People try to put us down…
…talkin’ bout my generation
I’m a Baby Boomer, generally defined as someone born in the years from 1946 to 1964. This is increasingly becoming a term of abuse used to stir up intergenerational trench warfare. This is how the refrain often goes : baby boomers are to be chastised because we benefited from free university education, jumped on the property ladder at just the right time, never had to worry about getting a good job and can retire comfortably on fat final salary pensions
Anything else? Oh yes, on top of all that we got the best music, had the best sex and took most of the glittering prizes! We were born too late to be killed in any war and too early to be savaged by the current age of austerity
While much of this has more than a grain of truth in it, before stringing us all up consider the findings of a recent report from the Ready for Ageing Alliance which sought to debunk four myths about baby boomers:
Myth 1: ‘Young people are paying for boomers’ overgenerous pensions’
The report found that It said that 28pc of those aged 55-64, or roughly two million people, have no private pension wealth at all and that the typical pension pot for the rest averaged £135,000, which sounds a lot but will only buy an annuity of around £6000 a year
Myth 2: ‘Boomers bought cheap housing and now sit on a fortune’
Not all baby boomers are home owners – and those that are would have paid eye-watering mortgage interest rates, the report claims. Although half of 55-64 year-olds own a property mortgage free, one-quarter of this age group are renters. And the dizzying heights of 25pc inflation in the mid-1970s (I certainly remember a mortgage rate of 16%!) and 10pc in the 1980s, mean that property ownership came at a high price
Myth 3: ‘Pensioners have money to burn on cruise holidays’
People in their 50s and 60s are actually less likely to go on holidays than the national average, the report said. Using data from market researchers, BDRC Continental, it based this claim on the findings that 26pc of 25-34 year-olds are planning a cruise, against just 23pc of 55-64 year-olds!
Myth 4: ‘Boomers got a free university education’
This is the one that will resonate most among current Keele students. Students in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t pay tuition fees while undergraduates today pay an eye-watering £9,000 a year to fund their studies. On top of that we got a government grant to fund living costs. Most of my fellow students used to work in the summer holidays to clear overdrafts accumulated during the year and I’m guessing that very few of us left with any material level of debt
However, as the report Points out access to university was far more difficult for us baby boomers than it is today
Only one-fifth of 55-64 year olds have a degree and this figure drops among people in their late 60s, among whom just 13pc have a university education
And here are a couple of additional personal observations:
While we may be the ‘golden generation’, we’re also very definitely the ‘sandwich generation’. We may have wealth, but a lot of it is going on supporting the generations above and below us. I say this as a statement of fact, not as a cry for help!
Lastly, as Francis Wheen told his Daily Mail readers in September 2009:
‘The defining characteristics of the Seventies were economic disaster, terrorist threats, corruption in high places, prophesies of ecological doom and fear of the surveillance state’s suffocating embrace’
So, not all sweetness and light for us baby boomers after all!
I look forward to continuing this discussion both on social media and face to face with as many of you as possible