Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character; and character, hope. And, hope does not disappoint. —From Paul’s Letter to the Romans
One doesn’t have to look too far to find bad news that impacts Generation X, those of us born between 1961 and 1981. Threats to social security and decimated 401Ks; industry meltdowns and corporate crises; the second major recession in our adult lives, and let’s not forget, endless scandals and endless war.
And, yet, I still think there is cause to have a good outlook on the future, even if the bad stuff will invariably always be easier to believe. In 2011, the oldest Generation Xer will turn 50. They call 50th anniversaries jubilees. That may be a stretch, but it certainly makes fine poetry for a generation that has had too little rhyme and reason. So, here are eight reasons I think we can celebrate. I have done my best to back up these suggestions with research, but in the end, these are my ideas and viewpoints. Whether you agree or disagree, I welcome your comments.
We Will Have More Opportunities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Baby Boomers will not have an impressive effect on the labor force next year as they have had in the past. Their share of the labor force will decrease from 49 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2010. This downward trend will continue. As they retire, there will be more opportunities for Generation X to move into leadership, especially in the government sector. Demand will outpace supply.
Easier access to professional development and advanced degrees has already increased and more and more Generation Xers are taking advantage of them, especially relatively inexpensive certification programs available through prestigious schools like the Wharton School of Business.
I understand why this is a negative for some homeowners who owe more on their houses than they are worth, but it’s a positive for many Gen Xers who have not yet purchased a home. The housing boom is over, at least for the moment. In an article by Chadwick Matlin published on the blog, The Big Money, this doesn’t mean the sky is falling. Fourteen million houses are vacant in the United States. The system of supply and demand, again, comes into play. If you have more supply than demand can meet, prices are driven down. Buying in a down market will prove beneficial as Generation X ages and holds onto property longer.
We Will Have Smaller, Not Lower, Expectations.
In 2005, Seth Godin first wrote about small being the new big. More than any other generation, Generation X has smaller expectations. As Godin wrote, we want small churches where the pastor can visit us in the hospital. We want smaller restaurants where the owner greets us by name.
Little People Camper and Canoe
Gen Xers love of all things small has helped boost many a micro-market, but Gen X has also carried it to a new mental attitude. According to an article written by Kristin Gerencher and published in the Wall Street Journal in 2006, Generation X is the trade-off generation that has rejected the live large mindset. Gen X carries 70 percent more debt that Baby Boomers did at the same point in their lives. This burden has tamed the generation’s expectations. Many Xers are seeking homes with smaller footprints with space designed for family usage vs. hideaways for individual usage. Smaller homes mean fewer resources devoted to energy and household repairs, and smaller homes mean smaller money pits.
Generation X Future | We Won’t Be So Lonely
In his book, The Outliers, one of the great Generation X thinkers, Malcolm Gladwell, establishes the premise for his book through the story of Roseto, Pennsylvania. He cites research done by a professor at the University of Oklahoma in the 1950s. The researcher discovered that the Italian immigrants of Roseto had dramatically lower instances of heart disease based on the fact they were surrounded by a rich community. This community didn’t lord success over its members or revel in members’ failures. Generations live under one roof and they helped alleviate the stress associated with child-rearing, finances, etc.
Generation X stands to gain from the high premiums now being placed on community.
In the blog, Punch in the Face, writer Chris Curtin writes a humorous post about being 35 and Friendless.“If you’re 35, you’re certainly not too old to meet new friends. But definitely in a “friend valley” age-wise. I’ve got none of the friends I had at 25…and I won’t have my 50-year-old friends for several years…” He goes on to say that if you’re a married man the only “friends” you have are the husbands of your wife’s friends. And, if you have kids, you don’t have friends because you have no time. But, 50 is out there. It’s waiting for all of us. It’s true, Generation X went from a lonely childhood and youth to possibly even lonelier adulthood, but Gen X’s overwhelming longing for community, evidenced by their domination on Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, is helping Xers revive old relationships and grow new ones.
Last week, the Gen X blogger, Ian, wrote about journeying back to the town where he went to high school for the funeral of a friend, 42. The post, as he calls it, is tender. And, last week, a blogger and his wife who live in Spokane traveled to Oklahoma to meet with three other Oklahoma bloggers they’d met over the past year. Five Gen Xers and one Baby Boomer gathered together at Red Earth, hiked through the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and sat on the porch and talked until midnight.
Stories like this have played out thousands of times over the last 10 years. Generation X desires community and in the future, all of our lives will be less lonely as we find lasting connections with strangers and old friends who have walked the earth and come of age with us. A small generation who moved far away from home, finding one another has not been easy. Social networking has helped.
A few years back, a blog called “So Very Alone Just Like Everyone Else” had a fair run in The Bloggy Awards. Later, he wrote: “I don’t think I’ve ever had a group of people over for a birthday party in my adult life. I don’t ever make efforts to make or keep friends. I don’t even stay in friendly contact with my family.
“I need to fix that, and for the first time in my life, I feel like I have the courage to do so.”
I don’t mean to imply that every Gen Xer is lonely. Only that part of the collective persona of Generation X is shying away from group identification. As Generation X becomes less of a pejorative; as Generation X seizes more power and control of the workplace; as Generation X gains more of the personal freedoms they have always wanted, I think group identification will become more of a source of pride than it has been in the past.
Our Children and Grandchildren Will Be Safer Than We Were.
Generation X has been called the most neglected children to ever walk the planet. I don’t know if that is true, but I certainly think as parents, we’ve been uncertain of healthy boundaries for our children, in many cases becoming enmeshed. Many of us have overcompensated morphing into some kind of crazy SuperParent. As Lenore Skenazy, writer of the blog, Free-Range Kids points out, kids can no longer do cartwheels without supervision and a snack.
Still, kids (Generation Z) are safer now than ever before, and I can’t help but think Generation X has at least something to do with it. We’ve demanded more policies and policing. We’ve supported child protection laws; many the initial work of Baby Boomers, I might add. (Think Amber Alert, Megan’s Law, and the Polly Klaas Foundation.) Crime is lower than it was when Generation Xers were children. According to one study by the U.S. Department of Justice, child homicide is lower now than it was in the 70s. Thanks to research, we know now that the person most likely to hurt our children is not a stranger, but sadly, a family member or someone we know. We’re on the lookout, constantly. Because of it, our kids are safer.
We Will Inherit Someone Else’s Wealth
In an article written by Eugenia Levenson and published in a 2006 issue of Fortune Magazine, $45 trillion will be inherited over the next 55 years. Baby Boomers will inherit one-third, and the rest will go to Generation X and Generation Y. Of course, not everyone will get an inheritance, but some will.
In addition, researchers have defined Generation X millionaires as more generous in their giving than millionaires belonging to older generations.
We Will Answer An Historic Calling
According to an article written by Alex Steffen, Peak Population, and Generation X, the historic calling of Generation X is to save the planet. The human population peaked in the late 1960s, an event that will eventually be considered the most significant demographic in the history of humankind. Another peak awaits us. Prior to this second peak, Generation X will reach its professional prime. Thus, Generation X has an opportunity to make key leadership decisions in regard to the planet. These include creating the model for a zero-carbon, zero-waste civilization; empowering women through reproduction education; and sustainably raising the prospects for people, especially women, in developing countries.
We Will Have More Time.
(And, the air will be cleaner.)
There is a joke that appeared on Twitter. It went something like this:
BOOMER: “Why won’t these kids work 60 hours like me?”
GEN Y: “Sorry it takes you so long to get your work done.”
As Generation X gains more decision-making power in the workplace, they are going to be highly focused on finding more efficient ways to get work done. Generation X loves telecommuting. Not only will they be more likely to provide such options to their employees, but they will also create these opportunities for themselves.
According to a study conducted by Paulette Gerkovich, Ph.D., and published on The Sloan Family Work and Family Research Network, Generation X places a higher priority on family and personal life than previous generations. Generation X demands work flexibility and is not willing to sacrifice their personal and family-related goals for career.
Contrary to what Baby Boomers often think, Gen X does NOT want to work fewer hours or work less, they want more CONTROL over when and where they work. One of the biggest revelations that await us all is how much productivity will increase and how much better the economy will be when workers have more control over when and where they work.
Part of the time-gain will come from the reduced number of commutes. Given how big an issue non-compliance with air quality standards is for so many major cities/regions, I can’t believe more policies or incentives have not been implemented that require or encourage employers to designate a percentage (possibly rotating) of their workforce as work-at-home. It’s inefficient on so many levels how many workers commute unnecessarily every day.
Once in charge, Generation X’s commitment to environmental restoration and pollution prevention could be a windfall for telecommuting. We could see a decrease in traffic during peak drive times, which in turn could lead to a reduction in harmful air emissions. The number of traffic accidents could be reduced, which would lessen demands on various public resources and services. And all of this speaks nothing of the time that will be gained via advances in medicine. Diseases will be eradicated and our life expectancies will increase. These are just a few of things I think about the Generation X future. What about you? Do you think it’s bright?