Millennials vs. boomers

Date posted: April 18, 2014

Demographers say the millennial generation, those born after 1980, is now larger in numbers than the boomer generation, which includes individuals born from 1946 to 1964, says host Mary Walden. She asks her husband, N.C. State University economist Mike Walden, “What kinds of implications does this have for the economy?”

Mike Walden: I think there are two big implications. One is simply having those two generations work together. Obviously the millennials grew up on technology; the boomers have had to learn technology.  The millennials connect digitally; the boomers still value face-to-face connectivity. Sometimes that has created friction in the workplace, and, in fact, some companies have even brought in experts to train boomers and millennials on how to work together. So that’s been a very interesting aspect of all this. But another big impact is in terms of government. The boomers of course are moving into older age. They’re retiring.  That means they’re going to use Social Security and Medicare, the two big social support programs for elderly people. And those programs operate pretty much on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning current taxpayers largely pay for the benefits received in this case by the boomer retirees — which means that the millennials down the road, as more and more of them enter the workplace, are going to be paying the bills for the retiring boomers. And some say that could set up some friction, some political frictions especially, and may cause pressures to be put on policy makers, making big changes to Social Security and Medicare.

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