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Cheer Up

gloomy tunnelWell, the good news, sort of, is that we are not the Me Generation anymore. Now, we are the Gloomiest Generation! This pronouncement comes straight from the Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey, so it must be true.

According to their report, boomers are in a collective funk. And this survey was done before the economic meltdown has proven us right to be so gloomy. We’re worried about our quality of life, about how our incomes are not keeping up with inflation, and we’re even worried about the generations that come after us, and how well they will fare in the coming years.

I’m tempted to just say, “well, you caught us on a bad day,” but those folks at Pew Research are just too organized for that. In fact, they did the survey from January to February of this year and it included 2,400 randomly selected adults between the ages of 43 and 62.

To be sure, we didn’t get this gloomy overnight – it’s taken us 20 years. Boomers have consistently been saying that things are tough and getting tougher. About 55% say that their incomes will not keep up with the cost of living next year, which is all the more ironic because we are in our peak earning years. About three-in-ten say they will cut household expenses this year because the budget is tight. Four-in-ten say that their standard of living is worse or no better than gloomy treethat of their parents. Younger boomers are a little more optimistic overall, but not much.

Why all the gloom and doom? It may be reflective of the pinch boomers are feeling in their “sandwich” phase, still funding the children and having the added burden of caring for parents. The subprime mortgage mess has made them wary about their net worth and if this was the year you were going to sell the house and start tapping your investments, you can’t be very happy about how much value you’ve lost. The saddest statistic is that only 26 percent of those surveyed expect to live comfortably in retirement.

The other factor could be that there are just so many of us, that we are like a teeming school of fish competing for a shrinking share of the food source.

What to do? I can’t tell anyone how to cope, but I can tell you what I plan to do. I’m getting a Don’t Worry, Be Happy tee shirt and I plan to live that philosophy as much as I can, because I don’t do gloomy. And if the Pew Research Center had called me, I would have happily told them that we're going to make it after all.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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