A Guide to Millennials for Boomers – Part 2

You might want to refer back to Part I of this Blog that I wrote yesterday, called “Can the Boomers Pass the Baton to the Millennials” before reading this post on the characteristics of the Millennials. However, you could read this post while you  are here and then go back and read the previous one.

In the May 1, 2016, Richmond Time-Dispatch (RTD) article on millennials by Carol Hazard, she wrote, “The nation is at the apex of a change as baby boomers prepare to hand over control to millennials.” Many experts have concluded that this handover will affect the way the people of the United States nation conduct business, spend their money, propagate culture, vote, worship, read, and communicate with each other. In today’s column, I will define millennials and offer an overview of some important changes that they are already changing the ways that many of us,  including the boomers, spend our money. If you are reading this blog, you may already acknowledge that many boomers bought on to the internet in the 1980’s, hoping that our children might be able to keep up on the latest developments in technology, in order that they would gain a heads-up in getting into the best colleges. Some writers have suggested that the over-indulging boomers caused the millennials to be so self-centered. Christopher Lee,  the CEO of a major Los Angeles real estate firm, argues that millennials are  a generation that has been raised by “helicopter parents, who hired a plethora of tutors and coaches to help their children. They were overly protected all of the time…and raised to excel . They are multi-taskers but have short attention spans.” They want everything to be given to them right away and they want their products and services to be “one click away.”

In the same RTD article, the Pew Research Center defined some demographics related to millennials: They are the group of individuals born to the boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964. Millennials were born 1977 and 1996. Thus, as we are speaking, their ages range from about 20 to 39—all at or rapidly approaching voting age. Knowing this statistic perhaps makes it less surprising that when they support a candidate who espouses their causes, he (Bernie Sanders) starts gaining more votes  than boomers might have otherwise expected. Attribute much of his success to the millennials.  According to Pew, “they are the largest generation alive today,” numbering over seventy-five million. By the year of 2020, almost half of the American workforce will be held by millennials. They are expected to peak in population by 2038 at about 81.1 million. Whereas, “the boomer generation peaked in 1999, with 78.8 million members.” As I wrote yesterday, it is only a matter of time before boomers become extinct like the dinosaurs once did.

The path that the millennials have chosen to follow is not all strange if we consider that they are an extension or the next step in the evolution of everything that we wished for them. News not only gets delivered daily to millennials like it has been to boomers by cable television  but gets it “fed” to them electronically, by the minute, via social media. If they want to read a book, or listen to a musical recording, as examples, they get them delivered in forty-eight hours by Amazon Prime, or even in a few hours by drone or carrier, if they are willing to pay extra. The same items can also be delivered to portable computing devices instantly with the simple input of a credit card. These advances alone, have already brought about major changes in the ways that millennials shop. Of course, some boomers, like me, are happily joining in on these new shopping trends. Lee forecasts that online shopping, which makes up about 7 percent of the economy now, will “rise to 19 percent by 2025, making shopping centers obsolete or in need of dramatic transformation.” In another cultural shift, most boomers have grown up listening to music on the radio and buying music from record stores. and buying books from bookstores or checking them out from libraries. With the advent of electronic and streaming media, record shops and bookstores that boomers have grown up supporting are rapidly becoming extinct. The ones remaining, like Barnes and Noble, are also switching over to e-formats as rapidly as the millennials demand such instant-demand services.

Saying that millennials are savvy in technology is not the same as suggesting that they are better informed about current events as their boomer parents. Surveys by Pew have found that about “10 percent of millennial college graduates think that Judge Judy is on the U.S. Supreme Court, and 77 percent cannot name a U.S. Senator from their home state.” On the positive side, Lee suggests that millennials have a strong sense of morality, feel connected to communities, and support volunteer causes and social justice causes – activities that millennials believe that their boomer parents overlooked. They even make employment choices influenced on whether businesses support their preferred lifestyle choice. Although they value personal and even romantic relationships, they are much less likely to get married than did their boomer parents. They are suspicious of long-term commitments and often lack conviction that there will be a future. They are disconnected from many past values and often disconnected with their parent’s religions, or any organized religion.  They are often choosing to not have children at all or to have them much later than did their boomer parents. Earlier today, as I was planning this column, I heard that Janet Jackson, an older millennial at age 50, just announced that she is expecting her first child. The cumulative effects of the lifestyle changes that boomers are making are certain to change businesses in many ways that no boomer could have ever predicted ten or twenty years ago.

Millennials, said Christopher Lee, are forcing the hands of the controllers of businesses, which are often managed or owned by boomers. They want collaborative offices and work spaces, a better work-life balance, and flexible work schedules. They drive fuel-efficient cars, walk, take bicycles or ride on public transportation to get to work or to leisure activities. Boomers regrettably concluded years ago that we didn’t need to be concerned with public transportation, sidewalks, or bike paths, as long as we each had our own individual gas-guzzling automobiles. As inheritors of the tech generation, millennials feel like they have the right to work remotely at home, or from wherever else they may want to travel. They would rather rent their vacation homes from private owners through such online companies as Air B & B, rather than going through traditional brokered arrangements or staying in over-priced hotels. When they are looking for dining or entertainment preferences, they would just as soon refer to online consumer rated sites such as Yelp rather than consulting traditional advertisements. In fact, they seldom watch any advertisements, as they typically zoom through commercials via video recorders. Many do not even own traditional televisions. Instead, they gain access to the shows and movies through their tablets, lightweight cloud-based laptops, and digital phones.  Most do not own land telephone lines. As a trade-off for their twenty-four hour a day access to technology, they accept that they may have to work on their vacations. They have virtually caused the closing of or the downsizing of boomer controlled taxi-cab services. Instead, they favor using cheaper and more user-friendly car services like Uber. They want their offices and the products that their companies to make to make environmentally friendly choices. They would like them to serve healthy food in the cafeterias, offer onsite childcare, and increased maternity and paternity leave. They often don’t trust banks or traditional Wall Street investing, and value getting training online, in places such as YouTube as much or sometimes even more than they do in universities.”

Millennial supporters at Bernie Sanders Rally
Millennial supporters at Bernie Sanders Rally

Why am I  so interested in the topic of the economic and cultural changes being brought about by millennials? First of all, I am a boomer myself. I was born in 1947, at the early part of my generation. Second, I have three daughters who are in the millennial generation. They all fit into many of the categories I have written about in this blog; They have been heavily coached in their youth and they all strive to excel. They are highly mobile and have traveled as much or even more than my wife and I have. They recommended our most recent travel destination, Puerto Rico, and wisely suggested many of the sites we visited there. They don’t have cable television or own a land-line phone. They drive fuel-efficient vehicles and ride in Uber cabs when they travel. They even showed my wife and me how to get connected to Uber by installing Apps on our phones. When we go on vacation with them and their boyfriends, we stay in Air B & B sites that they have recommended, and eat at restaurants that they prefer through Yelp recommendations. Two of my daughters even wondered why my wife and I are supporting boomer candidate, Hillary Clinton for President, when instead we could be supporting their preferred candidate— an even older boomer-Bernie Sanders. One of my daughters has not yet expressed a preference in the presidential election, as she is too busy pursuing an advanced education and a highly involved professional career. Our current President, Barack Obama, was born in 1961, at the tail end of the boomer generation, about a decade before the millennials. Yet, he stands as a symbol of a figure who straddles the two generations. Perhaps,it won’t be long before we have a millennial presidential candidate or a president who is also from the millennial generation. Think perhaps, Chelsea Clinton? What will the world be like when the millennials completely gain control of world business, politics, and culture? That eventuality is hard for most boomers to imagine. However, through my daughters, and many of the young people I met in my recent graduate program at Virginia Commonwealth University, I am generally optimistic about the future. That’s very comforting because when I read the newspapers and see the world that has been molded by my boomer generation, I am not very optimistic.


Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education (1973) and in English Literature (2015). He earned a Doctorate in Education in 1987. He is married and has three adult employed daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. Currently, he serves as a literature teacher, board member, and curriculum advisor for the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia, and the founder and chief editor of the literary blog, www.LitChatte.com. He is an editor for the “Correctional Education Magazine,” and editing a book of poetry written by an Indian mystic. He also serves as a board member and occasional volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. You can write to Murray by leaving a Comment on this Blog, or at ellisonms2@vcu.edu. You can also receive automatic postings from www.Litchatte.com by submitting your email in the tab to the right of this blog.

Murray Ellison at the Poe Museum
Murray  at the Poe Museum


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