H-CENTRAL COAST

Nov 16, 2010 10:49 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

My Generation: The Economic Impacts on Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers

Things change in life, but it seems the technology revolution has accelerated the pace of change in recent years. That has led to a generation gap some say is wider than previous ones. We decided to look into it. So we randomly gathered people from three generations to see how different they really are.

A couple dozen people. Three generations. And one room full of opinions. That was the recipe for a good two-hour discussion in Arroyo Grande.

"When I graduated high school, I went to work in the fields to get to college," says Roberta Alderete, a Baby Boomer. "We're seeing a sense of apathy and a sense of entitlement," adds Andrea Devitt. Tony Kirkorian is a Millennial who thinks his generation is dealing with a lot of stress the previous generations may not have. "It's very frustrating because, unfortunately, we have come into an economy that's not really as ideal as it might have been for you guys." Millennial Katie Ferber disagrees. "I think we're a lot more fortunate than our parents were."

Millennials are defined as people born between the years 1980 and 2000, or 10 to 30 year olds. Most in the room during our discussion say they're living in stressful times. "I go to Cal Poly, I needed one credit to graduate this quarter, and I couldn't get it. I'm a senior, so I'm going to have to stay an extra quarter now." A frustrated Nadia Nosrati put perspective on the budget cuts from the state.

Gen-Xers were born from 1965 to 1979... anyone 31 to 45 years old. They feel the younger generation has a sense of entitlement. Gen-Xer Shannon Dempsey owns her own business and says she's seen it, herself. "Everyone says change for the Millennials, change your company, but not all of us can change our structure just to fit into the new workplace."

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They're 46 to 64 years old. And they have a sense of pride about the dues they paid to achieve their levels of success in life. "For me, as a boomer, I define being on time as being on time. Some of the Millennials define being on time as anywhere within 20 minutes," says Betsey Nash.

They may have grown up in different worlds, but they're living in the same one today.

Millennial Kirkorian feels his generation is carrying the weight of mistakes by Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. "I'm really frustrated with the older generation because I really feel like they are the primary people to blame for that. I mean, I'm going to point fingers here. Who are the CEOs who lent this money out to these people who didn't actually have the funds to pay for them? And THEY went off and sold those loans to someone, and they went off and sold those loans, so who's to blame?"

The one thing they all can agree on is, times are tough. "When I started school, they said, 'Oh, there are all these great programs, we'll give you 20 hours pay when you only work ten.' Well, none of those programs are there," says Sara Chapman, a Millennial nursing student.

Baby Boomers worry about their golden years being less enjoyable, and farther off than expected. "I had to go back to work primarily because the medical insurance costs that I had in retirement went so high that I had no choice but to go back to work," says Marci Powers.

Gen-Xers are also concerned about retirement funds (or a lack thereof), the value of their homes, and the generation gap between theirs and the Gen-Xers'. Shannon Demsey has hired Millennials and says their work ethic is a problem. "And where we're mostly hiring is on the technical support side. But we have the most turnover with that generation, 'cause a lot of it was following the rules, coming to work everyday, getting to work on time."

The Millennials are the youngest, and like many generations before them, take a lot of heat from their elders. They are a generation that is saddled with an image of entitlement. "Now we, as employers, are being told we have to adapt to the employees? I don't go for that." says Demsey.

Millennials' biggest concerns surround finding jobs when they're ready to enter the workforce. "I'm trying to find a job right now. I go to Cal Poly, I'm going through interviews right now. I mean, it's tough," says Kirkorian, a Millennial. But the current economy doesn't foster much sympathy between generations. "I graduated in 1978, when Jimmy Carter was president and we had gas lines and massive inflation. It wasn't a picnic then, either, okay," a fired up Mike Lee points out. He's a Baby Boomer.

His sentiment is echoed by fellow-Boomer Joe Mangin. "A friend of mine up in the Bay Area, he got laid off from AT&T, he's been out of work for 18 months. He's a father of two, going to college, and he's out of work. And the reason is, he's older. There is age discrimination."

It does appear as if times are tough all over. "You're not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, are you?," I ask the crowd. "It just feels like 'why me?'," says Millennial Sara Chapman.

Brendan Heinichen says times have changed, and his generation is ready to adjust.

"I think we need to adjust our focus to not needing this three story house with a white picket fence." His statements reflect a lot of the Millennials' feelings about the so-called American Dream. They aren't bent on buying a home. They want to make a living, and make a life. But that doesn't mean it has to happen all in the same place. They like the idea of being mobile.

Most Millennials think they're getting a bad wrap. "I see a generation that is really willing to do a lot for society," says Millennial Katie Ferber. "I think we're a lot more fortunate than our parents were, most people I know get a lot more help going through school than our parents did." And while their parents may have offered a better head-start than they received, the Millennials still face some intimidating obstacles.

"How many of you Baby Boomers say they've seen their retirements decimated by the recession?" I ask the crowd. All of those in the back two rows raise their hands. "What retirement?," someone asks. And hearing older generations talk about their disappearing retirements doesn't necessarily instill empathy in Millennials. In fact, it prompts more fears about their future. Kramer Tartaglia sees what's happening to his parents and grandparents and it scares him. "And I look at my father now, going, 'Oh my gosh, his retirement...I don't even know if he has one.'"

The Millennials say they fully expect to be helping their parents make ends meet, down the road, whether it's been discussed or not. And until then, many millenials may be moving back in with Mom and Dad until they get a little financial footing for themselves.

There is frustration--not just at the situation, but with other generations. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers tend to think Millennials expect too much to be handed to them. Some Millennials think the older generations are to blame for the world in which they live. "I just feel there's so much pressure on my generation to go out and find a job and just try to make it," says Kirkorian.

It's a good discussion, and one that prompts more attention. We'll listen in again tomorrow on KSBY at 6:00.

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