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New office crisis: Boomers won't leave!

Dan Drezner

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: How you feel about the economy right now might well depend on where you are in the pecking order, generationally speaking. To use a personal finance term here for a second, financial horizons -- that is, the time any given person has left to work and save -- can vary widely. And in light of the great stock market crash of 2008, everybody's reassessing their economic future, including commentator Dan Drezner.


DAN DREZNER: The financial downturn has left all sorts of casualties in its wake: more unemployment, depressed wages, and greater economic uncertainty. But I'd like to direct my angst at a different target -- the baby boomers.

A hidden effect of this crisis is that, in the workplace, as in popular discourse, they simply refuse to get out of the way.

To understand my lament, you have to realize that the oldest of the baby boomers are on the cusp of retirement. For younger generations, this should be a cause for relief. For decades, Gen X-ers like myself have had to hear the standard declarations about the uniqueness of the baby boomers. Maybe they were not the Greatest Generation, but they were the ones who glorified the whole idea of generational identity. For decades, Gen X-ers have had to hear complaints about our political apathy, our popular culture, and our musical tastes.

We have suffered many of these critiques without complaint. Why? Because so many of us worked for so many of them. They were the bosses of the business world. And they were supposed to be retiring very soon, but the recession has changed all that.

In 2008, U.S. workers aged 55 to 64 who had 401(k)'s for at least 20 years saw their retirement balances drop an average of 20 percent. A recent YouGov poll showed two-thirds of this generation have not made the necessary adjustments in their financial planning. This is not a recipe for leaving the workforce anytime soon.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Younger workers who expected promotions when the boomers cleared out are going to have to stew in their own juices. With this job market, looking for a better opportunity elsewhere is not in the cards. Which means that Gen X-ers are going to have to listen to baby boomers doing what they do best -- talk about themselves.

Office politics across the country are going to get a lot nastier. Of course, it could be worse. Generation Y not only has to deal with the boomers, they have to cope with people like me complaining about them.

Ryssdal: Dan Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University.

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Why do we think the generations after the baby boomers will be any better?

Aren't we all a product of our enviroment?

Representative:

I appreciate you feedback on my concerns regarding layoffs of state employees. I had initially suggested that early retirements might be an option, but now realize that maybe a rewording of the term used might be appropriate to take into consideration the information you provided. Instead of promoting "early retirements," how about just promoting employee's working for state government just "retire" on the schedule that was originally planned for them, instead of waiting years after their normal retirement age due to increased health benefit concerns that are holding them back. Obviously, with the down economy at the worst time for "baby boomers" like my parents, their plans for retirement may have been pushed back due to loss of retirement funds or concern over how to pay for health benefits between the time they retire and are able to receive Medicare to cover their health costs.

This is having a direct impact on employees that have been in the work force for a few years now replacing them when they eventually retire. Without the normal retirement age that was once expected, these "baby boomer's" children like myself who are raising their own families now, which are the grandchildren of these "baby boomers" are at a high risk of losing their jobs due to layoffs because the "baby boomers" are not retiring on "schedule." So, I would encourage you to see what can be done to encourage those that have fullfilled their obligations to their pension funds by serving their full working career, thus not undermining the funding of these pension funds, be encouraged to retire on time, instead of delaying these retirements and likely causing the next generation of workers to loose their jobs in the time being. Lets not let these employees become late retirees, because the consequences in these times are too dire for those dependent on them retiring on schedule and really not "early retirees."

Sincerely,

Roy

From: <rep@house.mn>
Subject: Re: Thank You Representative
To: Roy
Date: Monday, March 23, 2009, 7:11 PM

March 23, 2009

Roy
MN

Dear Roy:

Thank you for contacting me with your idea for tackling Minnesota’s budget deficit without resorting to state employee lay-offs. As the Legislature works to confront the present budget shortfall, I believe public employees like you have important insights to offer and I appreciate having an opportunity to respond to your concerns.

I think your suggestion is worth considering, but I have noted a significant down side. As you may know, the State of Minnesota implemented an early retirement program in 1993 for teachers and state employees. The Legislative Auditor later issued a report giving mixed reviews to the cost savings associated with this initiative. Overall, he concluded early retirement programs only save money when an agency reduces its overall workforce for the long-term and typically increases costs if a significant number of early retirees are replaced by new employees. Therefore, the effectiveness of such a program for the department you work for depends somewhat on long-term projections for agency staffing needs.

An additional concern is that early retirees can pose a real threat to pension fund solvency. Currently, state employee pension funds receive money from three sources: employee contributions, employer contributions, and investment earnings. The employee and employer contribution rates are figured based on numerous variables such as the anticipated lifespan of a retiree and the expected performance of the pension fund’s investments. If the Legislature encourages state employees to retire early, state pension funds will have less time to accumulate enough money to pay those benefits. This is especially true given recent investment losses suffered by pension funds across the country.

Thank you again for contacting me about Minnesota’s $4.6 billion budget shortfall for the coming biennium. This is an historic deficit in real and absolute terms, and closing the gap is going to require bipartisan cooperation and creativity. To address it, Minnesota will likely need to make some significant spending cuts. However, I am going to work tirelessly to see that these are made prudently and will do my best to avoid lay-offs wherever possible.

I depend upon the feedback of my constituents, so I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and ideas with me about issues important to you. If I can be of any other assistance, please let me know.

Sincerely,

State Representative

I couldn't agree more with Dan Drezner! But he can take comfort in this little tidbit: among my circle of Gen Xer friends, most own their cars outright, don't use credit cards, and didn't fall for the "real estate prices will go up forever" fairy tale. Sure, GenX lacks the self-aggrandizement gene of the boomers, but maybe by the time this current crisis plays itself out, society will be celebrating US for our dogged, pay-as-you-go approach to our finances.

...eh, who am I kidding?

Boomers are the generation that brought our nation to a new low with morality. They were blessed to live at what was most likely the heigth of our country, and yet they didn't appreciate it.

I am the daughter of the generation of the children born during WWII...but my parents were influenced too much by that generation, and I was one of the first generations of latchkey kids. I attended public school in the years of the largest decline of competence. We've learned to live as the red headed step child.

Gen X an Y might have been doing some of the grunt work in the financial sectors that brought our Rome down, but who are their bosses? Middle management? CEO's? I'll place bets 90%are boomers. I always knew they would ruin our country when they got to the highest levels of power.

Dan, these folks would like nothing better than to retire and let the GenXers take their places, but they can't. Half of their lifetime's savings is gone. Pray that you are luckier when you are on the threshold of retirement.

This drivel makes about as much sense as adults, or should I say oversized children, blaming their parents for their own dysfunctional tendencies. We all would like to have somebody else be responsible for us- but so far, each one of us eventually stands up and takes care of ourselves. Boomers, X'ers, Y'ers - get over it. Does a pilot get angry with the storm and quit? Or does the pilot navigate around around the disturbance and proceed on to the destination? Bunch of whiners......

Listening to Dan Drezner's commentary reminded me of the state of the American workforce when I was growing up--and yeah, I'm a boomer, Class of 48.

Back then, many of the manufacturing and basic materials industries were structured so that a worker could get in while young, work hard for good wages and buying power for a few decades, then get out with a decent retirement, making way for younger folks working their way up. That's what my dad did, and describes his career as a mechanic for Douglas Aircraft.

Sound like what you want Mr. Drezner? Don't want me to hang around forever keeping you down? OK, then let's re-energize the unions that were responsible for that earlier golden age and put the country back on track.

Oh baby! Let the games begin! Spoiled Boomers been riding on the back of the greatest generation their whole lives. Made endless series of bad choices as well articulated by Dan C. The day WILL come when they look to Gen X'ers to care for them. Yeah, and good luck with that! Oh wait, what am I talking about?! They'll be fine, because they are mortgaging their children's future to assure their own. What else would you expect from the most self-centered and selfish generation in human history.

I'm a boomer and I say so why are you entitled? Work and when you are ready to leave, leave. Until that person leaves you work. Too bad it is someone older than you. Keep working Mr. Entitlement.

I nearly dropped dead in my corporate punk, Generation X tracks, when I heard this story.

Finally, someone had the balls to say what we think, out loud, in public, and on NPR no less.

Oh the lament of the American Baby Boomer... the greediest, most self-centered, most self-destructive, generation of no-gooders that has ever walked Douglas Adams computer generated Earth.

You are sold out hippies, turned drug addicts, turned yuppies, who brought the world the worst artifacts of popular culture, TPS reports, Birkenstocks, The International Style, Suburbia, and the idea of thinking one quarter ahead.

The world revolves around the Baby Boomer. And they never grew out of their infantile state of existence. You are personified by Rush Limbaugh.

We blame you for everything. Please shutup and get on the spaceship that we are putting you on.

The Church of the SuperGenius names Dan the Man of the Year.

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