You Can Call Us Old, But We Are Not Selfish

The first mention of the article came to me by way of Twilert–my morning hashtag delivery service–via some young guy named Charz Kelso. (Coming attraction: I’ll talk about Twilert on my next post about Baby Boomers and Twitter.) True, we can all use 30-year-old pictures of ourselves as Twitter avatars (translation: pictures), so maybe Charz Kelso isn’t a Gen Yer angry at his parents. But this was his tweet:First off, I don’t get the idea of someone mad about not getting his inheritance. A woman I know once complained bitterly while her parents’ estate was being settled that she wanted her money. “Her money,” I thought. “It’s your parents’ money. They worked for it. They had the right to do with it whatever they want.” So I object to that kind of spoiled kid attitude, whether the person is six or sixty-six. An inheritance, should one be so lucky, is a gift, not something you are owed.

Anyway, next I clicked on the link in his tweet, which brought me to Time.com’s “Moneyland”: http://ti.me/oiPZF0. This article cited a study by U.S. Trust (a retirement investment company) that concluded that “a surprisingly low 49% of millionaire boomer parents said that leaving money to their kids was a priority.” They also referred to the Baby Boomer reputation for selfishness–something I hadn’t heard before and would much dispute. (The so-called “me” generation was around before Boomers had come of age.) I tried to check out the study itself, but the U.S. Trust page didn’t have a link. So I went to the original article in the L.A. Times. (http://lat.ms/oUvor4) The only information I got there was that U.S. Trust surveyed some millionaire boomers. But how many they surveyed, how they picked their sample, and so on I couldn’t ascertain. So I called a friend who manages money for millionaires. He was circumspect, of course. That’s his professional stance. But mostly he was “huh?” His logic? The multi-multi millionaires have more than they can possibly spend in their lifetimes, and their plans often include trusts for children and grandchildren.

The L.A. Times article also quotes Ken Dychtwald, a former economics guru who somehow manages to still be a quotable person, even though the recession flushed his “age-wave” theory down the tubes:

“Many boomers already are giving the equivalent of an inheritance, except they’re doling out the cash while they’re still alive, said Ken Dychtwald, chief executive of research firm Age Wave. They’re supporting elderly parents, adult children or other family members who are suffering professional or financial woes. ‘How can you say no when a child asks ask for a down payment for a house or money to remodel their house to have a bedroom for a second child?’ Dychtwald said. ‘A lot of boomers are finding that family members are taking cash advances on those inheritances right now.’”

In other words, come inheritance time, what with all we’ve spent sending out kids to college, helping them buy homes, getting our parents the best medical care, well, there just might not be that much money left. Let’s forget about the multi-millionaires. There aren’t that many of them anyway, and really, whether the Hiltons are putting away money for Paris or the Kardashians for their famous kids, I don’t give a hoot.

Let’s talk instead about the upper middle class or regular old middle class baby boomers whose 401ks and other retirement investments kind of shrunk during the recession. We aren’t nearly as rich as we thought we were. We also can expect to live well into our 80′s. It might be really hard if we want or need to retire to live just off principal so that there will be a chunk of money available (when we die) to our heirs. The continued resistance, indeed vilification, of a sensible medical system where people could get good care for relatively little money–the kind of system in place in Canada, Israel and many Western countries–makes more plausible the possibility that we shall have to finance our own care should we get hit with an illness in our older years.

I might have ignored this tweet, except that Creating Results (http://creatingresults.com), a PR company that focuses on BabyBoomers and seniors and that usually tweets important information about this enormous cohort of our population, picked up the same quote as Charz Kelso, and tweeted this:

To which I replied, “no way, silly study,” or somesuch. They came back with this (and by the way, I’m @wordwhacker on Twitter, for those of you who don’t know):

And that’s the point. For most of us, decisions about inheritance might be moot. We are not selfish. Far from it. So many of us are right now helping out unemployed recent college/professional school graduates. How could we possibly do otherwise? They’re our kids. Or we might be paying medical bills for the elderly and infirm. But how could we do otherwise? They’re our parents. Personally, I am grateful for how comfortable my husband and I are. And if we somehow amass a nice chunk of cash before we die, I’ll be really happy for my kids to have it. I’m glad I’m not so rich that I’m too busy spending everything I’ve got so that there will be nothing left for my children and (I hope) grandchildren when I leave this earth.

One more thing: Charz Kelso’s tweet reminded me of other ones that come through on my #babyboomer Twilert feed or comments I read online–young people all lathered up into a fury by right wing Republicans and Tea Party-ers because they say we’re taking their money when we get Social Security and Medicare Baby Boomers. I’m not going to argue that there aren’t problems with the way Social Security is set up now because there does seem to be a tipping point a couple decades from now when the system could go broke. Nonetheless, it’s not “their” money we’re getting. It’s money that has been taken from our paychecks every day of our working lives. It belongs to us. It is not a gift. It has been an investment.

Some things to consider:

  • Clue your kids in about your finances. No, not when they’re in their teens, but if they’re adults, they should know where your money is invested and how you foresee financing the rest of your lives.
  • Talk to them about what they’ll inherit. Look, we’re getting on to 60, and people die. Adult kids should have some idea how to access your assets. At some point, you should also have the “Suzie gets grandma’s china” discussion. Find out what is important to them and write it down. Your lawyer can keep a copy.
  • Speaking of lawyers, have a will and a living will. Even if you don’t have that much money, it’s important that you leave clear instructions about what you want to happen when you die. Do you want your kids to sell your house and split the proceeds, or are you hoping one of them buys out the others? Be clear. Also, make it known what you want to happen to you–do you want “heroic measures,” i.e. feeding tubes, if you’re in a coma an not expected to revive? Do you want to be buried or cremated?

Finally, a shout out to Charz Kelso (who seems maybe to live in Singapore): That was a really well done tweet. For those of you interested in what makes a good tweet, note that he has all the elements: A new and interesting idea; a hashtag (#inheritance) under which this tweet will be filed and seen; a link to an article; wit.

As always, you can leave your comments here on the blog. You can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/Linda.Bernstein or facebook.com/LindaBernsteinPhD. On Twitter I’m @wordwhacker. Do you think Baby Boomers are selfish? Let me know.

 

News By Phone Call: A Boomer’s Further Adventures in Social Media

Sunday night my husband and I had knocked off for the evening at 8 p.m. to watch a rerun of episode of “The Borgias” that we had missed last week on Showtime. At 9 p.m. we took a break to get ready for bed. At 10 p.m. we sat down for this week’s episode of sex and violence. (“The Borgias” has great production values, but it’s really bad television.) At 10:30 the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID, saw it was my son, and was actually a little annoyed. It was kind of late, and we were watching sex and violence: Jeremy Irons plays the part of the Borgia Pope and continually hits the sack with beautiful young women, that is, when one of the other characters isn’t stabbing or poisoning some villain or poor innocent or hitting the sack with someone else.

“Osama Bin Laden is dead,” my son said.

It took moments for this to register.

“The president is speaking soon,” he added.

(I admit that I was so stunned that I made the Obama/Osama slip of the tongue, much to my family’s amusement.)

So now we had to switch to CNN. When it because clear the President wasn’t speaking for a while yet, we turned back to Showtime and watched a bit more sex and violence.

A phone call. Here I am Ms. Social Media of the Baby Boomer set, and my source for this huge story is not Twitter, FB or even all the news sites I keep up on my browser or feeding into my RSS. Pretty old school, I’d say.

“There will be people going to Ground Zero and Times Square, probably Rockefeller Center, too,” I told my husband.

“Why?” he asked. I mean, seriously, it was kind of too late at night to get dressed and go outside, even to share such a meaningful moment.

This morning when I got to my desk, where, by the way, I had left my iPhone overnight (another handy social media device), I looked through nearly 1000 tweets and figured out that if I had been watching my Twitter feed, I would probably have known by about 9:30 p.m. Many of the reporters and news agencies I follow on Twitter (meaning I get to see what they are tweeting) were already saying that Obama was giving a speech. The speculation ran the gamut from the capture of Qadaffi to the death of Joe Biden. But the general consensus was that the USA had taken out its most wanted mass murderer.

Did I mind that this historic event had slipped past me when I disconnected from the interwebs? Not really. But then again, I almost got out of bed to tweet something on the order of, “Why have we thought OBL was hiding in a cave?” Indeed, that did become my FB status at one point Monday. (A smart ass friend from college suggested that maybe it had something to do with Plato’s metaphor.)

As for not being part of a celebrating crowd of fellow Americans—even before Obama’s speech I pointed out to my husband how young the people gathering outside the White House seemed to be. Monday morning, through Twitter and FB, I found out that many Gen Yers I know who live in and around D. C. were there. In the video clips taken at Times Square I saw faces of kids’ friends and friends’ kids. Not my friends, though. It was 11:30 p.m.  I suspect that like me they were about to go to sleep. Rob Lowe was probably the oldest person in the crowd.

Pundits have suggested that, ironically, Bin Laden’s lack of tech presence may have led to his discovery. It was his couriers who were tracked, and his compound had no Internet or telephone. A CNN article from September 20, 2001 notes that Bin Laden had already dropped off the technology map and was not using satellite phones in an effort to stay off the radar (literally). (See http://bit.ly/kB2e7R, “Bin Laden Exploits Technology to Suit His Needs”) There are going to be a lot of questions needing answers that we may never get: how could a mansion in an area outside an important city in Pakistan, a suburb that’s home to the military college and many retired Pakistani army people, one that didn’t even sport a TV antenna let alone satellite dish, go unnoticed? These days, it’s lack of technology that stands out.

News sources tell us that Sunday night, “Twitter exploded.” (For typical hyperbole, see the Huffington Post “Osama Bin Laden’s Death Leaked Via Twitter,” http://huff.to/ixDfyk.) Egypt and Tunisia had their “Twitter Revolutions.” Now we have had our Twitter . . . our Twitter . . . ? Yes, my Twitter feed had gone nuts, my Facebook page was afire. Me, I was in my nightgown, waiting for our President to speak. And then I went to bed.

Look for me on Twitter: @wordwhacker. Or find me on FB. Linda Bernstein. I have a “profile” and a “page.” You can like the page.

Which brings me to: I have such a clever “handle” for someone who has made her living as a writer and editor. But @wordwhacker doesn’t really fit into my Baby Boomer branding. Should I change it? To something like @GenB2? Let me know in your comments.

Social Media, Here We Come, or A Baby Boomer’s First Ten Days on Twitter

I can’t claim I was dragged kicking and screaming into this Twitter thing. I paid tuition for Sree Sreenivasan’s Social Media course at the Columbia Journalism School . I took the subway uptown. I sat down in a class. Actually, first I had a meeting re reunion business at Barnard and then dashed across Broadway at 116th Street, raced down the steps toward the Columbia library (noting that the lawn is draped in white—seeding?), and hung a sharp right into the Journalism building, where I had not been since . . . . since a long time ago.

My high regard for Sree Sreenivasan dates back to my years (again a long time ago) at Sesame Street Parents when he wrote some family tech columns for the magazine. This was before he had a family, but he certainly had tech. It was also before Twitter, before Facebook, before broadband, and though I’ve always had this techie rep (I like to fiddle with things, a trait I inherited from my father, who was a chemist and educator, and also a licensed plumber and electrician), I didn’t know much about the Internet back then. Still, I was easily identified the geek who would edit the tech column.

But I am that much older now, and I worry about whether being part of Generation B-Squared means that I should throw my hands up in the air over social media and disappear from the blogosphere. Will I get it? I mean in social media terms. Many techies (information providers?) adamantly argue that people are now getting their news through social media, and it’s great because your news is tailored through your social network filters to your interests. (See, in particular, “How News Consumption is Shifting to the Personalized Social News Stream” on Mashable: http://on.mash.to/g1zmKZ.) Frankly, I find this a little horrifying. Sure, journalists I’m following on Twitter post links to news media articles. But how much weight I give the information in these links depends on the source of the information—and the reputation of the journalist. Yes to The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, NPR, PSBNewshour. No to @Marcisgod, whom I would trust to direct me to a pair of blue suede Tods, if I so desired, but who I’m not sure knows that there was a recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I’m going to bump up against the NYT’s paywall (except my husband has his “education subscription”) because I probably read 20 online articles a day. True, I used the word “online” in the previous sentence, but I fear I’m too old fashioned. I’m a baby boomer. The oldest in my demographic cohort are turning 65 this year. (The youngest don’t even have wrinkles. We’re a large group, and all that will be in my book.)

Then again, I took to Facebook like a—oh, throw in any cliché there, and it’s true. I pay more attention to FB than my Gen Y kids. With their 1000 or so friends—everyone with whom they went to elementary, middle school, high school, college, worked, or got drunk in a bar—they have already outgrown it, sort of. I, on the other hand, really use it. Socially. (And not for self-branding, as Sree advocates.) I know or have at least met all of my friends (except for Cindy Stivers, who seemed to have appeared on my friend list one day). Aside from face-to-face time with friends, most of my communication has become electronic. My friend Maki lives three buildings down from mine. I could probably go up to my roof and jump into her backyard, a place I love to sit and schmooze and drink wine. Telephone communication is now limited to, “You home? I’m passing your door.” But there’s lots of FB back and forth.

FB is amazing in a lot of ways. A significant book person I know posted a picture of a door with a patch of gold leaf applied. “There must be a story in this,” he commented. And then his writer friends started posting three- or four-line stories. Some were really good.

Of course there are the pictures. I get to see my great-nieces and nephew. My best friend’s great-niece. My daughter’s dog. My friend’s kitchen renovation. Another friend’s new iPhone app. I post shots of what I see during my runs in the park. I also documented recent renovations at the country house. I get to be a wiseguy. My friends get to be wiseasses. We’re all wiseacres.

This is possible because my FB is shut pretty tight. All my settings are for friends only. I do not show up in a Google search. I also have no qualms about un-friending people who get sucked into the FB spam-scans. Over the past couple of weeks I have unfriended about 40 people who still are wondering what some woman found in her Happy Meal or think that if they open up their address books, they’ll get a free iPad, or one that costs $14.99 at any rate. I’ll be happy to be their FB friends again—in fact I look forward to it. But first I have to know that they’re not so gullible. (I sent email messages to people I unfriended explaining my actions.)

All of this indicates that so far this baby boomer finds Facebook much more comfortable than Twitter. On Facebook you can see someone’s profile. It’s a much more hamische (“homey” in Yiddish) place as far as I can tell.

Still, I’ve been using Twitter for only 10 days. I have tweeted only 49 times. Yesterday I read that Judy Woodruff tweeted only three times in 2009, so I guess I’m on the right track at least.

I’m also trying to follow Sree’s suggestions for what makes a good tweet: is it helpful, useful, relevant, timely, actionable, and so forth. So far I’m being mostly me. Someone I’m “following” asked, “How influential are you on twitter?” Look, I’m not even influential in my own kitchen. So much for that.

But I’m keeping it up because: Power to the Baby Boomers! Right on! We are the largest demographic and even though I know many people my age who have trouble with email and no interest, they say, in Facebook, can you imagine the influence about 72 million Baby Boomers would wield if we took all the social media invented by Gen Y (mostly) and made it our own? That’s my intention. Social Media, I’m going to own you.

Sree says one should always sign off with her twitter handle: I’m @wordwhacker. Sree is @Sree (of course) and if you’re interested in social media at all, I suggest you follow his SreeTips page on FB. It’s also a great place if you know young people (your kids, their friends) looking for journalism or social media jobs.

Finally, @Sree, Sesame Street Parents never paid you for one of your columns. I called you a lot, left sweet messages, cajoling messages. I think this was before email. (Notice how quickly I’ve adapted to the new AP Style Sheet and removed the hyphen! I am so, so adaptable despite needing a colorist to maintain my real-looking blondish frizzy curls.) Too bad, @Sree; the magazine died a decade ago—but the money may have covered one or two orthodontist bills for your adorable twins.

So, as you comment, think about what you believe might be the obstacles slipping between Generation B-Squared and new media. I’d love to know you thoughts, reactions, bright ideas. They’ll all go in my book. Promise.

Linda (@wordwhacker)