June 18, 2018
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In defense of baby boomers

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
George and Kate Giffin work out together as part of a fitness class at the Hammond Street Senior Center on Bangor in March.
By Ellen Woolley, Special to the BDN

The Wall Street Journal took the baby boomer generation to task in a 10-point article on July 13-14, “10 Things … Baby Boomers Won’t Tell You,” arguing that boomers are an aging generation that “is still putting itself first” at their children’s expense.

I beg to differ, point by point.

1. “Paws off, Junior. This cash is mine,” the article reads.

But baby boomers have well-thought-out financial plans and have included their children in estate planning. More importantly, and sensibly, they have helped their children reach important milestones: first cars, college tuition, down payments on houses.

2. “We’ll be living with you when we’re old.”

We were raised by frugal parents. They paid cash, ate at home, worked long hours and saved. We boomers had “starter homes” with Harvest Gold appliances, Formica countertops, two kids to a room and one bathroom. We didn’t get our “dream” home until retirement, and it’s mortgage-free. That starter home built equity, as did the next, and we sold the family home at a fiscally opportune time. We each worked a full-time job with a small part-time job for supplemental income. We cooked at home and rented a small cabin in Maine for family vacations. We did not depend on Social Security to fund our retirement.

3. “We blame you for that.”

When our children were small, we opened college funds. Minimal investing reaped great benefits as college age approached. Our children had obligatory jobs from the summer after eighth grade onward. We emphasized a strong work ethic and the value of education.

4. “We can’t face reality.”

Reality is growing old gracefully and accepting some limitations while maintaining health of mind and body. We boomers are the volunteer backbone of small communities. We serve on hospital boards, volunteer at libraries and help out conservation organizations. We run for school board seats and serve in small-town government. We realize, long before injury, that tall ladders are not our friend — that heavy lifting requires offering a few dollars to a young person.

5. “Till death do us part doesn’t apply to us.”

Most of our peers are happily married. Some of us had young marriages, some with children, and we are a generation of blended families. We erred young sometimes and, with age and experience, chose a mate with the qualities necessary for the long haul. After years of dedication to our children, we embrace their leave-taking and re-decorate their rooms.

6. “We’re unhappy.”

Our goal was to lead a quiet, peaceful life, minus job stress. We hope for good health, fulfilling hobbies and a few dollars for a vacation. We don’t expect to wake up joyous. We expect merely to wake up. We’re content.

7. “We eat our feelings.”

We are the walkers and the bicyclists. We may not do “hot yoga,” but we grew up sans computers and video games. We played outside until dark. We taught our kids to swim and ski. Yes, we have our iPads and iPhones. We don’t text very well, and some of us remain luddites, but we are less dependent on technology for fulfillment. We may have “pot bellies,” and we’re a little thicker than we used to be. Gravity has performed its work, but we look pretty good.

8. “We’re addicts.”

We did grow up with the “cocktail generation.” Our parents smoked, and we lived through clouds of second-hand smoke. The martini after work slowed as we had teenagers. We have become, if anything, wine snobs. Our days of Bali Hai are behind us. A nice Cabernet at dinner with our once-a-week red meat or a crisp Chardonnay is about all we can handle. We are careful about prescription drugs and seek a knowledgeable partnership with our physicians to avoid problems.

9. “We will bury you in debt.”

Yes, there are a lot of us. Our parents had the requisite 2.5 children. But we funded Social Security with our incomes. Many of us retirees still have some fulfilling little job, thus delaying Social Security. We have never been the “collect” generation.

10. “We’re obsessed with (not) aging.”

We all wish we had moisturized and applied sunscreen in our youth. Today, we use these products prolifically. We would rather prevent skin cancer than rely on Medicare to fund the removal of cancerous growths. If we are avid consumers of high-end beauty products, we contribute mightily to those companies’ corporate health. We do the best we can with what we have and what we can repair.

Ellen Woolley of Lowell is a retired teacher and school administrator.

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