An intractable divide has split society in two. People on both sides rail at their diametrically opposed counterparts, hurling insults and blaming them for every evil plaguing the world today. We’re referring, of course, to the rift between Baby Boomers, those born between the immediate aftermath of World War II and the mid-1960s, and Millennials, born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s to early 2000s, depending on who’s setting the definition.
Each side has the other’s number. Millennials are irresponsible, disloyal whiners doomed to poverty by their own indolence, and Boomers are meddlesome busybodies, oblivious to the realities of the modern world and how they’ve wrecked it to suit their own needs. If you’re a Boomer or Millennial, perhaps you believe one or more stereotypes about the other generation. Of course, stereotypes rarely hold up across the board, so before the adages and avocados start to fly, let’s take a look at some surveys and studies which contradict commonly held beliefs about Baby Boomers and Millennials.
10 Baby Boomers Aren’t Killing Social Security
Baby Boomers are called what they are for a reason. In the years following World War II, there was a surge (or “boom”) of babies being born, so Boomers are a very populous generation. As of 2019, roughly 10,000 of them are turning 65 every day. The timing isn’t exactly ideal; the US Social Security Administration is currently in a bit of a jam. The Social Security Board of Trustees has projected that the Social Security trust funds will be depleted by 2035 if nothing is done, meaning that people will not receive their full benefits.
Given the sheer number of Baby Boomers beginning to collect Social Security in recent years, many tend to believe that they’re sucking the system dry. A study by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research (CCR) indicates that this is not the case. Baby Boomers, in fact, will receive less from Social Security than they paid into it during their careers. (The opposite is true for those who lived through the Great Depression.) The CCR study cites amendments made to the Social Security system in 1939, before Baby Boomers were even a thing, as ultimately responsible for the current problems.
9 Millennials Read Just As Much As Older Generations
A common image of Millennials is that of a generation glued to technology, a group of smartphones with hats. They’re always on YouTube or crawling each other’s Instagrams, and let’s not forget the chronic tweeting. Have these people even seen a book? According to a 2014 report by Pew Research, they have.
For starters, 88 percent of Millennials (defined by the report as people aged 16 to 29) reported having read a book in the past year, versus 79 percent of those 30 and older. Forty-three percent of Millennials reported reading books (including e-books) every day, which was about the same as older generations. While 98 percent of them used the Internet, and 77 percent owned smartphones, 62 percent agreed that “there is a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet.” Only 53 percent of 30+ adults agreed.
Libraries are certainly places where you can find information that isn’t on the Internet, and Millennials are hardly averse to them, with 50 percent having used a library in the past year, not all that different from the 47 percent of older adults who said the same. However, Millennials may generally view libraries as less important. Fifty-one percent said that the closing of a library would have a major impact on their community, versus 67 percent of those who were older.
8 Baby Boomers Have Embraced Technology, Too
Speaking of smartphones, they are not the sole province of Millennials. A 2019 survey by Provision Living of St. Louis, Missouri, assessed the smartphone habits of 1,000 Millennials and 1,000 Baby Boomers. The results indicated a number of similarities between the two generations.
As you might have expected, Millennials spend more time per day on their smartphones, but the gulf isn’t particularly wide, with Boomers only using their devices for 42 fewer minutes per day than Millennials (5 vs. 5.7 hours). The daily Facebook and Instagram times for each group differed by fewer than 10 minutes each and by only one for YouTube.
There were certainly differences as well. Millennials still spent considerably more time texting and surfing the Internet than Boomers. Possibly more surprising is the fact that Boomers also spent less time using the phone aspect of their smartphones than Millennials. Boomers were also much more prone to using the Messenger app than their younger counterparts.
7 Millennials Are More Religious Than You Might Think
Millennials are less likely to claim religious affiliation or go to church, and that’s a fact. A 2010 study by Pew Research found that Millennials (this time defined as people aged 18 to 29) attended religious services less often than older generations, and a solid quarter of those surveyed stated themselves to have no affiliation with any religion. They were also less likely to deem religion to be an important part of their lives. Nevertheless, a closer look at the data shows that Millennials may not be as irreligious as they seem.
Essentially, the differences in Millennials’ responses may be more a function of current age than of generation. Millennials pray less frequently than older adults, but their prayer rates closely resemble those of older generations when they were the Millennials’ age. Furthermore, their beliefs concerning life after death, miracles, and so forth show little difference from their elders. Of those Millennials who did claim a specific religion affiliation, 37 percent described that affiliation as “strong.” Thirty-seven percent of GenXers, that generation seemingly no one cares about if the media is any indication, said the same thing when they were younger. Thirty-one percent of Boomers gave that answer during young adulthood.
6 Boomers Aren’t Ready For Retirement
Say what you will about Baby Boomers, but at least they’re financially literate. How many uses of the phrase “OK Boomer” have followed unsolicited advice on what Millennials or members of Gen Z should be doing with their money? The question of whether or not it was easier for the Boomers to build nest eggs in their day aside, a recent survey indicates that they may not have done such a good job saving up in the first place.
In 2019, Clever, a home-buying website, surveyed 1,000 Baby Boomers, the average age of the respondents being 62. Their median income was $57,000 a year, and they had $136,779 in retirement savings, on average. The problem is that this falls well short of how much many financial experts would say they should have. An often-recommended benchmark is to have eight times your yearly income in retirement savings by the time you’re 60 years old. For a $57,000 yearly income, that’d be $456,000.
Compounding the issue is the finding that 40 percent of respondents are still paying off credit card debt, and 31 percent stated that they have no emergency fund. The above-mentioned woes of the US Social Security system may very well end up reducing its benefit to retired Boomers as well. On average, those surveyed hoped to retire by 68, though Clever concluded that such a goal may be overly optimistic for many of them.
5 Millennials Would Rather Keep The Jobs They Have
Why do Millennials change jobs so much? Boredom? Not enough trophies? Here’s another question: Who said they change jobs all the time? Multiple studies say they don’t.
In February 2017, the Resolution Foundation, a British think tank, reported that a mere four percent of Millennials in the UK changed jobs each year. Twice as many members of Generation X did so back in the ‘90s. In April that year, Pew Research released similar findings, namely that Millennials in the US were just as likely to stay with their current employers as GenXers were at the same age. In fact, college-educated Millennials tended to stay longer than degree-holding GenXers did.
In case the dead trophy horse needs any more beating, Millennial loyalty isn’t even being rewarded, at least not in the UK. According to the Resolution Foundation, switching jobs generally leads to a 15-percent rise in income. Raises for those who stick to their jobs, however, have become few and far between. Yet Millennials are sticking all the same. An analyst at the Resolution Foundation cited the fact that many Millennials entered adulthood during the financial crisis of the late 2000s as a possible factor in this. As for why US Millennials aren’t jumping ship at the drop of a hat, a Pew researcher posited that it may be due to a lack of good opportunities for job-hopping.
4 Boomers Are Accepting Weed
Support for the legalization of recreational marijuana has been steadily growing in the United States in recent years. As of 2019, it is legal in 11 states as well as in Washington DC, and medical cannabis use is permitted in 33 states. You might think that Baby Boomers, rapidly becoming perceived as the grumpy old codgers of American society, would be flat-out against this, but support is growing even among this cohort.
In a study of marijuana use in people over 60, researchers from the University of Colorado examined data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. In 2017, 9.4 percent of respondents aged 60 to 64 reported using marijuana sometime in the past year. In 2007, only 1.9 percent of that same demographic had done so. For those aged 65 and older, 3.7 percent used marijuana in the past year, up from a mere 0.3 percent in 2007.
The researchers found that Boomers’ increased interest in cannabis was largely for medical reasons, based on their survey of 136 people aged 60+ at various senior centers, clinics, and marijuana dispensaries. Many respondents had chosen to buy marijuana from recreational dispensaries due to the difficulty of obtaining a medical marijuana card. Some had doctors who wouldn’t approve them for one, and they didn’t want to find a new health care provider or leave their health insurance network. Others were reluctant to broach the subject with their physicians for fear of stigma. Quite a few wished more doctors were educated in the medicinal use of cannabis.
3 Millennials Aren’t Automatically Tech Wizards
A phrase that sometimes gets bandied around is “digital native.” Essentially, a digital native is someone who grew up in the digital age, having always known a world in which the Internet and mobile devices are ubiquitous. As such, they are more proficient with modern technology than their elders and are also argued to be better at multitasking.
Millennials and Generation Z are commonly seen as digital natives. According to a 2017 paper published in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education, however, that phrase needs to die. Millennials, in fact, are no different from older generations in terms of their technological proficiency or multitasking ability. Other studies have backed this conclusion up as well.
Simply put, digital natives do not exist. Unfortunately, the idea has influenced both educational strategies in schools and how businesses structure their work environments. Dr. Paul Kirschner, co-author of the study, argues that assuming all students to be tech-savvy will only hurt the educational process.
2 Baby Boomers Tip More Often Than Millennials
The stereotypical Millennial knows the plight of wait staff in the US, scraping by as they do on the gratuity of customers, and generously tips accordingly. The stereotypical Boomer, if he tips at all, leaves a few cents and a note on the receipt about how the waitress needs to toughen up. As usual, the reality is much less clear-cut.
A 2019 survey of 2,569 adults by CreditCards.com found that Baby Boomers, in fact, are more likely to tip a wide variety of service workers. Eighty-nine percent of them tip waiting staff, as opposed to 66 percent of Millennials. People who deliver food get tipped by Boomers 72 percent of the time but only 56 percent of the time by Millennials. The disparity was 63 versus 40 percent for cab and rideshare app drivers, 73 versus 53 percent for hairstylists, and 33 versus 23 percent for hotel housekeeping staff, with Boomers on top in every category.
The only time Millennials won out over Boomers was in the size of the tips they leave. When Millennials do tip, they leave an average of 22 percent. Boomers leave 17 percent.
1 Millennials Are Projected To Become The Richest Generation In US History
Millennials may have hope for retirement after all. Believe it or not, a study by Coldwell Banker indicates that more than $68 trillion in wealth will be transferred to US Millennials by 2030. Where is this massive windfall coming from? Their Boomer parents. Well, add that to the recent list of things Millennials can thank Boomers for, then.
Baby Boomers, on average, are wealthier than other generations. They came up in a good economy, and the values of both their homes and stocks have grown quite a bit over the years. This isn’t to say that every Millennial with Baby Boomer parents is guaranteed to be rich one day. Individual situations vary, and end-of-life costs or changes in economic conditions could certainly still affect what Millennials are left with. Overall, though, the Boomers’ wealth being passed down to Millennials may very well leave the latter richer than any other generation.