As you may know, ArCompany has both a Millennial and a GenX Think Tank that we founded to dive more deeply into insights about what makes each generation tick. The inspiration for the Think Tanks was to get beyond the stereotypes and determine if certain behaviors were actually generational, due to the age of a specific generation, or reflective of a greater, cross generational societal change.
As we get ready to launch our Boomer Think Tank, one inescapable fact has become clear to me: love them or hate them, Boomers still control a vast majority of both the wealth and the power in North America. Before we get into the meat of the post, you should be aware of a few facts:
- The Boomer Generation roughly covers 1946 – 1964
- There are approximately 77 million Boomers (compare that to roughly 79 million Millennials and 56 million GenXers)
- Boomers have a lot of money compared to younger generations.
- Boomers have a stranglehold on political power.
This unequal distribution of wealth alone is inspiration for at least some of the Boomer Bashing that has become popular on social networks. However, marketers would be supremely foolish to look past Boomers as they salivate over Millennials.
Details of Boomer wealth
There is a lot of information, much of it contradictory, swirling around the web about how much wealth Boomers actually control. If you’re listening to the chatter, you’ll hear the oft-repeated statement that Boomers haven’t saved enough for retirement.
However, no one will argue that they don’t control a tremendous amount of wealth. Check out these states from an Immersion Active post:
- The 55+ age group controls more than three-fourths of America’s wealth (ICSC).
- 78 million Americans who were 50 or older as of 2001 controlled 67% of the country’s wealth, or $28 trillion (U.S. Census and Federal Reserve).
- Boomers and seniors have seen a decrease in their median family net worth, however they still have a net worth 3x that younger generations (Economic Policy Institute).
- Boomers’ median household income is 55% greater than post-Boomers and 61% more than pre-Boomers. They have an average annual disposable income of $24,000 (US Government Consumer Expenditure Survey).
- The 50+ have $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after-tax income (U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey).
- Adults 50 and older own 65% of the aggregate net worth of all U.S. households (U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey).
Digest those facts for a minute; perhaps many Boomers haven’t saved enough, but they certainly control enough wealth to be an incredibly important consumer segment.
They still hold power
Boomers are often blamed for the economic situation the US is facing, especially when national debt is mentioned. I’m not sure that I agree that we can lay all of that at the feet of one generation; the Reagan administration was a pioneer of deficit spending, and many in that administration were Silent Generation members or older.
Here are some interesting facts about the age of our political leaders:
- US Senators: 27 are from the Silent Generation, 64 are Boomers, and 8 are from GenX
- US Governors: 6 are from the Silent Generation, 41 are Boomers, and 3 are from GenX
- US House of Representatives: 46 are from the Silent Generation, 320 are Boomers, 63 are from GenX, and 6 are Millennials.
It is not surprising that younger generations are making their way into the House of Representatives – as it is the normal path of entry into national office. However, Boomers still hold the lion’s share of power in all branches of US government.
It is likely that they will remain even longer than their predecessors have as they are, on a whole, healthier and the beneficiaries of advances in medical care.
The oldest Boomers are in their later 60’s, and the youngest just passing 50; their hold on power will not be dissipating anytime soon. It may appear that a generational shift was beginning to take place in political realms because we have had a” young” President for these past 6 years, but Barack Obama is actually a Boomer, although he sits on the cusp of GenX.
When you look at the potential political candidates lining up for a run in 2016, every single one of the serious contenders is, you got it, a Boomer.
They’re not retiring anytime soon
The oldest Boomers turned 65 in 2011; the youngest will turn 65 in 2029. Of course this means that America will have the largest elder population it has ever had, and the healthcare system will continue to grow with the Boomers. However, with the progress of modern medicine and the more health conscious habits of many Boomers, they won’t all be settling down for a quiet retirement. In fact, to the dismay of the generations following them, many Boomers are extending their working life and putting off retirement . Since 2007, the number of jobs held by Americans over 60 has risen by 3 million — while declining by more than 5 million for everyone 60 or younger.
In addition to the extended paycheck, Boomers will benefit from another shift: their children, Millennials, are moving back home. In part, GenY went back home for economic reasons, but many are staying because they are close to their parents and embrace multi generational living. This also means greater economic security for their parents as their children’s incomes rise.
One more thing to consider, while at work they tend to hold senior positions; the median age of Fortune 500 companies is 55. It may appear that GenXers and GenY are creeping into positions of power within business, and they certainly are coming on, however, Boomers still occupy many of the top positions at the largest corporations on the planet.
They have a ton of money
I spoke about Boomer wealth at the beginning of this post, and I’m circling back because it is incredibly important to marketers. Listen to this fact:
By the end of this decade the spending power of those over 60 will hit $15 trillion globally.
Yet this generation is different from the elders that came before. They don’t want to be marketed to like they are old people. Check out this piece Bloomberg ran in September of 2013 to understand exactly why marketers keep missing the sweet spot with this older, but very different, generation.
I’ve ranted on here before about the foolishness of marketers dismissing any single generation. This post reinforces why it would be the height of insanity to dismiss Boomers; they still have a huge share of wealth, and power, and they won’t be turning it over anytime soon.
This post originally appeared on SteamFeed
VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.