-date ideas about old people are *young* people. At our new ad agency, "re:" we're determined to prove the old ad wisdom wrong. For more proof that brands and marketers in general, and the ad industry in particular, needs to re-imagine life after 50, check out the re: blog at www.revolutionaryoldidea.com

You need to look at the early baby boomers and the late boomers. My sister was born seven years before me in 1946. The advantages changed dramatically over those years. If you went to college you were set for life. By the time I came on the scene the schools were over public schools were over crowed before it could be built and the doors opened. There were more students in every class. In other words Those that are close too but have not reached 60 yet were born into a dog eat dog world were most of the good jobs were already taken. At work you I am always looking over my shoulder for the next layoff.

It has only gotten worse for those born after me. My age could get a good job if you had a good head on your shoulders but did not get a degree. Now they will not even look at your application without a degree even for blue collar jobs. I have two degrees but I prefer to work with my hands outside so I can circulate in both the cubical crowd and the get your hands dirty crowd that use to bring in a good paycheck.

When the powers to be moved so many jobs overseas the steady working class jobs went with them. Today you are upper class or lower class. Larlives is right the T-party got there's pot of gold and do not realize the USA is heading for an economy like Latin America has been known for. Your family has money or you live in a slum or new slum.

Judy Muller is incorrect that the reason that Baby Boomers' successors resent them is simply their numbers -- sheer demographic bulge. Rather it is the fact that they benefitted from strong and growing social spending by government throughout their lives and now their Tea Party fraction want to shut the door behind them. Public investments in public education, K through post-secondary) grew at unprecedented rates from the50s through the 70s. A lower middle class B-Boomer matriculating from high school in 1968 to 1972 received student financial aid in amounts that made a real difference in college costs. Moreover public universities were subsidized at a much high rate than today. In contrast their counterpart of the last four years cannot expect to afford college without burdening themselves with inordinate student loan debt -- amounting to a decade or more of virtual indentured servitude. A similar comparison can be made across a range of programs throughout B-Boomers' lives - support for start up of small business to social security and Medicaid. Not even to mention the shambles BBs in our economy and government regulatory programs (esp. Banking/ financial) that BBs left behind. It is not their numbers but rather it is their I-got-mine hypocrisy that galls me.

Agreed on the last part, except not about the Taxed enough already Party; It is the bureaucracies that always seek more and more money and never actually solve problems they created that are to blame, not people that are already paying almost all the taxes for nothing... Also, between, 1968 and 1972, you could not have NOT paid any taxes and received a big check based on your disposition in life. Too many programs and not enough to go around. It is not the top 1% I worry about...it is the 40% that aspire to be the top 1% at any cost but are not smart enough that truly frighten me; mostly insulated from reality government workers.

I think Larslives comment above is spot on. As a Boomer member I have noticed that Tea Party members (aka the "I've got mine F you) crowd even makes me resentful. Watch the rhetoric from the candidates ...note they all say they will not cut any benefits from current seniors.

I think the comment above is spot on. As a Boomer member I have noticed that Tea Party members (aka the "I've got mine F you) crowd even makes me resentful. Watch the rhetoric from the candidates ...note they all say they will not cut any benefits from current seniors.

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