Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, came of age during several defining decades in American history. Unlike their parents, who tightened their belts through the Great Depression and World War II, Baby Boomers entered the world during a time of unprecedented economic prosperity. To this generation, anything seemed possible, whether it was putting a man on the moon or buying a home in the suburbs.
1. The baby boom resulted from soldiers coming home from World War II
While the end of the war certainly had something to do with the drastic increase of babies born in the U.S., the baby boom had several causes beyond the men returning to American shores and deciding to start families. Many older women had put off having children during The Great Depression because they didn’t feel financially secure enough to start families. Many women also took jobs during the war and, because of the labor shortage, made good wages. When soldiers returned, however, , giving women more incentive to start families than to pursue a professional life. As the economy flourished, more couples felt that they could afford to start families.
2. All Baby Boomers are wealthy
When we think about this generation, we tend to think about the “leading edge” Baby Boomers had during the first wave, but the “trailing-edge” had a very different story. Many of the younger half were involved in the Vietnam War and didn’t get to take advantage of the high wages enjoyed by the "first wave" half of the group.
3. The economy would grow indefinitely
Children of the 1960s were known for their idealism thanks to the growing economy. Droves of them attended college and paid relatively low tuition compared to today. Though the 1970s brought some financial hardship, the 1980s and 1990s brought an extended that restored Baby Boomers’ confidence in the American dollar. In the new millennium, however, after the tech bubble, the housing market crash, and the bank bailouts, it’s become clear that the U.S. economy is not invincible. Boomers now question what the future holds for younger generations, as college students rack up thousands of dollars in debt and the nation’s deficit looms large.
4. Boomers will retire much more comfortably than their parents
With a strong economy keeping Boomers carefree, many neglected to save for retirement or poured money into volatile investments. While Social Security is expected to provide an adequate retirement income for most of this population, it’s estimated that of these retirees will be poor or near-poor, with single women comprising the majority of the financially insecure. With their children requiring more financial aid to attend college, their parents needing more help for elderly care, and medical expenses increasing for everyone, many Boomers have kept working beyond the traditional retirement age. Even those with a secure nest egg are choosing not to retire — in a study by , seven in ten experienced workers planned to work during retirement for social and psychological fulfillment. Many, it seems, still define themselves by their work and do not wish to slow down.
5. The Generational Gap
In their youth, Boomers recognized stark differences between themselves and the generations that came before them, expressing this generational gap proudly through the music, art, and clothing that came to be known as the counter culture. Today, Boomers have much more in common with Millennials than most realize. Like their kids, many Boomers are tech-savvy, stay up-to-date on pop culture, and spend plenty of time on the Internet. Both generations share a passion for social justice and liberal arts, even if Boomers have become more out of touch over the years.
As a result, retirement for Baby Boomers will likely look much different from past generations who retreated to age-restricted communities in Arizona and Florida. Historian Neil Howethat many Boomers will prefer to spend their golden years in mixed-use urban areas and locales, “where they can reaffirm their connection to the world of the mind and culture.” With their unique experience and wisdom, Baby Boomers have the opportunity to retire differently, working with younger generations to ensure a bright future for all.