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.