Demographics play a big role in the world. From marketers to city planners everyone is impacted one way or another by the population makeup. Currently, the most significant impact is thought to come from the Baby Boomers (those born between 1947 and 1966), a bulge in the population distribution affecting Canada and the US the most.
"Boom Bust and Echo" (by David Foot, 1996) outlined how this boom was going to affect Canadians in everything from the aging of the population to health care costs.
Sherry Cooper more recently updated the outlook in “The New Retirement” (2008) and talks about how the “me generation” is going change the face of retirement. Boomers are retiring earlier and will be launching second careers with better quality of life expectations.
“While America Aged” (Roger Lowenstein, 2008) just came out and talks about how the powers that be (unions, company leadership and government) have run up “ruinous” pension and health coverage benefits for retirement. Apparently giving big promises for the distant future seems easy in the present. Unfortunately, these benefits are already proving to be non-sustainable.
You only have to look at the speed companies moved away from Defined Benefit pension plans into Defined Contribution plans. Reason: the pain is here and now for these companies. You don’t have to look further than the big US car companies (Roger covers this more in his book) to see the impact on industry.
The costs of all this (unprofitable companies, large debt loads and very substantial future benefits costs) will be born by? You guessed it, the echo generation (the children of the boomers).
But guess what, the echo generation is different, as every generation is. Look around you at who they are and how they live. It’s a world of extreme marketing, social web, instant credit, instant gratification and having it all now… life at hyper-speed and still accelerating. The key question then becomes, is this generation selflessly going to accept less for themselves to pay for their predecessor’s excesses (perceived or real)?
Is it solvable? Probably. Will it be solved? I don’t know. Is the sky falling? I hope not.
I do know one thing, the boomer generation was bigger, but the echo generation will be louder.