Liam Dann: Give the baby boomers a break

Baby boomers on a second honeymoon. Photo / File
Baby boomers on a second honeymoon. Photo / File

This generation war stuff is nonsense.

Baby boomer bashing is here again after the move to raise the superannuation age.
Some young people are angry about the 20-year delay in lifting the age limit to 67.
It's true baby boomers won't have to deal with the changes.

But they were already in the clear. Most are retired or due to retire in the next five years.

By 2040 they'll either be dead or plugged into headsets, partying at virtual Woodstock from their rest home beds.

The delay is better news for me. I'm Generation X and thanks to the PM's cautious approach I squeak in.

That's good politics. It looks after a safe chunk of National's happy, conservative home owning voters.

Those who just miss the cut will feel aggrieved.

My kid brother is three years younger than me and misses out on $27,000 that I'll get just by virtue of timing.

But there's always something. I dutifully paid off my student loan with annual interest of 7 per cent just in time for Helen Clark to make it interest free.

I've got older friends who didn't have loans at all.

But for some reason baby boomers still cop the blame in this alleged war with millennials.

Basically it's their fault houses are so expensive.

They are called greedy and selfish for making logical economic decisions and voting for policies that favour them.

Before we get in to that, let's address the big flaw in the war talk: generations aren't real.

The population lives and ages on a continuum.

Generations are constructs, lines we draw at through data at points in history to add colour and meaning to our sense of identity.

They are useful for historians and sociologists but until the early 20th century we got on just fine without them.

Fortune and misfortune are complex individual equations.

The superannuation issue is an unusually divisive one because it time shifts responsibility for paying social costs by age.

But if you look a bit closer at government spending you see plenty of imbalances and minor injustices that divide across other social categories - race, gender, education.

It is hardly anyone's fault which generation they are born into.

We could blame the parents of boomers for being too randy, or maybe their grandparents for lousy family planning advice.

But they'd just had a world war, the pubs closed at six and there was no TV - so there wasn't much else to do.

Which is a reminder, New Zealand wasn't a barrel of laughs for boomers growing up.

Apart from some systematic child abuse in the education system and lack of entertainment options, they did benefit from good economic conditions through the 1950s and 160s.

But it all fell apart in the 1970s.

The boomers grappled with the oppressive economic policies of Rob Muldoon, inflicted largely by voters in their parents' generation.

The Government controlled everything - what you could pay, what you could charge and even which day you were allowed to drive your car.

Houses were affordable because New Zealand was a dump.

University was free but class structure was more rigid that so the working class were less likely to get a higher education.

Import controls meant consumer choices were few and far between.

Boomers didn't waste money on flat whites or smashed avocado on ciabatta because these things didn't exist.

They suffered instant coffee, terrible pub meals and don't get me started on the quality of the beer.

As a member of so-called Generation X, my lot copped a series of recessions and record unemployment as we came of age.

Inflation and interest rates soared as the chaos of a deregulated economy reigned.

We complained about it too.

Thankfully, pre-internet, our whinging is gathering dust in the archives of student newspapers, notepads of half-written novels and on C-90 tapes full of angst ridden grunge anthems.

This is supposed to be a business column so I don't want to sound reckless.

But if you're young and reading this then stop worrying about retirement and concentrate on making the most of your 20s.

Don't let housing bubble fears steal your chance to travel, party and take a few risks.

Youth is fleeting but the memories are good for a lifetime.

By all means put money into KiwiSaver because the magic of compound interest is more powerful the sooner you get started.

And if you really want to be rich then try some things that the pressures of family and mortgages won't let you later in life.

Launch that tech start-up, or micro-brewery or weird pro-biotic gluten free food delivery service.

Forget about the property ladder for a bit - especially if that means a dour existence, scrimping to buy a "doer-upper" in some horrible dead end town.

Live somewhere exciting. I knew I'd never afford a house. The numbers didn't add up. Except of course now I do.

The game changes, the population ages and your generation starts to dominate political policy making.

Yes there are issues worth fighting for. Just ask the baby boomers. They drove more rapid social progress than the world has ever seen.

Last year millennials surpassed boomers as the largest generation in the US.

Change will come.

But don't get bogged down in mean-spirited generational envy.

- NZ Herald

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