Joe White of the Wall Street Journal thinks boomers have dug themselves into a financial hole. And this is not the time to be digging holes.
“What Baby Boomers of all persuasions have done, without dispute and to an unprecedented degree, is spend money instead of saving it. During the 1990s, Baby Boomers accounted for about half of all consumer spending in the U.S., according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute study,” White writes in today’s Journal. “Affluent Boomers had more to spend than most of their Depression-baby parents could have dreamed. Their appetites buoyed sales of everything from Bavarian sedans to Sumatran coffee to Swedish furniture.”
And when they ran out of cash, they financed. “The U.S. household saving rate plunged to 2 percent of income in the 2000-2005 period, when Boomers were hitting their earning peak, from 10 percent during the early 1980s. Imposing McMansions sheltered occupants with five-figure credit-card balances, exotic balloon mortgages and V-8 powered sport-utility vehicles financed over five and six years, all adjuncts to a lifestyle that depended on cheap credit and cheap oil.”
For boomers, it is a generational crash. There was an easy ride during the “sluggish” 1970s and early 1980s, but this could be the worst economic crisis of their lifetime, White writes. And they are completely unprepared.
Experts have blamed the economic crisis on the boomers themselves. “This is like winter coming,” Harry S. Dent, author and consultant, said to the Journal. He adds the U.S. is headed for a slump that will last until 2020. It happens, he says, once every 80 years.