Understanding a Baby Boomer
Baby boomers emerged after the end of World War II when birth rates across the world spiked. The explosion of new infants became known as the baby boom. During the boom, 76 million babies were born in the United States alone.
Most historians say the baby boomer phenomenon most likely involved a combination of factors: people wanting to start the families that they put off during World War II and the Great Depression, and a sense of confidence that the coming era would be safe and prosperous. Indeed, the late 1940s and 1950s generally saw increases in wages, thriving businesses, and an increase in the variety and quantity of products for consumers.
Accompanying this new economic prosperity was a migration of young families from the cities to the suburbs. The G.I. Bill allowed returning military personnel to buy affordable homes in tracts around the edges of cities. This led to a suburban ethos of the ideal family comprised of the husband as the provider, the wife as a stay-at-home housekeeper, plus their children.
As suburban families began to use new forms of credit to purchase consumer goods such as cars, appliances, and television sets, businesses also targeted those children, the growing boomers, with marketing efforts. As the boomers approached adolescence, many became dissatisfied with this ethos and the consumer culture associated with it, which fueled the youth counterculture movement of the 1960s.
As the longest-living generation in history, boomers are at the forefront of what’s been called a longevity economy, whether they are generating income in the workforce or, in their turn, consuming the taxes of younger generations in the form of their Social Security checks.
And even though they are aging (the very youngest boomers are in their late 50s as of 2021) they continue to hold corporate and economic power; in the U.S., 50.3% of personal net worth belongs to boomers.
People grow older. Birthdays stay the same.
A common source of confusion when labeling generations is their age. Generational cohorts are defined (loosely) by birth year, not current age. The reason is simple — generations get older in groups. If you think of Millennials as college kids (18 – 22), then not only are you out of date — you’re thinking of a stage in life, not a generation. Millennials are now well out of college, and that life stage is dominated by Gen Z.
Another example, a member of Generation X who turned 18 in 1998 would now be over 40. In that time, he or she cares about vastly different issues and is receptive to a new set of marketing messages. Regardless of your age, you will always belong to the generation you were born into.
Sometimes labeled with the moniker “Zillennials”, those wedged at the tail end of Millennials and the start of Gen Z are sometimes labeled with this moniker — a group made up of people born between 1994 and the year 2000.
Originally, the name Generation Z was a placeholder for the youngest people on the planet — although Generation A has now taken over that distinction. However, in the same way that Gen Y morphed into Millennials, there is certainly a possibility that both Gen Z and Gen A may adopt new names as they leave adolescence and mature into their adult identities. While the label Gen A makes discussion easier, it may not be the last word on this group of humans.
- Generation Alpha Birth Years: 2012 to 2025
- Currently Aged: 0 to 9
- Other Nicknames: None that have stuck. Often the nickname centers on a defining event or characteristic.
- Generation Size: 48 million and growing
- Media Consumption: Alphas are being raised in homes with smart speakers and devices everywhere; technology is built into everyday items. Many of them attended school virtually thanks to the global pandemic and are gravitating toward online learning with programs such as Khan Academy, Prodigy, and IXL. Many have even had a digital presence since before they were born, with their Millennial parents creating social media handles for their infants.
- Banking Habits: Although some of the oldest Alphas may have accounts such as Greenlight, they do not have defining banking habits. They’re digital natives that will expect fully integrated, personalized consumer experiences. Based on current data, it appears that Alphas will one of the most highly educated and wealthy generations. It is not clear if their banking habits will be influenced by their parents (i.e. “my parents bank here, so do I”) or by other factors.
- Shaping Events: Global pandemic, social justice movement, Trump-era politics, and Brexit.
- What’s next on Generation Alpha’s financial horizon: As digital natives who view the world through a collection of screens, Alpha’s will be even more disconnected from the idea of cash. They will likely first encounter money as a number on a screen and spend it through apps and other forms of ecommerce.
Do generations use technology differently?