Are the Baby Boomers Losing their Boom?
We have all recently seen articles about how the Baby Boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1965, have become largely irrelevant to the forces shaping our society. This group, which numbers 76 million or one-third of the national population, has caused both social and political restructuring as they mature. By virtue of this group’s size, institutions have had to redesign their practices and functions so as to meet the needs of so many. Just as the Baby Boomers redefine the role of youth, so do they redefine what it is to be older, the role of elders and what it is to leave a legacy.
Until the last fifty years, America created itself through the extended family: one in which each generation made on-going contributions to both those who came before, and those who will follow. Elders were an essential part of child rearing and key participants in a family’s success. This model not only promoted the family’s enterprise, but also enriched every member with the wisdom of prior generations.
Since the 1950′s, the trend has been for less interaction between generations. Grandparents no longer play the role of family elders, participants in the success of each generation. Our society increasingly emphasizes the cult of youth, in which age and experience are often seen as handicaps. Without regular interaction, generations are increasingly distrustful of one another. Agendas only focus on the immediate and to the exclusion of others.
Rather than living on the sideline, Baby Boomers have the opportunity to become leaders for tradition and the wisdom of prior generations, providing for their financial well being, lifelong independence, and their family’s well being.
One of the areas where Baby Boomers can have the greatest impact is in estate planning. We all come from a tradition of being self reliant. Use of wills, trusts and powers of attorney has us promote our self reliance by nominating who we want to assist us and our families through all stages of life. Estate planning also promotes lifelong independence by keeping you in charge of our own affairs. By being proactive, you avoid the uncertainty and expense of court proceedings. Finally, and most importantly, estate planning is your opportunity to provide for your family’s and community’s welfare. You can create a structure that will promote the well being of each family member, minimize the likelihood of squabbles, and encourage such choices as higher education and the wise use of resources. Moreover, you can provide for people and institutions in ways that you favor, for many generations to come.
We have not heard the last of Baby Boomers yet. They have the unique opportunity to transform what it is to be elders, to make lasting contributions to society, and to demonstrate how to promote family welfare and support future generations.
By Christopher C. Jones © June 2003