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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Don’t Throw The Baby Boomers Out With The Bathwater

We all feel like we are part of a generation, and most often that being this one that represents the here and now, and have at some point probably used the phrase “in this generation” to describe something current that is happening or is known to happen, perhaps more or less than before, in prior “generations”. But what does the average person really know about generations? Do we know even what generation we fall into, or anything about the other generations and what or who defines them?

As average people who may not be presented with a reason to become an expert in this subject, we continue to operate in society without knowledge of the generations, and without the desire to learn. But big businesses don’t have the luxury of not knowing, and billions of dollars have been poured into this field of study for individual companies to obtain for the purpose of leveraging the generations to increase profitability. Here is a crash course on some things you may or may not be aware of.

Baby Boomers
The most widely accepted names and theories about the generations, is that there are three primary generations. The most widely accepted or known names for those are the “Baby Boomers, who are composed of everyone born from 1945 to 1964. “Generation X”, those born between 1965 and 1979. And Millenials, or Generation Y, all those born between 1980 and now. What has been discovered, are the veritable plethora of unique nuances, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that tend to predominate in each respective generation. Each generation has been found to all have unique, separate ideals and behaviors in areas of work ethic, family life, educational and spiritual values, and most notably to the economy, individual consumer and spending habits.

1. Baby Boomers, born 1945-1964. The generation of post World War II babies that were born in great number after our country settled down and sought the American dream of a big family, home ownership, car ownership, and the white picket fence. This was the generation that was taught that a college education and hard work would almost surely bring about success and happiness, and back then it usually did. It was a pre-information age freshly introduced even to television in their youth. Baby Boomers consumer and spending habits reflect family values, a belief or at least reference for God, pride in ownership, along with trust in the government and the value of the American dollar. Those values did some of them right, and many not. After Nixon took the gold standard off of the American dollar, money became only currency, essentially just print on a piece of paper backed by the good word of ‘ol Uncle Sam. Ownership of a home or car became much more challenging with the subsequent inflation in the economy, and many have found themselves selling their old four bedroom and moving into an apartment, applying for Bad Credit Auto Loans and returning or remaining in the work place instead of retiring.

2. Generation X, born 1965-1979. Raised on television programs such as “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “The Incredible Hulk” and “Family ties”, gen X’ers became more individualistic than the prior generation of baby boomers, were the first of the generations to become technologically savvy and proficient , and are said to “work to live”, not “live to work” in contrast to baby boomers. Gen X consumer and spending habits are known to be aggressive, and Gen X is known for being equally aggressive in financial pursuit to get what they want-from job or otherwise. Many of Gen X followed the prior generation into the work force and higher education, but this time with very different results. Gen X experienced a greater difficulty in achieving the “American dream” of a big family, home, car, and the “white picket fence”. Those that made proportionately the same or more than the prior generation achieved it at a higher cost in terms of financing and hours to obtain the dollar. Subsequently, Gen X has smaller families, less possessions owned outright, and is generally not as involved with family life like its predecessor generation due to the financial and societal demands placed upon them.

3. “Millenials or Generation Y”, born 1980-now. This generation is the generation representing the new millennium and its ideals. Our society now has more fatherless homes, drastic highs and lows in economic times, and definite shaking of social and religious values held by prior generations. Millenials have experienced the peak of advancement in computer technology throughout their life. Subsequently Millenials are computer literate from a much younger age than any generation, and the latter half of recently born Millenials are computer literate and highly technologically savvy often times as soon as they enter school. Millenials consumer and spending habits are governed by what they have encountered since birth, and research has shown that Millenials have been literally bombarded by advertising. Subsequently, Millenials spending habits are quite different. Millenials think outside the box, seeking and successfully obtaining uniqueness and personal individuality and style. Whatever the Millennial purchases, they definitely want it somehow personalized to them, unlikely to be found driving the same car and same clothes as their neighbor or friend, which was the opposite of the case in generation prior where Americans went with the flow and often thought and acted in groups. The Millennial is way past trust in establishment and especially businesses and sales people wishing to sell them something, and is therefore more likely to spend based on information and research obtained through word of mouth or observation, and exponentially more likely to make most purchases online in an impersonal format. This is a long way from Baby Boomers who all knew their banker, auto salesman, and insurance agent by first name. Millenials are even more slackerish than the prior Gen X’ers, with less good work ethic and a less competitive spirit by nature, because they were taught the “everyone wins” or “everyone is a winner” philosophies throughout life. A lesson that many, have had to un-learn to adapt to the world built by Baby Boomers and Generation X before them in order to succeed.

There is much to learn and much to accordingly gain by paying attention to the different traits of these three generations, both professionally and personally. Your approach to this question, says a lot about the generation you are in.

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