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Baby Boomers - The selfish generation?

(202 Posts)
YellowTulips Wed 01-May-13 17:52:42

Ok - so this came out of another thread...but it got me thinking and gathered a few responses.

I have posted below as I did on the thread. What I am interested to know is if this is a really wide spread issue?

Disclaimer: Whilst I know (far) to many people this applies to, I have to confess my parents and PIL's so no signs of bonkers retirement plans (just good planning to give them a good standard of life).

Ok - so post below:

Whilst this case is at the extreme end of the spectrum, there seems to be (from the posts here and chats with friends/colleagues) a real reluctance on the "baby boomer" generation to make sustainable retirement plans.

Here in the UK many friends have parents who for years have lived off rising property values and the expectation that they can sell up or remortgage to fund what are clearly highly expensive lifestyles that can't be maintained over 20/30 years of non generation of income.

There seems to be a groundswell of entitlement often laughingly termed "spending the kids inheritance" - which in principle I don't object to - you can't take it with you and I personally would rather my parents enjoyed retirement than "save" or god forbid "scrimp" for me, but I am seeing this taken to "spend the inheritance and then let the kids bail us out".

I have lost count of friends who are now in some form or another subsiding their retired parents - parents who have "blown" life savings and house equity on mad "let's buy a house in Spain to live in half the year" or let's "travel around the US in a huge RV for 2 years" or "buy a boat and sail around the med" because they refused to really think if they could afford it.

Before I get beaten up, I don't object to people wanting to help family in desperate straights, I just seem to hear more and more stories where these situations were totally avoidable and parents have been - put bluntly - bloody selfish at worst and in denial at best.

The families involved are now making sacrifices that impact their children at the very time they should be the priority.

Do I just have an unlucky social group or is this issue becoming more prevalent?

Rant over.....hand me a biscuit!

TheNewson Sun 05-May-13 08:40:13

I don't think they are selfish. My folks had tough post war childhoods, lodged with an old lady for 2 yrs after marriage to save for house, were hit by huge interest rates in the 80s. They worked hard had 1 uk hol a year etcSplit the house following divorce. In retirement they helped look after my kids, live frugally on a ltd pension and know value of money. I agree with the poster who said my generation (40) is selfish, even though I lost my job a few yrs ago.

Bogeyface Sun 05-May-13 03:23:49


You could always say "No!" to them staying. Just because they want to stay doesnt mean that you have to let them.

FarBetterNow Sun 05-May-13 03:19:36

Thinkaboutit: Your PILs must be a nightmare.
Get them some job application forms!
B & Q employ over 65s.

Thumbwitch Sun 05-May-13 03:06:24

ThinkAboutIt, are they still below retirement age?

ThinkAboutItTomorrow Sat 04-May-13 21:48:32

Ok, so haven't read the thread and am extrapolating from a sample size of one but my PIL are doing exactly what the OP says. They are boomers.

FIL retired at 53 and they sold their house. Since then they are living off a tiny pension and the equity they released. They have spent about 18 months in the canary islands, winters mostly, rented various places in the uk and france. They have been on the Queen Mary and had 3 months touring the US. They had 3 months in new zealand and are currently in oz.

I don't begrudge them this. What i do begrudge is that when they are back in the UK they usually expect to stay with us. Last year it was 3 months. So far this year 1 month and we will see when they get back from Oz how long they stay. And they have now gone through most of their money and are feeling very sorry for themselves that they are now very skint. I worry about what they plan and that DP will end up having to subsidise them.

ethelb Sat 04-May-13 21:12:00

Oh we arent going on about youbg people spending all their money on technology again are we?

As I said upthread, its just that the tables have turned and now tech is cheap and housing expensive. I would give anything for the tables to be turned back.

I say that as a v techy person!

MusieB Sat 04-May-13 14:42:32

Thanks for the nice comments!

I think it's far more difficult for the boomers to understand their children's perspective and POV than vice versa. The boomers' children shared the relevant part of the boomers' lives with them: the children lived in houses which are unaffordable for them now they have their own families and saw first hand how much their boomer parents struggled to afford things then regarded as treats but which we now take for granted. In comparison the boomers are outsiders looking in on their children's lives.

BTW I am a child of the 1970s not a boomer. My parents do sometimes find it difficult to recognise how different the financial landscape is for me and my siblings. But in one sense they couldn't be more different to the sort of parent described by the OP: my DM's mantra is that it's now their responsibility to remain independent and not be a burden to us children for as long as possible.

janey68 Sat 04-May-13 08:15:06

Hear hear farbetternow

And as has already been said, if we were to replace BB with any other group such as disabled or ethnic minority, there would be uproar

Blueskiesandbuttercups Sat 04-May-13 08:02:08

Hmm we had technology in the 70s and 80s. Video recorders(expensive when they came out),Sinclair Spectrum,walkmans,foreign holidays,new car,expensive food etc.

We had a far better standard of living than my kids will get.

The fact is today tech is cheap and you need it to get on. People can and do get a lot of tech second hand and or through work. Most hard working families don't have the expensive new stuff the minute it comes out,it filters down(prices drop).

I'd love to know how you keep up in the work place and apply for jobs without the internet and some kind of computer device these days.We don't have a smart phone but will have to upgrade at some point not by choice.

Thumbwitch Sat 04-May-13 07:40:45

Musieb has some very good points. I remember back in the early 1970s that we did have to scrimp on food - imagine one Angel Delight packet feeding 5 people, and one tin of sardines having to do enough pieces of toast for 5 people too (I was extremely good at achieving this). And chicken was a luxury then - now it's so cheap (unless you buy free range organic)! Fish was cheaper though.

My grandparents looked after 3 of us during school holidays so Mum could work. But I think this was easier because a) they were in their 50s and b) Mum was an only child so we were the only demand on their time. I will probably be in my late 60s/early 70s whenever DS has children - not sure I'll be physically able to run around after toddlers/small children by then!

FarBetterNow Fri 03-May-13 21:19:19

I think some of the comments on this thread are mental and I find them shocking.
'Baby boomers are joining UKIP in their droves!'
How do you know that?

How about the BBs that actively campaign against the BNP who are mainly young people, by the way.
The BBs that campaigned tirelessly for nuclear disarmament in the 80s.

Sorry, but some of you really haven't a sodding clue what you are on about.

The point is that it ridiculous to call a whole generation of people selfish.

In the same way that I could say all younger people waste and fritter away money everyday of their lives, buying sandwiches, coffees, eating out, buying bottles of wine, daft handbags, nail bars, actually paying someone to pluck their eyebrows, waxing, spas.
But I do know that not all younger people do waste their money in that way.

ExitPursuedByABear Fri 03-May-13 21:02:16

Great post Musieb. As I have already said, everything is relative. Definitions of poverty have changed over time, and to be honest, all these younger folk moaning about the BBs just sounds like jealousy.

Almostfifty Fri 03-May-13 20:59:47

Wibbly yes, I have read the thread and I fail to see how by buying a house for my children to live in pushes up the costs of housing. Yes, if I'd bought a load of housing by buy to let, that would. But they have to live somewhere, and surely it's better to keep it in the family than put it in a landlord's pocket?

I didn't say all people buy brand new, MusieB's post is spot on. I was meaning more before the bubble burst, rather than now. I know it's not easy now, having close family unable to earn enough for a deposit for even a small house.

mirry2 Fri 03-May-13 20:51:52

Farbetternow, your experiences sound much more likely, given my own background and that of my parents.

janey68 Fri 03-May-13 20:39:43

Yes I agree. Young people nowadays tend to have far more in the way of the latest technology, clothes, holidays Etc and also go out FAR more than previous generations did. When I was at university I didn't know a single student who ran a car, and even in the years following uni quite a few people I knew had never been abroad and we all tended to wear second hand clothes and going out for a drink or meal was a really special occasion whereas now many young people have a night out at least once a week
On the other hand, the major purchase of a house seemed achievable. Not easy, because interest rates were so much higher- but achievable.

Chottie Fri 03-May-13 20:36:55

DH and I are both BBs. Neither of us went to uni. In fact, I know very few people my age who went to university. DH has worked full time since he was 16 years old. Before that he worked (paper round) from the age of 9. I went out to work full time at 18 years old. I can remember the strikes and three day week of the 70s. From about 1988-92 the interest rate on our mortgage was 13% (no not a typo!).

I studied whilst working with a family to get qualifications, it was tough. When we got married I was thrilled to be given a second hand fridge by my auntie. I think expectations were less then.

NUFC69 Fri 03-May-13 20:30:38

I think MusieB's post is about the most sensible I have read - young people do seem to me, to have endless bits of technology and and equipment. People of my generation can only look back at what they had when in their 20s and 30s - always handmedowns, so that is probably why some people do feel that their children aren't really trying with regard to saving for houses (totally unrealistic, of course). I can remember when I got my first part-time job after the children went to school, I earned £50 a month and decided that I would save for a dishwasher (a complete luxury) - it took me six months of saving for that and nothing else. It is very easy for an older person to look, say, at an iphone, and know that the contract for it is £x a month and think, well, that could be used for something else.

Perhaps we should all try to see each other's point of view more often.

alpinemeadow Fri 03-May-13 20:25:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

janey68 Fri 03-May-13 20:14:38

And I Also think its really important to acknowledge that not providing free childcare does not necessarily mean a grandparent isn't hugely involved, caring and full of love. You can be the best grandparent in the world without doing the child minding role, and equally you could be providing free child care but begrudging it and not necessarily providing the best environment for the child. And everything else in between those two extremes.

janey68 Fri 03-May-13 20:11:07

If grandparents actively want to look after their grandchildren while the parents work then there isn't a problem is there wibbly? But if they don't wish to, then that wish should be respected. I thought we were talking about situations where the grandparents didn't want to offer free childminding

MusieB Fri 03-May-13 20:01:54

I've been pondering about this thread too.

I think that maybe the difficulties the boomer generation and their children have in understanding each other's POV stem from the fact that the relative costs of various things have changed so much.

The boomers see their children in their 20s, 30s and 40s buying/frequently upgrading endless items of technology (bigger, flatter TVs, computer equipment and telephones, white goods etc), buying lots of clothes, going on foreign holidays, buying good food and bottles of wine without a second thought, and eating out frequently. At that stage in the boomers' lives these were all viewed as serious luxury items and many families even in quite well paid jobs had to scrimp and save for them. But the fact is that in real (ie inflation adjusted) terms the prices of all these things have fallen dramatically since the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

By contrast many of the things which the boomer generation were able to afford quite easily have become many times more expensive in real terms. The main one is of course housing, but school fees and child care also spring to mind...

Wibblypiglikesbananas Fri 03-May-13 19:55:31

Janey68 - what you quote isn't actually something that I've said! If you read my 18:58 post, you'll also see that I said when grandparents actively want to be involved in their grandchildren's lives, no one is denying anyone anything.

You're seeing this purely from the point of view that a child has asked their parents for help with their own children, which, granted, could come across as a selfish and entitled attitude. However, some grandparents would and do offer to care for their grandchildren whilst their parents work, you know.

TartinaTiara Fri 03-May-13 19:37:08

I've been pondering this throughout the thread, and have had a couple of thoughts. First is that some baby boomer women didn't work, or didn't work full time - leaving aside the issues of whether this was a good or bad thing for them personally, I wonder whether being out of the workplace, having a much smaller social circle did insulate them slightly from knowing how different the world is now. Not so much wilful ignorance, but a complete inability to contemplate a life different to their own - in the way that none of us would be able to understand how life worked in, say, the pre-WW1 era. Though I think wibblypig has said that her DM did work, and still doesn't really seem to grasp it, so maybe I'm completely off the mark there.

The other thing is that clearly, from many peoples' experiences, there are some - maybe not selfish but certainly uncomprehending of their own luck - boomers out there. And clearly some selfish ones as well. Do you think it might be true to say that, whilst baby boomers aren't inherently selfish, the circumstances of their lives have allowed those who are selfish by nature to indulge that selfishness more?

janey68 Fri 03-May-13 19:36:12

Erm... Yes... Hardly representative.

CruCru Fri 03-May-13 19:27:29

Sorry, that might be a bit of a random post.

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