Exposing the Sins of the Baby Boomers
I walked into the car dealer, wrote a check for nearly $14,000, and drove off the lot in a brand-new minivan. After my grandfather died in 1988, I received an inheritance and spent most of it on a sa-weet suburban mom ride to replace the series of unreliable vintage vehicles I'd been driving for years.
Once the new-car smell faded, it dawned on me that I possessed the last tangible mark of my grandfather's life working as a traveling salesperson. Fast-forward to 2012, and I wonder if I can leave my own children and grandchildren enough to buy a tricycle. Nor am I certain it is a wise goal to leave them a bundle of cash and a houseful of stuff.
Is this fiscal heresy? Another example of Baby Boomer selfishness?
I'm wrestling with these questions. And the reality is that many of my age peers are heading into retirement with hummingbird-sized nest eggs. According to a recent study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 60 percent of workers surveyed reported retirement savings and investments of less than $25,000, excluding home values. And we all know what's happened to the value of those homes in many parts of the country. Throw in the shaky future of Social Security, and the net result may well exhaust the resources of many Boomers long before the end of their days.
As a result, the American Dream has faded from the lives of many of our children. I resonate with the very real fiscal frustration expressed by a member of the Millennial generation in a recent issue of The Atlantic:
Ultimately, members of my father's generation … are reaping more than they sowed. They graduated smack into one of the strongest economic expansions in American history. They needed less education to snag a decent-salaried job than their children do, and a college education cost them a small fraction of what it did for their children or will for their grandkids. One income was sufficient to get a family ahead economically. Marginal federal income-tax rates have fallen steadily, with rare exception, since boomers entered the labor force; government retirement benefits have proliferated. At nearly every point in their lives, these Americans chose to slough the costs of those tax cuts and spending hikes onto future generations.
Some of my generation's poor choices have come as we slavishly pursued youth, wealth, and cool, a Dollar Store version of eternal life. Other poor choices have arisen from our votes, our vices, and our grand sense of self-importance.
Christians who came of age during the Jesus Revolution may wish they could point to our generation's rich spiritual legacy, but far too many of us have seen our children exit the very churches we helped to build, attend, and staff.