Consumer Finance

Baby Boomers Vs. Millennials: Eerily Similar?

While most millennials were brought up in the age of the computer, baby boomers can remember a time when they weren’t surrounded by technology.

It’s a peculiar dichotomy to compare millennials to their parents’ generation, the baby boomers. There’s now the luxury of access to hundreds of television channels, whereas those born between 1946 and 1964 can remember a time when there were only three major networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. In fact, baby boomers didn’t have access to channel changers — they had to get up, walk across the room and switch the knob to one of the three available stations.

Interestingly enough, recent Pew Research Center research shows these two groups are slowly becoming more similar to one another in terms of finance, living situations and their online presence.

When it comes to debt due to student loans, the natural inclination is to think of the millennial generation. While Citizens Bank’s research shows that 60 percent under age 35 may not finish paying until well into their 40s, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s research showed those over age 60 made up 2.8 million of the borrowers, up from 700,000 a decade earlier.

Likely, this comes from those deciding to go back to school in their 40s and 50s to get a second degree to stay proficient at their career. With the multitude of new technology that has been integrated into the workforce over the past 20 years, baby boomers are at a point where they can no longer ignore it. In addition to staying competitive, boomers also have more on their plate financially, which exacerbates their student debt issues.

While it was reported that home buying was at its all-time low at a mere 62.9 percent, millennials (who are in part to blame for this) aren’t the main contributing factor. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found “families or married couples ages 45 to 64 accounted for roughly twice the share of renter growth as households under the age of 35.” This may be due to the fact that major cities throughout the country, like Boston and New York City, are seeing significant rental price surges.

NBC quotes SpareRoom director, Matt Hutchinson, who said, “With renters paying increasingly higher rents than ever before, both millennials and boomers are having to adjust their definition of affordability. For example, boomers who grew up with ‘the 30 percent rule’ find the new standards of rental prices to be especially unaffordable.”

For those unfamiliar with the 30 percent rule, it dictates that no one who pays rent should be spending more than 30 percent of their monthly income on living expenses. With prices in Boston reaching $2,500 for 500-square-foot studio apartments in some areas (that’s $30,000 a year on rent alone), a renter’s income would need to reach $100,000 for them to live comfortably.

At a time when both of these generations are struggling to pay off student loan debt in addition to their regular bills while fighting rising housing costs and apartment rents, it’s no wonder these two groups are becoming more similar in their habits.

Technology has made it possible to simplify nearly every aspect of daily life, especially when it comes to connecting with one another.

It’s so simple to sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram to stay in tune with others. While social media is also another area most would think is primarily owned by the millennial generation, recent studies change that perception. The Pew Research Center found “social media usage by older adults is increasing: As of November 2016, 64 percent of people between the ages of 50 and 64 are active on at least one social media site — up 14 percent from July 2015.”

As social media has become a way to connect on a personal level and stay up to speed on local, national and international news, it should come as no surprise that the baby boomer generation is picking up speed in the online arena. With the various rising costs of housing and debt piling onto one another, social media is the most reasonably affordable way to connect.

The main thread running through all three of these similarities between the two generations comes down to affordability. To help alleviate some of these financial woes, there needs to be a significant increase in both housing options, general infrastructure and expanded nonprofit education choices. Without these alterations, there is the risk of even more millennials moving back in with their parents to help all parties involved see a reduction in finances.


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