Did the baby boomers screw us over?

#2
"Baby Boomers" did relatively well - when compared with previous generations, no doubt. Most know it; most do a lot to justify having benefited from the post-45 "Welfare State".

However, compared with today's "yoof", choices & opportunities were pretty limited back in the 1960s/ 70s (& even the 1980s!) & most did what the "system" told them they should do. In most cases that meant "knuckling down" to pretty mundane jobs & "paying your way". Most "Boomers" have lived/ do live within their means. Responsibility for the "Credit Crunch" lies - if anywhere - with the arrogant "Masters of the Universe" (mainly "Generation X") who thought none of the "old rules" applied anymore, and who laughed at the cautionary words of their parents' generation.

Yes, we Boomers did benefit from free university education, and (means tested) student grants. But remember, only about 5% got to go to university, and what's more they had to study academic subjects on courses that typically failed (yes, failed!) about 20% of students. What's more, post-grad opportunities were very limited: even a first (the only one awarded in my year on my course) proved insufficient to secure me any guaranteed research funding for a PhD in history.

Many of my friends never got near university - despite far more impressive academic profiles/ capabilities than half the knobheads I send off to university today. Sorry to be blunt, but 3 Bs, for example, at A level today simply does not compare with the same of 30 years ago. A school friend who spoke 3 languages more than passably well (Dutch, German & French) only managed 2 Cs (French & German) & a D (History) at A level; I now teach "students" who regularly get 3 As in the same subjects without being able to hold a genuine conversation with native speakers, nor write coherent essays developing their own ideas to reach well founded conclusions.

More generally, it is not people of my generation who are mired in debt because of pursuit of an "aspirational lifestyle". It's notable how comparatively modest their houses, for example, tend to be compared with those of younger members of the same/ similar occupational groups. Same applies re cars, holidays, hobbies etc etc... I'm constantly amazed by the extravagent lifestyles of most colleagues in their twenties; accompanied by constant whining about their debts! I never owned my own car (although I did share a "banger" with 3 others for a few years) until aged 29 - why? I could not afford it. Same re house - lived in bedsit land/ shared houses until my early 30s... because I couldn't afford to do otherwise. By the same token, once working, not one of my contemporaries ran home to freeload off parents; every one of us would sooner have lived in tents (one did!) than do that!

Most "Boomers" I know have worked & paid tax all their lives; raised families; supported/ are supporting aged parents, and have been/ are "pillars of the community" - voluntary work/ charitable activities; running cubs/ scouts etc etc.. I'm hard pressed to think of an older Boomer, now retired, who does not do something for the community - eg hospital guides/ drivers; CAB; school govnrs; local am dram, music, adult education classes etc etc... the list is endless. Why? Because although most have come to realise that the radical/ revolutionary delusions of the 1960s/ 70s were just that - delusions, it's still possible to do some good in the neighbourhood.

Most Boomers, IMO, remain idealists, but whatever else we may be, we are not - on the whole - the self serving basta*!ds in the story of what's happened to Britain during the last 50 or so years.
 
#3
The Beeb had a debate on this with Paxman chairing.
The anti boomers where certainly not representative of the population in general and seemed to have been drawn from some left wing university.
No pension for the Baby Boomers for they had ALL profited outrageously from rising house prices so that now a Working Couple could not afford to buy their own house. Boomers would have to sell their property and live on the profit ! Where ?
The Pro Boomers amazed me the most talkative was the editor of some woman's magazine and certainly did not live in the Real world.
To me it was just a comment on life. Some did well in Post WW II most just made a living.
john
 
#4
Wessex_Man said:
"Baby Boomers" did relatively well - when compared with previous generations, no doubt. Most know it; most do a lot to justify having benefited from the post-45 "Welfare State"..............................
.
Good response WM. I think the title of Neil Boorman's book, "It’s All Their Fault: A Manifesto". sums it up nicely. Accept no responsibility, blame somebody else.
 
#5
As is normal for this now near useless country that we live in, the Baby Boomers are the latest in a long line of people to have the blame for everything put upon them.

The problem in this country, and as has been exacerbated by Labour's Reign of State Sponsored Terror, is that nothing is ever really a problem as long as you can find someone to shoulder the blame. By and large Labour have led a regime of passing all responsibility for failures of governmental policy upon the Consultants that they have spent Billions of pounds on employing and that is a de facto that has also spread to the wider audience. i.e. the general public.

People just do not have the ability to accept any responsibility for their own actions.

First Time buyers can't get mortgages, but they can continue to buy new cars, new clothes and lead a pretty lavish lifestyle.

“Poor people” can't get jobs, but they can still manage to buy Fags, Booze and Eat way to much food and get very fat.

Youths can't get employment, yet the government continues to allow migrant workers to pour into the country to earn minimum wages, wages that are largely all sent to former eastern European countries to help to boost those economies and not ours.

Everyone wants someone to blame and nothing is ever their own fault. As ever, the UK is a country whereby any form of success is punished and complete failure always reaps rewards.
 
#6
In our case in the medium term a baby boom helps, inspite of the idea behind it when you get your State Pension the money you paid in PRSI/National Insurance has already gone ..... it is the babies (then working) and paying PRSI/National Insurance that are actually funding your pension.

At the same time will their be jobs for them all?!

Besides it is that generation and the next that will be paying for the economic mistakes of the current generation!
 
#7
Excellent post WM!

As a baby boomer myself I cannot resist the urge to add a couple of points.

We grew up in difficult times.
Most of our fathers had served in WW2 and many carried the scars, both physical and emotional, to prove it.
Many of us suffered from common diseases like diptheria and polio, that are now almost non-existent.
Money was scarce, jobs for returning servicemen were not well paid, we knew poverty and what it was to go without.
Food remained scarce and expensive - we had ration books. I've still got mine for 1953.
Luxuries were rare. Most of us didn't see a fridge in the home before our 10th birthday.
TV? Flickering 405 line B&W with a small screen, exceedingly rare before out 10th birthdays, and two channels only.

It is not just our generation that benefited from rising house prices - my parents bought their first and only house in 1964, in London, for £4,700. It had cost £700 when built thirty years earlier. The old couple they bought it off did not profit from the sale as they had to buy somewhere else to live....

When we became adults we had to stand on our own two feet. Our parents had little or nothing to give us. The Bank of Mum and Dad did not exist. Houses were cheaper of course, but salaries were much lower. A mortgage in our days cost so much more then today. Just imagine what it would do to your family finances if mortage interst rates rose to over 15% in under a year. It happened to us (thanks Maggie, we reallly loved you for it) and it was grim in the extreme.

The starting salary for a teacher in 1970 was £860 per year, allowing for inflation that is around £10,000 in todays prices. Yet a teacher these days starts their career on a little over £21,000 per year. More than doubled! Sadly the maximum has not doubled so those of us boomers now drawing our final salary pensions have not benefited to the same extent.

The Bank of Mum and Dad does exist now, but it is the baby boomers that are providing the finance, not benefiting from it. Because of the way we worked it is true that many of us generated wealth, but we have a tendency to pass it on to our children when they need it. We have given our kids a better start in life than we had - they had a more luxurious lifestyle, we supported them through university education that most of us never had, we help them buy their first homes. We have a habit of being involved in voluntary work as we retire, and tend not to die rich. We pass a lot of it on to the next generation before we die, to our children when they need the help most.
 
#8
I am a very early Baby Boomer . I remember having quite an austere childhood and rationing going on until the mid 50’s . By luck rather than good revision , a word I did not know about aged 10 , I managed to get into a Grammar School . Following on from an earlier post about languages I studied French and we were expected to read French Classic Books , sit comprehension tests have a sound knowledge of grammar and as part of the exam take part in an oral test with an external examiner . There was certainly no module testing to achieve passes in A or O Level GCE’ s it was pass or fail and the bar was adjusted each year ot ensure a certain percentage failed . At University when you studied for your BSc , or whatever , and again the final year which was a culmination and application of acquired knowledge was pass or fail , no resits just one chance .
It was I believe however a time when social mobility was at its greatest . As we grew up and became married the number of couples who became first time home owners within their family must have been phenomenal .
Times certainly became good but I can also remember astronomical inflation and interest rates and mass unemployment .
To somehow imply it is my generation as responsible for the mess we are in now is just sour grapes . It was hard work but I think we still are a generation with what I must call old fashioned values . I despair at what has happened to change my country beyond all recognition in all sorts of areas in the last fifty years .
My heart goes out to young couples trying to get ahead in life , at the root of the current financial and Pensions mess lies the policies of one man .
 
#9
It’s rather churlish to turn the debate into a ‘blame game’. The problem if you want to call it that with Baby Boomers is exactly what the names suggests, there were lots of them!

It created a surge in capacity and output. The most damaging part of this is that it warped perceptions as to what welfare was considered affordable. When pensions were initially introduced the pensioners were expected to only last a few years before obligingly dropping dead and removing their financial burden. In the peak of the baby boom around the 80’s and 90’s you would have 5 working people for every retiree. It makes pensions and healthcare provision for the elderly easy to afford.

But in 20 years time there will be only 2 working people for every retiree, who by then will have a life expectancy running into the early eighties, and will be consuming highly expensive healthcare. The system is totally unsustainable. To give you an idea what I mean by that, if we honour the pension and healthcare provisions that the baby boomers expect to receive it will imply a standard tax rate of 38% and a top tax rate of 88%. For the remaining workers.

Not that this is any comfort, but if we are in the brown the French are in it even worse. There is simply no way they can afford their promises. Yet every time their politicians make the slightest attempt to reform the system they call mass strikes. Amusingly, making it far more likely they get nothing at all.
 
#10
Kingbingo said:
It’s rather churlish to turn the debate into a ‘blame game’. The problem if you want to call it that with Baby Boomers is exactly what the names suggests, there were lots of them!

It created a surge in capacity and output. The most damaging part of this is that it warped perceptions as to what welfare was considered affordable. When pensions were initially introduced the pensioners were expected to only last a few years before obligingly dropping dead and removing their financial burden. In the peak of the baby boom around the 80’s and 90’s you would have 5 working people for every retiree. It makes pensions and healthcare provision for the elderly easy to afford.

But in 20 years time there will be only 2 working people for every retiree, who by then will have a life expectancy running into the early eighties, and will be consuming highly expensive healthcare. The system is totally unsustainable. To give you an idea what I mean by that, if we honour the pension and healthcare provisions that the baby boomers expect to receive it will imply a standard tax rate of 38% and a top tax rate of 88%. For the remaining workers.

Not that this is any comfort, but if we are in the brown the French are in it even worse. There is simply no way they can afford their promises. Yet every time their politicians make the slightest attempt to reform the system they call mass strikes. Amusingly, making it far more likely they get nothing at all.
A large measure of our economic tribulations is due to decisions made by politicians many years before the advent of the “baby boomers”.

The first UK state pension scheme was started by Lloyd George in 1910 or thereabouts and was later incorporated into the National Insurance scheme set up in 1948 by Attlee’s government. NI was also to fund health care and benefits to widows, the unemployed and the sick, and in the event of maternity.

Lloyd George announced his scheme with the words with the words “pay 4 pence and get 9 pence” and, if I recall correctly, it was Aneurin Bevan who boasted that the good thing about NI was that there was no fund.

So since early last century the UK state pension scheme has been based on the grossly irresponsible principle that current taxpayers pay for current pensions, which surely makes it the longest running and most catastrophic Ponzi scheme in the world.
 
#11
Blame does lie with the succession of post-war British governments all exploiting short-term financial opportunities instead of building some seemingly very obvious long-term safeguards. Why on earth does UK Plc attempt to fund everything out of current tax receipts and borrowing, instead of - for example - setting aside pension money so that future pensions are actually funded with cash?

Like many "late boomers", I've been left with no prospect of a survivable state pension - if there will be one at all - and a ruined private pension industry that makes it incredibly hard to plan savings that won't either be wiped out by feckless financial markets or robbed by thieving socialist governments.
 
#12
4(T) said:
Blame does lie with the succession of post-war British governments all exploiting short-term financial opportunities instead of building some seemingly very obvious long-term safeguards. Why on earth does UK Plc attempt to fund everything out of current tax receipts and borrowing, instead of - for example - setting aside pension money so that future pensions are actually funded with cash?

Like many "late boomers", I've been left with no prospect of a survivable state pension - if there will be one at all - and a ruined private pension industry that makes it incredibly hard to plan savings that won't either be wiped out by feckless financial markets or robbed by thieving socialist governments.
I really must agree with your general tone . I beleve it is a condemnation of Government by all parties over many years not to have been able to predict and prepare for the long term future .... including the fundamental aspect of Demographic change . The latest hot potatoe to be kicked into the long grass again is care for the elderly .... yet another review in the next Government , if Labour are elected , but someone is going to have to grasp the extremely thorny nettle of Public Sector Pensions . It has always been short term policies to ensure re-election at the next General Election ... and just give " us " another term in power to turn the corner into Utopia .

Edited ... minor text mod .
 
#13
I suspect that the writers main beef is that all of the policies, central decisions and other fators were, in the whole, decided upon by boomers, and that in several ket areas they pulled up ladders behind them. My parents (early boomers) were poor (my dad worked for the council his entire life), but hard working. My dad went out to work and did the TA 2 nights a week and one weekend a month to bring in extra cash, whilst my mother had a job making embroidered badges out of gold braid such as officers cap badges at home. The brought their own home in 2969 for a reletively low sum, but mangaed their finances well. I had hand me down clothes and went to cubs\scouts. A holiday was a week at Butlins\Pontins somewhere by the sea. A lot of the opportnities that were availbale to the better educated and more affluent classes were not available to them.
One area that seems to be in contention however is that my generation (Generation X) has been blamed for being feckless and making poor decisions, particularly when it comes to credit cards and living beyond our means. I never did this beyond the odd bank loan, in fact, once I'd left the army I spent a few grand ensuring I had no debts whatsoever. But the author correctly points out that these facilities and asperations were foisted upon us by boomers with little thought of the future consequences.
It could end up a very drawn out argument.
 

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#14
I’d take issue with abeaumont’s comment about house prices being more expensive back when the boomers were buying. Some rough calculations show that the average house price compared with the average salary meant that the average boomer was paying a multiple of 3x salary to buy a house. Comparable figures for today mean that youngsters looking to buy now would generally need a multiple of 6 / 6.5 x salary.

The boomers do to a certain extent seem to be a generation that are very good at looking after themselves. One example being that it is now, just as they are reaching retirement age that the free travel perks for pensioners kick in and the minimum pension age increases for everyone else

Pull the ladder up Jack and sod the rest?
 
#15
Epaminondas said:
I’d take issue with abeaumont’s comment about house prices being more expensive back when the boomers were buying. Some rough calculations show that the average house price compared with the average salary meant that the average boomer was paying a multiple of 3x salary to buy a house. Comparable figures for today mean that youngsters looking to buy now would generally need a multiple of 6 / 6.5 x salary.

The boomers do to a certain extent seem to be a generation that are very good at looking after themselves. One example being that it is now, just as they are reaching retirement age that the free travel perks for pensioners kick in and the minimum pension age increases for everyone else

Pull the ladder up Jack and sod the rest?
Your post raises some interesting issues .

House Prices / Income … when I took out my first mortagage in the 1960’s there was a rule by the Mortgage Lenders , written or unwritten I am not sure , which said you could only borrow up to 4X the salary of the husband …. there was a small additional allowance if the wife was working . Further the amount loaned was based on the value of the property as established by the Mortgage Lender . Any difference in the Seller and Lender valuation had to be made up on top of the typical 10 % deposit . I really would be interested to know what the ratios were in 1997 / 2010 because after that 1997 the “ bubble “ developed , with Government collusion , and we got to a stage where Northern Rock were offering 120% Mortgages . As I have said on other threads this “ bubble “ could have been controlled by intervention by Central Government and restraint by lenders .

On the Free Bus item …. I have a pass … I did not lobby for a one … indeed there was no national request for a one . I and all my neighbours were quite happy paying a reduced off peak fare …. Gordon Brown as a short term vote winner decreed it would happen . I live in a small village and the nett result of free bus travel is that we no longer have a bus service into the village .

Pension Age is interesting … when I ws a young man I naively believed that as well as my private pension contributions my state pension contributions were being invested . How naïve I was … as you will see from my earlier post it is lack of true government by Governments of all political persuasions that have contributed to the mess we are in now .

It is so true that if you own nothing , owe a lot the state will look after you , own a lot ( a lot lot lot ) you need not worry but be in the middle and try to better the lot for yourself and your children then watch out for a lifetime of incoming !

Rant over … QED .
 
#16
We're all products of our times/ places.

Just to be clear, the "Baby Boom" generation are those born between 1940 & the early '60s (1965 is, I think, the "official" cut-off date for the sociologists who developed such generational classifications) - ie the children, and some grandchildren, of the Great Depression/ WW2/ post war "Austerity Years" generation. "Generation X" are those born roughly from the mid '60s to the late '80s - collapse of Berlin Wall/ end of the Cold War being the generally accepted "cut-off". Those born since then ("Generation Y") are very much the children of the "Internet Age"/ era of "Globalisation".

Each of us is marked by the era in which we grew up/ did stuff. Culturally, your twenties & earlier thirties are very much "your time", when your generation sets trends, shapes the popular "Zeitgeist" etc.. A few older Boomers gave us the "Swinging Sixties" & the "Radical Seventies", but the bulk were, in fact, "in their time" on the cusp of the 1970s/ 80s and, therefore, experienced - in the words of the ancient Chinese curse -"interesting times".

There was considerable social, economic & cultural turmoil; huge opportunities for some; a lot of uncertainty/ grief for others. Many were seriously conflicted: raised in an ethos of "make do & mend", community responsibility, and disciplined self restraint (at home, at school, at large), they found themselves in a world where the marketplace would determine your worth, greed was good, and only a fool did something for nothing. This was not, by & large, in keeping with their upbringing, let alone their ideals: ex hippies & their ilk were stunned; younger Boomers - like myself - often became very cynical/ "hard boiled" in their attitudes as they struggled to find a decent path in the "New Order" (btw, a quintessential Baby Boomer band - very telling!).

A good friend of mine was raised in a North Eastern pit village - typical working class 1960s/ 70s childhood/ adolescence; local schools; miners' galas; colliery bands; community spirit in spades etc etc - "did well" at school, went to university, and ended up in the City making loadsa' money! He was able to provide for his parents when they found themselves on the employment scrapheap in their early fifties, but many others were not so lucky. He was also plagued with guilt, of course, because the socio-economic paradigm in which he was doing so well was also, in part, the cause of all the misery "back home". Very much a tale of my generation's times...

We're not whining. Most Boomers found their way okay in the end, and most have done/ do a fair amount of good in this world: as, no doubt, will subsequent generations.

However, the notion that the Boomers somehow "screwed over" those who came later is just plain ridiculous, offensive even. We've paid/ are paying our dues, and are no better or worse than any others.
 
#17
The generation of the 20/30's !
As a young Sgt in the 70's UK was undergoing one of it's Busts, post the 60's Boom and young Will asks his Mam & Dad 'Would you like me to give you so much a month.'
They had a quick chat and said "No Ta you look after yourself."
'But I though time where hard now', They both laughed and said "Son you'll never know what Hard Times are."

john
 
#18
Yerman Willets has a book out about that. The Pinch reviewed in the TLS by Tim Congdon who thinks the his assertions don't stand up to inspection:
...
His failure to put together data is not confined to the subject of inheritance. Given the awkward fact that most baby boomers are alive, Willetts tries to damn them by asserting that at present they control a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth. He offers a “very rough estimate” of the age distribution of wealth in the UK, obtaining a figure of £3,500 billion in the hands of the forty-five to sixty-five baby-boomer age group, or 52 per cent out of an overall national total of £6,700 billion. By contrast, those under forty-five are said to have £900 billion or 13 per cent of the total. The numbers are given after an unqualified statement, “There are no authoritative estimates of the distribution of the £6,700 billion of wealth in our country between different age groups”. Two issues arise here. The first is that Willetts has overlooked a large body of official data. Since the publication in 1975 of the initial report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth, under the chairmanship of Lord Diamond, the Inland Revenue and now Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have compiled much information on the age distribution of wealth in the UK, as they have on many other aspects of the subject. The official estimates vary in coverage and may be derived from partial evidence, but they reflect a great deal of work. If Willetts had them in mind when making his “very rough” calculation, he ought to have mentioned them; if he did not, he was less than fully informed. For 2005 the HMRC figure for identifiable national wealth was almost £1,880 billion, of which just over £830 billion belonged to the forty-five to sixty-four age group (44 per cent of the total), whereas £533 billion (28 per cent) was in the hands of those between eighteen and forty-four.
...
There's little remarkable about the boomer generation in the UK. They perhaps where a little too apolitical and not watchful enough of their greedy betters selling them fantastic tales of unregulated economic licentiousness. There are a lot of them reaching retirement some intent on being a burden as is traditional. They breed sparingly a generation of indulgently spoiled, mostly fat children. Those pampered little princes are now expecting a lightly taxed, heavily serviced free ride.

It's in the US and particularly busted Ireland with its regressively taxed, light fingered, neo-gentry that this argument carries greater force. Lazily importing it into British politics is rather foolish.
 
#19
Sorry, the 40s Baby boom is different in the UK and only lasted a few years, far greater was the sustained high birth rates of the middle 60s, the muck will hit the large, metal spinney thing 20-25 years from now...

People are beginning to make some assumptions about the 89-92 births now coming of age and being of the highest birth rate in over 35 years however EVERY year between 1942-1973 had a higher number of births than those of 1989-1992.

So theres no need to worry now but when the 60s births begin to retire and the post-war children are for the most part still alive is when we'll be at panic stations!
 
#20
Epaminondas said:
I’d take issue with abeaumont’s comment about house prices being more expensive back when the boomers were buying. Some rough calculations show that the average house price compared with the average salary meant that the average boomer was paying a multiple of 3x salary to buy a house. Comparable figures for today mean that youngsters looking to buy now would generally need a multiple of 6 / 6.5 x salary.

The boomers do to a certain extent seem to be a generation that are very good at looking after themselves. One example being that it is now, just as they are reaching retirement age that the free travel perks for pensioners kick in and the minimum pension age increases for everyone else

Pull the ladder up Jack and sod the rest?

Fair enough.... But it is not so much a case of us being a generation that "are very good at looking after themselves" as being a generation that had it relatively tough when we were young. We grew up knowing we needed to work to get what we wanted, we did not grow up believing that the world owed us a living. If we could not afford it, we didn't buy it. Buying on a loan was to be avoided as interest rates were so high.

Yes, it is true that on paper I, like others of my generation, have made a lot of dosh out of being a house owner. But, it is on paper only, and it is not as much as you might think when you allow for inflation and consider how much we've paid in mortgage payments over the years. I have to live somewhere, so if I sell up to turn my asset into cash I'll have to spend it on buying somewhere else. The profit in my house will be made and spent by my sons after I've gone.....

The fate of my parents house in London is probably typical for my generation. Sold after the last parent died there was a large profit. My share was not spent by me, it was passed on to my sons and was used to get them on the housing ladder with a smaller mortgage than they would otherwise have had.

The baby boomer generation might be making the wealth, but by and large it's the next generation that gets the benefit.
 

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