GenY to Baby Boomers


A response to “Dear Baby Boomers”  

Not long ago, a member of Generation Y published an open letter to Baby Boomers.  That letter was recently published again on a blog written for young entrepreneurs.  

I chose this Dear Baby Boomers letter as the subject of my inaugural Boomer Review blog, because it may help highlight changes Boomers have faced since the days of their youth, and showcase similarities between generations, even when it seems they are so different.  

After completing a first draft, I contacted Tina, the author of the Dear Baby Boomers letter.  We had a great conversation.  We talked about our respective objectives, and she described some of the feedback she has received.  We both hope the ideas in our blog posts stimulate useful discussion.  


My Initial Thoughts   

At a very basic level, my reaction to the writer’s message is that it sounds a lot like something I would have said when I was 20-something.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I did in one form or another … more than once.  

When I was 20-something, I knew with great certainty that my parents and their peers “didn’t have a clue.”  

It’s not a surprise that GenY/Millennial twenty-somethings would reach the same conclusion about Boomers.  

I have a feeling the author of Dear Baby Boomers tried hard to avoid using too broad a brush …but that is sometimes difficult.   

Before we go much further, it is important to point out that neither the Baby Boom nor Millennial generations are monolithic.  Wise people have said … all generalizations are false … including this one.  

When we talked this week, Tina said some readers responded saying, “That wasn’t my experience, but I see how you might think it is that way.”  This response came from both GenY and Baby Boomer readers.  

First, you may want to visit the Dear Baby Boomers article.  If you click on the link, I’ll have it open in a separate window, so you can compare it to my comments.  

Anyone that has read this far should also consider reading an article written by Ellen Brandt PhD about why Boomers may be the angriest generation.  

My Experience  

I did my best to distance myself from my father, so my accomplishments would be seen as mine … not the result of his influence and connections.  Looking back, I’m guessing I was close to 40 before I understood the ramifications and potential alternatives that were related to that decision.  

He even told me when I was a teenager that he would get smarter as I got older.  My under-the-breath comment was “no [bleeping] way.”   

He was right … in many ways.  And, because the world was changing, there were a few things he didn’t have quite right.  In my late 20’s I was even able to give him some insights and advice that proved to be correct, though he didn’t see it that way at first.  

This difference of viewpoints is something every generation faces.   

Tina’s Observations  

What the Dear Baby Boomers author has interpreted as Boomers not being a Millennial’s “biggest fan” is similar to our parent’s generation trying to help us avoid the pitfalls they had experienced.  

She also refers to papers and articles she has read about the Baby Boom Generation.  The observations Tina presents as explanations for why Baby Boomers think as they do suggests to me that the authors of those articles were more often members of GenY than the Baby Boom.   

Every generation faces different challenges.  Every generation faces many of the same challenges.  

That being said, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could consider:  

Tina says of her GenY cohort, “many of us do not want to work the way you did.”  Armed with social media tools they want to avoid “cubies” and being tied to an office.  

My response is:  

  1. I think it is fair to say that few Boomers wanted to work in Dilbert-style “cubies” or highly regimented, demanding environments.  We had already seen what that was doing to our parents and families. However, the realities imposed on Boomers by rising costs, growing families, and the drive to make life better for the Boomer offspring left few with more attractive alternatives.
  2. The idea of working anytime, anywhere, on your own schedule is attractive to Boomers, too.  In fact, many of us are there already or moving in that direction.
  3. You got it right when you added the words “if” and “valuable” to your sentence about Social Media and blogging.   Don’t kid yourself, though, about the Internet, Social Media, and blogging.  For way too many people … way too much of the time … it is a distraction, a black hole that sucks away a person’s time and attention.  It has that affect on GenY, GenX, Baby Boomers, and grade school kids.

Our Dear Baby Boomers author also says, “We have different definitions of success than you do.  Many millennials are placing greater importance on quality of life than monetary success alone.”  

And I say, “ So did …and do … many Boomers.  

GenY says, “ After receiving top educations & gaining valuable experience, we are passing up some very lucrative, respectable careers, but we prefer to be passionate about our jobs and are willing to make financial sacrifices to get there.  

Boomer Review agrees.  Idealism is something we have in common.  But acting too long like the grasshopper in the parable about the ant and the grasshopper can have disastrous results.    The industrious ant survives the winter in good shape; the grasshopper didn’t.  He didn’t prepare for what he knew was coming.      

GenY says to their parents, “I understand your frustration- tuition costs have skyrocketed and you want to get your money’s worth.”  

I think your parents want YOU to get their money’s worth … to make a worthy attempt to reduce the debt burden. They made incredible sacrifices so you could have that education. Their parents were probably unable to do the same for them.  Also, they know the burden of long-term debt.  Because of what they did for your education, they may not be able to retire like their parents did.  

GenY says, “Back off and let us make our own mistakes.  We felt the same way.   

Gen Y says, “Perhaps we are starting our own business or following another, non-traditional career path. “ We are trying to  build  our individual worth by pursuing careers we are passionate. 

 Boomers say, “Brava.”  Boomers have done the same.  Many are doing so now whether it was their plan or not. 

She says this one really gets to her.  “We’re tougher & more grounded than you give us credit for.”  

And finally, “We’ve learned from watching you Boomers.”  

Like we did watching the parents of Baby Boomers.  

And each generation makes mistakes. 

Boomers paved the way for GenY.  They know that education and good living aren’t all that’s required to be prepared for what life will throw your way.   

The best way for us to understand & maybe even help each other is through open communication.  

Boomer Review agrees.  

GenY and Boomers hope this is a good start. 

Thank you, Tina.  I think we have started a good conversation.