3 min read

Boomers Trump Millennials

Boomers have all the money, so why are you wasting your time with Millennials?
Boomers Trump Millennials

Suddenly, they appeared, in a synchronised slow-motion shuffle. Slowly… they removed their blindingly white dressing gowns and matching slippers. One-by-one, they glided into the pool and started to swim in an orderly circle around my oblivious playing kids.

My older child then unleashed the ridiculously powerful water jet. Were they scared? No chance! The oldies’ faces turned to excitement and they impatiently jostled for their turn to play water canon.

Wow. It’s been several years since I took a few days break at a ‘nice’ hotel outside of the school holiday rip-off season. The place was packed with well-heeled Boomers from Germany, France, Spain and the UK. They were well-dressed and out to have a good time. In groups of 6 to 30.

They spent their days shopping, site-seeing and reading. Lots of reading. On Kindles and tablets. Evenings were spent eating, laughing and drinking glass after glass of expensive red wine.

These are what marketers call Baby Boomers, or Boomers. They are result of rampant pent-up sex following the end of World-War II in 1946 to 1964. These people do not consider themselves old. The youngest have just turned 50, and the oldest at 68 have only recently reached the official (UK) pension age.

Boomers have all the money*

Baby boomers are where the wealth and income is.” ~ Sir Martin Sorrel

According to Wikipedia, Boomers control 80% of personal financial assets, buy 80% of top-of-the-range cars, 80% of luxury leisure travel, 77% of all prescription drugs and more than 50% of all consumer spending.

55-64 year olds outspend the average consumer in nearly every category, including: food away from home, household furnishings, entertainment, personal care, and gifts. (US Government Consumer Expenditure Survey)

*These are overall figures for Baby Boomers as a group. Many surveys show that wealth & income within the Baby Boomer generation is just as unevenly distributed as anywhere else.

One in 3 Americans is a Boomer

Boomers make up 35% of the American adult population. In 2015, those aged 50 and older were 45% of the U.S. population.

By 2030, the 65-plus U.S. population will double to about 71.5 million (U.S. Census). On current estimates perhaps as many as 30% of those under the age of 25 today will live to be 100.

Two types of Boomer

Boomers have tended to get a bad rap in the press for having accumulated so much wealth through a combination of education, housing, jobs, and generous pensions.

Demographers and marketers have identified two distinct groups of Boomers:

  • Early (or Leading-Edge) Boomers who are now (in 2014) aged 59 to 68, and
  • Generation Jones (or Late-stage Boomers) now aged 50 to 58

Early Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1955 early boomers are approaching retirement age are beginning to attract the attention of marketers due to their sheer spending power and increasing leisure-time.

They are the hippy generation: free-spirited, questioning, skeptical, with deep-rooted memories of Vietnam, JFK and Bob Dylan. They led (or at least lived through) break-throughs in modern feminism, civil rights and environmentalism. They highly value individualism, self-indulgence, stimulation (drugs anyone?).

Generation Jones

According to author Jonathon Pontell, Late-stage Boomers differ from the earlier group in several fundamental ways. He refers to them as Generation Jones or just Jonesers. [Book]

Jonesers started their careers after 1975. It was the end of the Vietnam War. They had high expectations of following in the footsteps of their older Leading-Edge brethren.

But… economically this was the aftermath of the 1973 Oil Shock and the start of a long period of sky-high interest rates. Due to their numbers, the Jonsers faced huge competition at work. They had credit cards stuffed down their throats from day one and built-up levels of consumer debt never seen before.

The Opportunity

Let’s not forget, the two groups of Boomer are totally different from one another. (I know we’re all individuals but bear with me for a minute…)

The Jonesers are at the peak of their earning power. They have lots things they have to spend money on (kids, pensions, homes, mortgages, caring for their ageing parents, …). But equally, being Jonesers, they care about social status and try to keep up with the, er, Joneses. They spend on status symbols. Holidays. Cars. Clothes. Organic. One-upmanship experiences. Blah.

Early boomers, on the other hand, have no responsibilities and half-decent pension pots. They’re thinking about retirement, switching career, moving to a new location & pursuing unrequited dreams. They have the wind in their hair, and they’ve lots of money to splash about.

Stop chasing millennials like everyone else. They’re up to their eyeballs in college debt, living at home with their parents and squabbling over fast disappearing jobs.

Boomers are the future. For now.

Footnote: I wrote this straight after returning from a short holiday in 2014, so some of the dates may be offset a little.