AJC Article: The Generational Divides

I recently finished the first draft of my new book, which was heavily influenced by a national survey I did on the behavior of retirees.

The data was extremely enlightening and got me thinking about the amazing diversity of the population that makes up our nation.

By most measures, the US population can be neatly divided into six generational segments: Pre-Boomers, Boomers I, Boomers II, Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z. Each group plays an important role in our society, culture and economy – especially the economy.

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Nearly every business targets one or two of these population segments – Abercrombie & Fitch sells to Gen Z while Bank of America hunts Baby Boomers. Understanding the traits of these six groups may help you better understand a company’s performance and prospects.

Here’s a cursory glance at what’s written about some of these different generational groups:  Again, much of what I’m listing here are “generalizations” about these groups, and do not necessarily represent my personal opinion. 

Pre-Boomers/The Silent Generation/Traditionalists (Born before 1946): The 55 million members of this generation are now 69 and older. They grew up during the Great Depression, World War II and started the Civil Rights Movement. Pre-Boomers have a “waste not, want not” attitude because of their experiences during the depression.  This mindset helped make them the wealthiest generation.  Financial security is very important to these folks.  They are loyal, patriotic and place a high value on family and tradition.

Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1954) & Boomers II (Born 1955-65): There are about 80 million Boomers ranging in age from 49 to 68. They were born during a spike in childbirth after WW II and grew up during the turbulence social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970’s.  Boomers I and II combined are the nation’s largest generation, economic group and workforce. They are free spirited and prone to social activism. But they can also be disenchanted, less-than-optimistic and more distrustful of government.

Generation X/Busters (Born 1966-76): There are currently about 45 million Gen Xers ranging from 38-48 years old. The “X” describes the lack of identity that members of this generation felt. They are defined as “slackers,” but they are also very independent.  Generation X has experienced more divorces than any other generation. Members of this group were the first to grow up with personal computers, video games and other digital technologies. By birth date, I’m a Gen X-er… clearly I have some objections to these generalizations… [Bargain Hunter note: Me too, Wes!]

Generation Y/Echo Boomers/Millennials (Born 1977-1994): Generation Y constitutes some 75 million Americans ages 20 to 32. Generation Y was the first generation to grow up truly steeped in technology. They are also known as the “entitlement” generation. It is extremely important to them to be personally fulfilled by their jobs. Their parents were generally more sheltering than the previous generations, instilling a high sense of self-esteem in their children. Millennials are the second largest generation after Boomers and are more ethnically and racially diverse than other generations.

Generation Z/Digital Natives (Born 1995-2014): There are currently 23 million members ages 0 to 19. Other nicknames include Generation M and the Internet Generation. These kids are under a lot of pressure to succeed and are more accustomed to receiving instant gratification. They also have little concern for privacy and don’t hesitate to share intimate moments on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Certified financial planner Wes Moss offers financial and accessible investment advice to Atlanta Bargain Hunter readers. See his weekly column on AJC Bargain Hunter.