31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
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...
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jul 2011 11:24:57 BDT
Response to A. Brixey-Williams:
I wonder if your role as a financial planner has given you a non-representative view of baby-boomers? Many baby-boomers (whatever definition is used) probably don't have resources and financial options that need professional planning. I don't think I do, (no job, a company pension, 3 ISAs, 1 house, 1 car), but perhaps I have missed something important.
First I'll repeat part of another comment I have made. The demographic evidence of the birth-rate in the UK is 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. I don't know what caused that baby-peak, but perhaps it was something to do with increasing confidence in the future?
This suggests that there are really 2 relevant cohorts rather than one. 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. (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.
Some comments on your review:
"A student-loan-free education": When I went to university in 1965, I didn't pay tuition fees. But ... only about 5% of school leavers went to university in those days. Now it about 45%. For today's "top 5%" of school leavers, (whatever that means), there is a valid criticism of the fact that they would have got to university in 1965 free. But for today's remaining 40% who are not the "top 5%", the comparison is between 1965: "not going to university"; 2011: "going to university and paying tuition fees". Presumably the greater the number who go to university, the greater the strain on the budget, and perhaps this higher number wouldn't be affordable in the current climate.
"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": the baby-boomers I know didn't "amass great wealth and power"! Or if they did, they are hiding it from me while they live in their single house and drive their single car. And I don't believe we pulled up the drawbridge. (What did I do to achieve that, whatever it means? I never had the power to do so!) I think many younger people are angry that opportunities have changed, and want someone to criticize. But the underlying factors that reduced those opportunities also left many baby-boomers near poverty, and caused me to "retire" early as the least worst option available.
"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": What did I do that I shouldn't have, or what did I fail to do that I should have? Like many baby-boomers, I was not guilty of either of these. (Unless you have suggestions to the contrary). And while I want to be fair, I don't appear to have the sort of power you imply.
"your children are the ones who might eventually choose your care home": I never wanted children and never had any. So I always planned to be self-reliant, not depending on (non-existent) children or the state when I retired. So far so good (in spite of early "retirement"). I hope my house and my company pension will be enough.
I believe you, like the author, are personifying the baby-boomers, or attributing some common characteristics to us. Generalisations like those don't lead to useful lessons. 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. We do not share a single agenda, strategy, motive, or degree of activism.
In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 10:05:50 GMT
Last edited by the author on 31 Oct 2012 11:02:41 GMT
"no job, a company pension, 3 ISAs, 1 house, 1 car" and early retirement? Sounds pretty good to me.
As a child of two babyboomers I'm 32, employed, just started a pension that will pay less than yours, have no house, no car, a degree, no savings, in debt, and faced with years of saving to find enough deposit to buy even a 1 bedroom flat. I have room in my rented acommadation for children, not enough money to rent a larger house, whilst all my rent helps to fund the retirement of my babyboomer landlords.
I think you will find that most of my generation are struggling to attain even the basic facets of 'self-reliance' that you seem to take for granted.
In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 11:42:10 GMT
In reply to "pumpkin": it is now 1 ISA! I've had to draw from my life-savings.
For interest, I've made a mortgage payment every month for 38 years. Today is no except - but it is the last! For the first time in my life, I own a house outright. The only way I hung onto this house after losing my job is because I'm childfree. Mortgage payments have been my biggest cause of worry and sleepness nights. And retirement is not always something to envy; for example the last time I spent more than 3 nights away from home, other than visiting my parents, was 2000.
Neither of us is in a position to total up our end-of-life "scores" and compare them. Besides, they will be too different for a simple comparison. In effect, our lives will have been spent in rather different worlds. Perhaps you will have children? Perhaps (as is likely) you will live longer? (There are some similarities. At 32 I had no savings and no car).
In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 12:47:55 GMT
Thanks for your reply.
As a general point, I think it is worth saying what is sometimes forgotton -that nowadays monthly rental payments can be higher than mortage repayments, and with no endpoint or eventual return in the form of an owned house- it's just a treadmill.
Paying rent is also a cause of worry - what if we couldn't pay one month - what then?
But agree each generation faces its own challenges and advantages and the picture is possibly more complex than what Willets describes.
From reading your posts, you have worked hard, planned well and made sacrifices for what you now have.
In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 13:35:35 GMT
Oh and I should add - congratulations on completing your mortgage -(today!:)), that's definately something to celebrate.
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Nov 2012 07:49:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Nov 2012 07:53:18 GMT
I'm sorry I mentioned it. In this context it sounds like gloating. But while people who can't get a mortgage wish they could, lots of people who have one wished they didn't! (I once read about a couple called Davidson who lived in Travelodges. I even checked the prices to see if I could afford it. I couldn't, of course, but it indicates how I felt about mortgages at the time).
Renting is more common elsewhere in Europe, for example Germany. I can't believe they have rip-off buy-to-rent owners like we appear to. Do they have better regulation, or "simply" plenty of houses so they benefit from the law of supply and demand? Everywhere I read about Intergenerational conflict, housing comes top of the list.
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