Baby boomers have a reputation
for taking self-inventory, which some people -- mainly nonboomers
-- disparagingly called "navel-gazing." But the idea of
self-reflection is hardly new. Didn't Socrates say some 2,500 years
ago, "An unexamined life is not worth living"?
So a natural extension of this search for self-knowledge
is to take a quiz whenever it might lead to a revelation of sorts.
An opportunity to do that came along on Saturday with the arrival,
in the mail, of Money Magazine, which features a "sex + money"
quiz in the April issue. According to an exclusive survey by the
publication, "couples are more than twice as likely to argue
about money as about sex." (That conclusion serves the publication's
interests well, although the cover lines of other magazines might
cause you to draw the opposite conclusion.)
Anyway, I thought the quiz would give me an inkling
of whether my husband and I are financially compatible. The first
part of the quiz requires the test-taker to answer the questions,
plus guess how your spouse would reply. I whizzed through it, fully
expecting to know my husband's responses like I'd know his voice
in a crowd. But I guessed correctly on only three out of 10 answers.
That's an F by most measures.
I don't put a lot of stock in these quizzes. But I
did learn that we have polar-opposite perceptions on certain points.
For example, when we disagree about money, he thinks I am more likely
to prevail while I think he is. Maybe that leads to a quicker resolution,
since we both relent at the point when we think we are losing ground,
which is usually early in the dispute.
According to the quiz, our goals are the same -- retirement
planning is the biggie -- but our philosophies differ. He thinks:
"Money, at heart, is really all about security."
"Honey, it's not about security," I said.
"It's about freedom."
"No, it's about security," he replied.
"No, it's about freedom," I insisted.
"No, it's about security," he repeated stubbornly.
I hate it when we argue like 10-year-olds during recess. Finally
I broke the impasse.
"If we had won Saturday's lottery, would you
be going into work on Monday?" I asked him.
"Of course not."
"You see," I said triumphantly. "It's
Hmm. I guess he's right about me winning more often.
Of course, to have financial freedom, you have to have a lot of
money, right? When you're wedged in the middle class, earning middle-class
incomes at middle-class jobs, it's true that money is often more
Freedom seems to elude most boomers. Survey after
survey shows we are financially unprepared for certain financial
goals, especially retirement. Regardless of whether it's financial
security or freedom that we strive for, clearly we are missing the
So what does the financial services industry do when
confronted by a generation of boomers who are ill-prepared for retirement?
It puts the best possible spin on the situation by claiming that
boomers will transform retirement.