to Boomer Bucks, a place of refuge for baby boomers facing financial
issues in times of uncertainty.
We are 76 million strong, born between 1946 and 1964
to parents who had experienced cataclysmic events, including the
Great Depression and World War II. Yet despite the hardships they
endured, they felt optimistic enough about the world to populate
Our parents remind us about how difficult things used
to be. They scraped together a living, many staying at one job all
their working lives so that they could reap promised retirement
benefits. Most lived within their means since credit cards weren't
widely available until we came of age.
Things are different today. As a group, we put purchases
on plastic more often than we should, effectively committing future
earnings to pay for stuff we buy today.
Frequent victims of job layoffs, we strive to continually
reinvent ourselves by taking courses, getting MBAs, capitalizing
on our life experiences, becoming consultants or entrepreneurs.
Or, disillusioned entirely with the system, we reject it by changing
careers to one that's better aligned with our values and sensibilities
-- usually taking a pay cut as a result.
Times, they are a changin'
Some 40 years ago, the oldest among us boomers rebelled against
the establishment, not trusting anyone over age 30. Last year the
youngest of us turned 40. We are the establishment. And some of
us find ourselves writhing under a system that doesn't seem to be
working well for anyone except for a privileged few.
Retirement looms ahead for us all. Are we prepared?
Are we doing everything we can to prepare? We have no choice but
to look this issue squarely in the eye, because no one, not the
companies for which we work, nor the government of this country,
gives us any real guarantee about retirement.
In this column, we'll address retirement: What happened
to the old-fashioned pension plan? How are we doing with our 401(k)
plans? Are we investing wisely? How much do we need to accumulate?
What will happen if Social Security gets privatized? Is privatization
a good or terrible idea?
While we look ahead to retirement, we also worry about
helping our children get ahead by sending them to college. Financing
a college education will also be a key topic. Saving? Borrowing?
How can we best afford to send our kids to college? Are 529 plans
the way to go? What if we're not prepared, and the kids are already
in high school? What options do we have?
We'll also discuss other financial issues -- disability
and long-term care insurance, estate planning considerations, investment
strategies, etc. And I invite you to write in with topics that you're
interested in hearing more about.
The money connection
If you think about it, nearly every decision we make has a financial
component. If our kids get good grades in high school, they could
be eligible for scholarships or financial aid. If they goof off,
the burden is on us to help them. If we save for their college education,
it might interfere with their eligibility for financial aid. Some
savings vehicles are better than others from a financial-aid standpoint.
If we marry unwisely, we will suffer both emotionally
and financially at the dissolution of the marriage. If we marry
again and bring children in from previous marriages, the new family
dynamic will be profoundly complicated, and will most assuredly
have financial repercussions.
We are taking actions that are inextricably tied to
money when we move, change jobs, lead a sedentary lifestyle, commute
to work, dine out, ease depression by shopping, fly across the country,
take a daily walk, talk on our cell phones, etc. We don't always
see the financial implications of our actions as we muddle through
As a fellow boomer, I feel passionate about financial
matters because we as a society are fumbling with money issues.
Whose fault is that? We receive no formal education
in financial planning unless we pursue it as a field. If we look
to consumer financial publications for advice, we see headlines
such as "10 best funds to buy now." These headlines are
designed to get magazines to fly off the shelves, and are written
by editors who are much more concerned about newsstand sales than
about your personal finances.
As consumers, we are bombarded by marketing messages
that suggest success is measured by the car we drive, the house
we own, the golf clubs we use, the clothes and jewelry we wear.
We still idealize youth and try to stave off signs of aging by buying
vitamins and getting injected with botox. We have sold our souls
to finance companies; we have misplaced our faith in corporate America,
which will not take care of us no matter how loyal we may be (unless
we are a top-ranking executive).
We are on our own, but united, we are a formidable
force. We are smart, we are strong, and we can prevail.
If you have a topic you'd like to see addressed in
this column, please send it to me via
e-mail. If you have a particular financial problem that you
would like addressed, please continue to send your queries to Dr.
Don, Tax Talk,
the Real Estate
Adviser or the Debt
Adviser. They have been helping Bankrate readers for years,
and are best equipped to address issues specific to your circumstances.
If you're a Gen X or Gen Y person, feel free to tune
into this column. The issues that obsess boomers now will concern
you later, and this heads-up can help you get ahead of the game.
And those of you who are on the other side of the
boomer generation may be interested in contributing your thoughts
and ideas, too. I welcome your words of wisdom.
Longtime financial journalist Barbara Mlotek Whelehan
earned a certificate of specialization in financial planning.