| December 03, 2013
Okay, maybe the basement part is true for my mother, but you get the point. It seems far-fetched to imagine my parents wanting a terrible future for their children. So why do we hear so often that the boomers ruined our future?
“Blame the boomers” is the angry cry of our generation. We’re dealing now with the consequences of short-sighted decisions (or no decisions at all) on financial markets, increasing inequality, climate change, and more. The boomers at the top of the food chain made some self-serving choices, and frankly, continue to do so in many cases. We’re poised to inherit a mess, a net loss, a quagmire of epic proportions. And maybe there's opportunity in that crisis - but make no mistake, it's a crisis.
But did dear old mom and dad have it out for us? Somehow, I don't think they intended to sell me down the river. I think we've all been had.
Average families have been squeezed for years now, needing two income earners to make a decent living because wages have been stagnant for 30 years as more money stayed at the top of the corporate ladder. Good pension plans are disappearing. Job security is becoming a thing of the past. It takes 10 years longer than our parents to save for a down payment.
We can blame the boomers all we want. But remember, the system worked for them. It's understandable that our parents thought that their children could enjoy the same standard of living if they followed the rules.
The problem is that the game has changed, and the deck is stacked against us now. We will have to fight for our future. But it’s a challenge for all generations, not just ours.
My dad worked at a mill for almost 30 years and his pension security is constantly on the rocks. My mom, at the age of 61, is in the same situation as many Gen X and Ys, working two part-time jobs - but in her case, it's to make a living before she reaches official retirement age.
So I'm not in the mood to tell them they're responsible for my problems. They helped me go to university and get a degree, which was supposed to be my golden ticket. But then I needed another degree to get a better job because my old salary wasn't paying the bills. And along with it came $35k in student debt. I'm sure my lifetime earnings will now be better, but I was taking on debt at the time in my life at exactly the time my parents were starting a family and buying a house.
So it’s clear that someone's breaking the deal, but it's not me, my mom, or my dad – your average middle-class Canadians. If we’re going to have constructive conversation about generational equity and the challenges we face, let’s at least start there.