31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and well thought-through
How lucky my generation has been. Never called up to fight a major war. A student-loan-free education. An indomitable feeling that we can do anything. A generation approaching oldie-ship that will look different, act atypically and feel unconventionally about ourselves. No lawn bowls for us, or fawn windcheaters, or sensible shoes (unless we choose to wear them with a...
Published on 5 May 2010 by A. Brixey-Williams
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Benaut
A fascinating read but never has the saying " a picture tells a thousand words" been more true. The arguements are statistically based and are often difficult to follow but there's not a single statistical 'picture'. Even when defining the generations using birth rates there's no chart. It could have been so clear, but it's not!
A good story lost in the telling.
Published on 6 April 2011 by S. R. Munro
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and well thought-through,
This review is from: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And How They Can Give it Back (Hardcover)How lucky my generation has been. Never called up to fight a major war. A student-loan-free education. An indomitable feeling that we can do anything. A generation approaching oldie-ship that will look different, act atypically and feel unconventionally about ourselves. No lawn bowls for us, or fawn windcheaters, or sensible shoes (unless we choose to wear them with a sense of post-modern irony, of course...). Heli-skiing at 73 - why not?
In a characteristically scholarly but lucidly readable fashion, Willetts provides a sociological, economic and demographic grand tour of a generation that has amassed great wealth and power and, he postulates, pulled up the drawbridge behind it. Reading it as a BB evokes pride and guilt in equal measures, but Willetts, a baby-boomer himself, stresses that this is not a book attacking his generation, but merely asking it to use its power wisely and fairly.
As a financial planner I deal with many made-it-big-time baby boomers, but watch with dread the younger cohorts sleepwalking into great poverty in old age. Many start life in debt; often have a misplaced obsession with property (Willetts cites research that suggests our decisions about what to invest in are shaped for several decades by the types of assets that were booming in our youth), and even their bosses, whose own pension planning might have been derailed by reductions in tax-relief for the better-off, may no longer feel quite so inclined to encourage their younger staff to save prudently for their later years.
I related strongly to Willetts' idea of baby boomers who were allowed to be 'free-range children', and that the social contract between parents and children is less trusting these days, for reasons I still don't fully comprehend, even as a father. Many children of that generation, this reviewer included, spent their days playing freely in the fields/bomb sites/streets - sans mobile phone or GPS kiddie-tracker or bicycle helmet - turning up muddy, grazed, but happy, for afternoon tea. We took risks, made mistakes and got messy, but, equally, so did our parents in allowing us the freedom of spirit that now seems to be emblematic of the generation.
So read this book - if you're not a BB, try to understand that although we're not an evil generation, we certainly got lucky, without necessarily realising it. If you are a BB, heed Willetts' words - that your children are the ones who might eventually choose your care home...
36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read on how parents are stealing their children's future,
This review is from: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And How They Can Give it Back (Hardcover)David Willetts has been talking about the generation war for a while, and now has put down his thoughts in this highly engaging book. He might be a politician, but his book is both well written and very non-party political. It is full of enticing, and illuminating insights - for example, that Britain has had small nuclear families rather than large extended ones for the past millennium; that sex was discovered before the 1963 and the pill - but as a result an astonishingly high proportion (one quarter from memory) of young brides were pregnant. The central thesis - that the whole economic and social system is geared to the interests of baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965, and those who come afterwards are disadvantaged as a result - is not just convincing, but politically salient. The baby boomers have won the tug of war with their children, with the result that they had free university education, while their children didn't; lower taxes; lower government debt; lower house prices. The post-baby boomers will struggle as they pay off the debts of their parents living beyond their means as though there would be no tomorrow (at least for them). The problem is the solution - although the grey generation need to pay their way more to lessen the burdens on the young, which government is going to risk the wrath of precisely the generation which is the most diligent about going to the polling booths? I think the generations may be warring for some time to come.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Benaut,
This review is from: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And How They Can Give it Back (Hardcover)A fascinating read but never has the saying " a picture tells a thousand words" been more true. The arguements are statistically based and are often difficult to follow but there's not a single statistical 'picture'. Even when defining the generations using birth rates there's no chart. It could have been so clear, but it's not!
A good story lost in the telling.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coverage of intergeneration issues,
This review is from: The Pinch: How the baby boomers took their children's future - and why they should give it back (Kindle Edition)This is a really excellent book dealing with intergenerational issue. Full of useful facts and figures. It is very well researched and written.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pensions industry view,
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wide-ranging review of the likely impact of the 1950/60s baby boom on 21st century Britain,
David Willetts has a reputation as a thinker, as well as a politician. The book looks at the impact of the baby boom on modern Britain, and the challenges we face as this group move into retirement. The book is heavy on analysis and light on conclusions, and is all the better for that.
He resists anecdotes and popular myths, and concentrates on the numbers. For example he stresses that in Britain property tends to be bought and sold as needed, and not passed down through the generations. Importantly this is not a new trend - 87% of land transactions were between unrelated people back in 1400, and this is very different from other countries and cultures. He highlights that what will stop a habitual 20 year old criminal is not prison, but for him to get a job and a steady girlfriend. And what do Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Congo and Somalia have in common? All these global trouble-spots have a median age under 20, compared to the world median of 29 and UK one of 39.
What has this got to do with the baby boom? You need to read the book to find out, but what he sets out to demonstrate is that a country's cultural traditions and population profile have a huge effect on the wellbeing of its citizens. The political solutions to Britain's problems over the next few decades will need to take both into account if they are going to succeed.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in politics, and in particular social policy, but also a fascinating book for the general reader.
25 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy analysis leading to an incorrect predetermined conclusion,
This review is from: The Pinch: How the baby boomers took their children's future - and why they should give it back (Kindle Edition)If this book had been advertised as a description of the importance of inter-generational cooperation, accompanied by useful social statistics, I would have given it more stars. But its real theme is instead identified by its sub-title: "How the baby-boomers took their children's future - and why they should give it back". It is an unjustified attack on the baby-boom cohort as a whole, leading to wrong conclusions about how we arrived at the current state and what the lessons are. Generalized criticisms made about baby-boomers are not supported by the (interesting) facts given, but needed a contorted interpretation of those facts.
Disclaimer: I am one of the older baby-boomers, born in 1947. I retired some time ago when the company I worked for went bust, and I live on my company pension and my savings built up while working. When I claim my state pension next year, it will be significantly less than the taxes I pay, so I claim that I will be paying for my own state pension!
My issue with the book's analysis is illustrated (for example) by a key chapter: "4: Spending the Kid's inheritance". Table 1 identifies the net housing wealth of various age groups. To quote his interpretation: "The table shows that half of all [this] wealth ... belongs to the the baby-boomers and only about ... 15 per cent to everyone under 44". If true, this implies that, as a whole, this huge number of young people just haven't got a start on the housing ladder. But this is a poor interpretation of the table, and the real message is very different. Taking the GROSS housing values (prices of bricks and mortar) for the different age groups (ignoring mortgages), the figures are: under 35 years, 11%; 35-44, 21%; 45-54, 21%; 55-64, 19%; and 65+, 25%. So (perhaps because of his definition of baby-boomers spanning 20 years), the baby-boomers have about 40% and the up-to-44s have 32%. In terms of the values of the houses they own (albeit with mortgages) this appear to be a very high value for the up-to-44s, and even high for the under 35s. My house when I was under 35 was a tiny rubbish house on a poor estate, only worth now perhaps a quarter or less of my current house.
What he has done is subtract the values of the mortgages to produce his quote. What the table is really saying is "there isn't a large difference in bricks and mortar values for the various age groups, (in fact, the 35-44 value is greater than the 55-64 value!), but young people haven't paid off their mortgages, whereas to a large extent the 55-64 and especially the 65+ groups have done so". Wow! So people nearing retirement and after retirement tend to pay off their mortgages, while younger people haven't yet done so! Who would have thought it? (When I bought my current house at the age of 40, I had a 19.5 year mortgage so that it would be paid off by the time I was 60). But this interpretation doesn't support his thesis.
Another problem with this book is that is treats the baby-boom cohort as a sort of "collective intelligence", to which criticism can be applied, injunctions be made, and motives assigned. Apart from the book's sub-title itself, there is "the boomers increasingly came to think of their house as ... their own personal goldmine"; "however, we [the author is a baby-boomer] thought we were richer and ... we all became alchemists, converting paper increases in the value of our homes into extra money to spend". (Etc). Perhaps he and some others did that, but many of us didn't.
The baby-boomers are about 10 million individuals. We span the complete spectrum of politics; of financial state (from rich to broke); of parental and social standing; of education; of health, of aspirations; of number of children. (But we probably don't include rich footballers or WAGS!) We do not share a single agenda, strategy, motive, or degree of activism; in fact, we may sometimes not even be on speaking terms with one-another! Few of us ever managed to influence the resultant (current) society to a measurable extent. Since I gained the vote at the age of 21 my vote has never had the slightest effect on who got elected in local or general elections! And we are only about one-quarter of the electorate - does anyone seriously think that we really significantly influenced where we are now?
It is my last paragraph above that identifies a fault with this and other books on this topic. Any failure to understand that we are actually 10 million individuals, connected only by age, just living our lives while the world changes around us in ways we can't control and sometimes don't even understand, may cause people to focus on imaginary agendas, and make false assumptions that we can act as one to change things for the "better" (whatever that means). Hence my single star, which reflects the failure of this book to understand what happened and draw lessons for the future.
Edit: Since writing this review I've realized that there wasn't actually a single baby-boom! Search for the official statistics document "The UK population: past, present and future", file-name 01_fopm_population.pdf, and look at figure 1.13 on page 11. (Enlarge it to have a closer look). Here are important facts:
There was what I'll call a "baby-spike" immediately after the war. This 2nd highest birth rate of the 20th century peaked in 1946/7, and lasted very few years. The reason for that spike is obvious. (For example, my parents met during the war and I was born in 1947).
Then there was what I'll call a "baby-peak" 19 years later. This highest birth-rate of the 20th century peaked about 1965, and was much greater and longer-lasting than the 1946/7 baby-spike. In fact, the birth-rate during the baby-peak stayed at least at the 1946/7 baby-spike rate for about 10 years, and arguably (make your own choice from figure 1.13) the baby-peak lasted from about 1959 to 1971 or much longer. I don't know what caused that baby-peak, (but see chapter 3 of the book).
This suggests that there are really 2 relevant cohorts rather than one, and the term "baby boomer" masks the truth. The smaller of these cohorts covers births from 1946 to about 1950. The larger, and potentially more important, cohort covers the range from about 1959 to 1971 or longer. (But judge for yourself from the graph of figure 1.13). These should probably be thought of as separate generations, although they overlap a bit. The early lives of these cohorts were vastly different from one-another on average. The baby-spike children of 1946 to 1950 arrived in an immediate-post-war nation. We know the baby-peak children centred on 1965 were born into a different world! (And many of them are young enough to be the children of the baby-spike cohort).
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost interest in it half way through,
This review is from: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And Why They Should Give it Back (Paperback)Some thought provoking material but not the kind of book to take on holiday, overall it was repetitive and failed to keep my attention.
14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware the Baby Boomers......,
The argument is convincingly made but I would have welcomed more analysis on this phenomenon could be addressed by policy makers. However I recognise that the author, as a member of the shadow cabinet, may have felt constrained from providing too much in the way of detailed policy recommendation just before an election campaign begins. However the main concept outlined in the book was sufficiently interesting to make the book a thought provoking read.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong premise,
This review is from: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And Why They Should Give it Back (Paperback)By lumping all baby boomers together the authors comes up with highly debatable conclusions. Given that wages in real terms have been falling for years or decades (the latter in the US) and that more and more families have to have two wage earners to cover the bills, the central argument of the book does not hold water. The real reason why many of the next generation are going to be worse off than many of their parents is the appalling rise in income / asset inequality that has been occurring since the Reagan / Thatcher duo appeared on the stage. But that goes against the grain of the author's ideology . . .
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The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And Why They Should Give it Back by David Willetts (Paperback - May 2011)