You are somewhere between 35 and 45 years old, give or take, and you can’t shake the feeling that things just aren’t adding up for you, your family, your generation.
The bosses and politicians in charge — many of whom are older than you — don’t talk about you much, even as your job bites the dust or you gripe about money in the cubicle next door.
You’re still so young, they say. (No hair dye yet.) You can reinvent yourself. (Presto, change-o!) You don’t even like job security. (You Pearl Jam-loving free spirit!) The real sad sacks, they say time and again, are the Baby Boomers. Don’t you read the papers? (You little brat.)
Well, to all 45 million of you sandwiched between the 80 million Boomers and their 88 million kids, I say this:
You are not hallucinating. You are in trouble. And I have the facts right here.
You don’t read the papers, true. But they don’t talk much about you, and neither does TV news. Maybe an uncle, parent or co-worker would be a darling and share? A Facebook post also would do.
Because listen to this, Generation Xer:
If you are a man born between 1964 and 1974, you were earning 12 percent less in 2004 than your father was when he was your age three decades earlier, according to a study by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Let’s attach a dollar figure to that — so that we truly register the generational grand larceny here.
Fathers were making $40,000 as thirtysomethings, compared to $35,000 for their Gen X sons. With help from an Inquirer colleague, I tabulated that Gen Xers lucky enough to continue making that meager $35,000 for the next 30 years without a single pay raise (but at a 2.2 percent annual inflation rate) will have pocketed $227,680 less than the dad who told them to believe in the American Dream.
And that was before the stock market crash of 2008.
In the immortal words of Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten (a Boomer, no less): “Don’t be told about what you need / No future, no future, no future for you.”
If you think I’m an alarmist, take comfort in the fact that Pew considered this finding “very disturbing,” too.
“This suggests the up-escalator that has historically ensured that each generation would do better than the last may not be working very well,” wrote authors Isabel V. Sawhill of the Brookings Institution and John E. Morton of Pew.
And yet, the May 2007 report got little coverage, despite its horror-show revelations. Scanning the print-news archives was like a trek through the desert.
In an interview last week, Morton said the finding was “surprising” because, among other things, the economy was doing pretty well during the three decades when Gen Xers became, in my words, Generation Hexed.
“This is a cohort of people who were selected because they were at their prime earnings years,” Morton said. “And yet, over a full 30-year period, they have double-digit declines in income.”
Think about it: $227,680 less in the bank at age 65. And for a generation of workers who, more than those before them, are saving for retirement mostly on their own because pensions are history, 401(k)s are scary, and houses still cost a ton.
More on this tomorrow.
Read more of Maria Panaritis' writings on this topic here.
Mike Armstrong is away. Contact Maria Panaritis at 215-854-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.