Every generation tries to make sure its children have a better life than it did. The baby boomers have certainly done that for the GenYs – although they are getting little thanks.
What did the boomers inherit from their parents? Well, debt twice as high as GDP – as a result of borrowing for WW2. What did they pass on to their kids? Virtually no public debt at all. It took fifty years to get rid of the debt, but we did it.
The infrastructure we inherited was completely run down as a result of the Great Depression and WWII. The boomers built virtually all the infrastructure which is now in place, the cities, highways, stadiums – and we paid for it all, handed on debt free to the nexst generation. Brisbane was not even sewered until the 1960s.
“No baby boomer ever went out for breakfast.”
Culturally what did the baby boomers inherit? Answer: a completely stifled, British and male dominated society, one living on beer, beef, boiled potatoes, carrots and beans: virtually no restaurants, no Thai food, no Asian faces. The transformation has been massive. No baby boomer ever went out for breakfast.
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Then of course there is life expectancy. A baby boomer was typically not expected to live beyond 70: the current generation comfortably expects to live into its 80 and beyond. What is the value of an extra 10 years of life?
“Most boomers saved for years to be able to go overseas”
We could be material and point out the access to music, literature, culture and travel that the Gen Ys enjoy every day without thinking about it. Imagine 18 years olds going on a gap year to Europe or the United States, or even going on a week’s trip to Bali: Most boomers saved for years to be able to go overseas – it was a very big thing. Even the idea of a week in Surfers for “schoolies” is an indulgence we find amazing.
Living standards have more than doubled – thank you baby boomers.
And of course we keep hearing about how hard it is for the GenYs to buy a house. I remember paying 20% interest on a house loan: compare that with the 4% GenYs can borrow at. They can service much bigger loans on the same income than we ever could. Add to that the fact that their incomes are twice as big in real terms as ours were – it does not look impossible to anyone who is determined. We knuckled down and saved hard for a deposit: no lattes, no fancy brunches, no tickets to big concerts, no weekend trips to Byron, no week in Phuket, no credit cards.
There is no doubt that GenYs have much better lives than their parents did at the same age. It makes no sense to compare the life of a 60 year old now with that of a 25 year old: be fair and compare like for like. I am sure any baby boomer would happily swap places with a GenY.
Dr Maddock is the Adjunct Professor of Economics, Monash University, a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow and Professor, Victoria University and President, Economic Society of Australia (Victorian Branch).
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