Sunday, 14 August 2011

In Defence Of The Baby Boomers



Yesterday morning BBC News 24 broadcast a clip comparing baby boomers' younger lives and the lives of their children today. All part of their 'blame' series for the problems in England last week.


The BBC's definition of a baby boomer is anyone born 20 years after WW2. My definition would be anyone born during WW2 until the mid-50s. 


The clip involved a mother - possibly in her late 40s early 50s and therefore born in the 60s - and her 20-something son. Both lived in London. The woman stated she had purchased her first house at the age of 22 and had moved onto her second property at the age of 27, but her son found it impossible to raise the money to buy his own home and even with the help of another sibling or his girlfriend, he was sure the combined salaries would make only £250,000 available from mortgage companies.  Not enough for him to buy a home he opined and his mother agreed.


Is there nobody on the massive BBC payroll with a knowledge of sociology? 


I know of only one couple who bought their home upon marriage back in the late 60s because most rented. Both were in their early 20s and the husband had received a small inheritance which enabled them to step on the property ladder. Cohabitating wasn't socially acceptable then and house title deeds excluded the wife's name. Few of us expected to own a home in our 20s. Were our expectations low?  Indeed not, but we understood the rules of acquiring a mortgage offer involved saving hard to gather the mandatory deposit. Some didn't earn enough but it didn't stop them trying to put a little in the bank every week and astute housewives always managed to squirrel away a few shillings for the proverbial rainy day. 


Until the early 80s it was impossible to find a mortgage company or bank which would offer a single woman a mortgage even though she was able to put down a bigger than average deposit. I wore out a pair of lovely Italian shoes walking the streets of Shropshire searching for a building society to lend me 75% of the cost of my first home. When I finally found one it was too late. The vendors had sold it to another bidder.


Baby boomers were content to furnish their homes with donations from family and friends or a purchase from the local saleroom.  The salerooms of my youth no longer have weekly auctions bulging with excited twenty-somethings desperate to buy the gateleg dining table at which they would proudly entertain their friends with pate maison and garlic bread. Local auctions now concentrate on 'antiques' - although few of the items are more than a hundred years old - but I still enjoy a visit to a sale room


Somewhere between the 80s and today values changed. No longer are the young content to begin their married lives with secondhand items. More and more young people are having their children first before they consider marriage - if they ever do.  Marriage is regarded as unnecessary, so is any form of religion - yet the church taught my generation our values as well as parents.


The flaws in today's society can't all be laid at the door of the baby boomers, but we allowed the destroyers of family life to push through their liberal policies, thinking they would improve the lives of our children.  Even though most of us disapproved, we didn't fight when it was proposed under-aged girls could be given contraception without the knowledge of their mothers, because we wanted to believe that such a policy would greatly reduce teenage pregnancies.  It hasn't. Many other liberal policies have had the same outcome - well intended but wrong.


As a baby boomer I feel guilty for not speaking out against the destruction of the values which were handed down to me by parents and grandparents and at times I shudder at the materialism which has crept into society in the past few decades. Is materialism Christianity's replacement?  That's for another time.

36 comments:

Anna Raccoon said...

Superb post, Subrosa.

I saved every penny - and I mean every penny, I spent nothing at all - to buy my first house in my early 20s. It was the only way, there were no mortgages for women then.
£13,000 seemed an insurmountable sum, and only bought a tottering pile of bricks in Brixton, but I got there in the end - I didn't know what a holiday was, never mind new clothes, I thought a secure roof over my head was more essential.
Nowadays I would never be able to save that sum, what with a pair of Jimmy Choo's being considered essential, to say nothing of spending a flabbergasting sum on a ticket to Glastonbury. Its a question of priorities.

Oldrightie said...

I'm dashing off to Church, Subrosa. Will be back later to study this great post.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

I remember in my early twenties, making reasonable money(NOT in a library!) considering a new build flat called a "Super Single"; basically a bedsit.

I changed my mind, when in the same block, a full to the gunnels housewarming party literally overflowed to the flat downstairs...through the floor.

So I bought a motorbike instead.

Richard said...

Good post, Rosie. I find myself defined as a baby boomer (b. 1953) although I always assumed it was the 1945-1950 generation who were called that. Never mind.

I loved living through the 60s, even though I was too young to take advantage of the 'free love' that everyone thinks was on offer then. The 60s had some great ideas, but in retrospect some were very damaging - a point which i would have argued against vigorously at the time. I would offer two major changes that have brought us to where we are:

1. The idea of saving has been replaced with the idea of borrowing, and the result of that is all around us.

2. Where we used to respect age and experience, we now venerate youth and dynamism.

Example: go to Homebase or B&Q or anywhere like that. See that pleasant, cultured 55-year-old man in overalls helping a customer? In 1970 you would be certain he was the manager doing his stint on the shop floor. Today, you would be equally certain that he was a redundancy victim with years of experience that no-one wants any more.

Richard said...

Conan: "So I bought a motorbike instead."

Sound man!

James Higham said...

Is there nobody on the massive BBC payroll with a knowledge of sociology?

Short answer .......

Demetrius said...

Right on. When I think of how little we had and hard it was to put things together in the 60's and into the 70's given that I was lucky enough to have a regular salary the idea of us living the life of luxury is fantasy. It was inflation that gave us theoretical advantage and it will inflation that will take it away again.

Oldrightie said...

"Is there nobody on the massive BBC payroll with a knowledge of sociology?"
A rhetorical question, I presume. The biggest failure of all was and remains, comprehensive education. Just like the EU comprehensive economies.
As for baby boomers being at fault, the techniques used to brain wash were very powerful. Such as heath's "Common Market" euphemism for a totalitarian EU State.

JRB said...

Like so many ‘baby boomers’ I owe so much to my parents who made many sacrifices to make my lot just that little bit better.
When it came my turn to get married and set up home, there was a long engagement whilst we scrimped and saved. When finally we did get our little flat, much of the furnishings were handed down, and we were grateful for it – I’m not ashamed to admit some of it is still here and in daily use.
Like every other parent we naturally wanted to make every effort for our children in order that their lives were just that little bit better.
But, by the time our children had come to set up home, so very much had changed. The austerity experienced by my and older generations had gone and it was far too easy for my to simply write a cheque to help them set up home.

Much of what had changed was for the better, but not all, worst of all was that in the 1980’s under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative administration along came ‘consumerism’, where nothing had a value, only a price.

The mental and physical scars of that ideology remain with us today. Where satisfaction is only obtained by the instant gratification of shopping and the ownership of the latest ‘whatever it is’. At least until a new ‘whatever it is’ comes along, which of course we must have.

The concept of ‘value’ has long since been lost. Value in an item; value in family; value in others; value in relationships; value in society; value in ones self – all have been lost.

But the hardest question of all is how do we regain that which is lost?

petem130 said...

I bought my first flat in the mid seventies on,y because the local council provided small mortgages. I also bought a motorbike, well you have to really. I managed to furnish and decorate the flat using money I received following a motorcycle accident which only goes to show that motorbikes can be a good investment.

I struggled at times to pay the mortgage which was £70 a month. My children can only rent as my Mother and Father had to do in the Fifties.

Generational progress? Not looking good.

Woodsy42 said...

Exactly right Subrosa. All the blame culture aimed at older folks is down to exactly the same sort of statistical misdirection used by the global warming brigade.
House affordability (like climate) has varied over time, start the comparison at an extreme and you can make a case for now being worse or better.
The other factor I dislike is that they talk of house prices, but nobody buys a house, they pay a mortgage that eventually becomes their house, so interest rates are as significant as raw price.
Also the definition of 'baby boomers' is rubbish and wrong. Deliberate BBC bias because it includes people who would be of housebuying age throughout the 80s.

Edward Spalton said...

Until deregulation, building societies would generally offer a mortgage equivalent to two years' basic salary/wages only - excluding any bonus, commission or overtime.

That was just the husband's salary/wages. They would also expect to see evidence of regular saving and the ability to put down a deposit -usually 10%. They reckoned that was as much as a man could reasonably be expected to pay back over twenty years. House prices did rise steadily above inflation but not stratospherically.

The property bubble in the USA and "sub-prime" mortgages were blamed for the 2008 crash. It was the Clinton administration which more or less compelled the big, semi-public mortgage lenders (Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac) to extend loans to bad risks who had no prospect of repaying on time. Most or many of them were black.
They were told "You can't lose".

The financial institutions on both sides of the Atlantic discovered an interesting thing. The more money they were prepared to lend, the more people would bid up the price of property, regardless of their real ability to repay. So a fairly high level of defaults could be accommodated because the repossessed properties would always be worth more than the original price - until the number of defaults and repossessions were so great that the music stopped and the silly game ended.

British newspapers still run articles "Good news for home owners -property prices up". Horsefeathers!

If you are a home owner - a house is worth another house - unless you have several. It really doesn't matter what price a house is. You will still need one. Unless you have several or you belong to the professions that take a slice from the indebtedness along the way, the property price level is really immaterial.

Of course, one reason is the favourable tax treatment of capital gain on your main residence. So, in an era of funny money, people have traded up as a more secure form of pension. It used to be that home owners were made to pay income tax on the notional rent of the property they occupied. I think it was called Schedule A - and my father got quite cross about it!

Jacobite said...

Baby boomers are being scapegoated at the moment we are the generation that has it all which I suspect is far from the truth for the majority. When I left school at 15 owning a house sometime in the future was a pipe dream, eventually in my late 20,s and ,married it became a reality however it was a monumental struggle to get by it was boxes for a table and chairs for the first year holidays or going out for a meal were unaffordable it was true austerity for many years. Over the past 15 years house prices have tripled in most areas which as far as I am concerned has nothing to do with baby boomers it was undoubtably the political class in collusion with the financial sector encouraging people to enter into unsustainable debt which on paper made it look like the UK was booming and sadly people believing the mantra house prices can only go up, well now the party,s over guess who is being scapegoated?

Mad Dog McClane said...

An excellent post, subrosa.

I couldn't find anything to disagree with in any of the comments, either.

My parents got together in 1947. It was 1961 before they bought their first house. When I first looked at getting a mortgage you were expected to show a record of regular saving at the building society you went to. The government regulated HP in order to boost or damp down demand as necessary and decided on the amount of deposit needed to buy a car or furniture on HP.

Then along came easy credit. 'Access takes the waiting out of wanting'. Suddenly, nobody, including governments wanted to wait anymore. Now look where we are. And it's the babyboomers' fault? No, it's the fault of politicians. They got us into this mess and they can't get us out of it.

Yvonne said...

I often wonder whether the 'Time Team' of the future will wonder whether churches and Christianity were replaced by shopping malls. I also wonder what they will make of the disappearance of communal gathering places we now know as pubs; not to mention the weird constructions we call 'wind farms'.

subrosa said...

You were very much an exception Anna. I don't know any 20 year old female who bought a house back in the 60s. Then again, here in Scotland we didn't earn anything like those in parts of England.

I usually had work which provided accommodation so buying a property was never of great interest to me. Owning a decent car, all paid for, was far more important for my career.

Auch I'm sure you could save a deposit. Problem is that few know what sacrifice is these days.

subrosa said...

In this area the only regular Sunday morning service is in the tiny Catholic church OR. The Methodist one also holds a later service but the Church of Scotland has a minister who has to attend to several.

subrosa said...

But owning a house, unless we were married, wasn't the be all and end all Conan - as you proved. :)

subrosa said...

Glad you agree with me Richard (of course).

So much rubbish is spoken about us puffing away on dope and having sex with anyone we can lay our hands on, but that isn't my recollection. I took to tobacco not cannabis and have never touched dope. Can't say my friend did either to any degree.

We weren't an irresponsible generation no matter what many try to imply.

subrosa said...

I think you may mean 'no' James.

subrosa said...

Yes it was Demetrius. What I can't understand these days is that youngsters, who are still training or studying, expect to buy a house.

It was hard for us and the media/history should reflect that.

subrosa said...

You were one of the lucky ones JRB. My parents insisted we made our own way without their help, although behind my mother's back my father used to send the odd small cheque to ensure my car was kept on the road. I always paid him back quietly although I wonder today if my efforts were appreciated. At least I sleep well.

I've no idea how we regain the values, none at all I'm afraid. How I wish I did.

subrosa said...

You're not a baby boomer though Petem, :) Nearly though.

Politicians allowed property prices to spiral with large organisations buying up swathes of homes. That still goes on.

subrosa said...

Well said Woodsy. Baby boomers are not those in their late 40s or early 50s today. Most of us have been forced to retire or become self employed in order to have a reasonable lifestyle. Some don't have that ability though and, having been promised the state would look after them if they paid their dues, have been let down badly.

subrosa said...

Jings Edward, you're taking me back to the late 70s when I underwent lengthy interviews about a mortgage and, although I had a substantial deposit, I was refused. In most cases I had to wait days for the decision - nothing was instant then. Always I was told because I had no husband I wasn't a good risk. That wasn't so long ago...

subrosa said...

You paint a picture many of my peers would agree with Jacobite. I remember going with them to the sale rooms and the excitement at spending £2 on some chairs or a table.

As I said above, the politicians have encouraged the property prices of today. There is no mass industry left in this country with the majority of it going overseas so they only have property left. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of it in the SE of England is foreign owned too then rented.

subrosa said...

My parents married in 1940 John and my father bought our first - very small - house in 57. I was still expected to share a room with my older brother as it only had 2 bedrooms, but fortunately for me he upped and left home within months. Therefore I had a room of my own but I missed him greatly. He seldom visited because he made a career which involved living abroad. Neither of us attended university. Our parents thought that was only for 'the rich'.

subrosa said...

Many youngsters still understand some old-fashioned values Yvonne, but for how much longer since fewer parents know them themselves.

I may do a post about that sometime. If you'd like to contribute please do.

Disenfranchised of Buckingham said...

As a '54 I think I qualify as a baby boomer.

I married soon after university and we lived in rented accomadation for nearly a year. After that we moved onto a matress in my brother in laws spare room so that we could save more for the deposit.

The building society allowed us 3 times my income plus 1 times my wifes. We had to find the usual 10%. By the time I was 23 I managed to buy a house having saved a years income in 2 years.

When we moved in we relied on wartime furniture from my recently deceased aunt the last of which was relegated to the cellar this week.

My daughter has just left university and as far as I can see the only difference is employment is even harder. It seems impossible to get a job until she has done a couple of internships which seem to be used to beat the minimum wage.

subrosa said...

You're on the cusp DoB. :)

You were lucky because by the late 70s they'd increased from 2.5 times the husband's salary only to what you were offered.

As for your aunt's furniture. I suspect it was far better made than anything we can afford today. Some of it never dates. I've a neighbour who still has the utility table and chairs she inherited when her mother died. Says they're far more robust than her old lot and with a little sanding and varnish look good.

Also they're sturdy enough for heavy users such as three year old grandchildren.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Well! What a bunch of "We're A Wearin Awa Jeans."

Sometimes I got things right and sometimes wrong.

Sometimes things I did for the wrong reasons worked out, while things I did for the right reasons didn't. But most of the time I'd no intention of doing harm to anybody.

In my time I've had many houses but only a few homes.

Times change and the only fact with any constancy is the chance of chaos usually makes mincemeat of the best laid plans - even those created by financial gurus and politicians.

Evolutionary change is a slow process. Perhaps it's our impatience that's dangerous?

subrosa said...

There's surely nothing wrong with a little comparison Crinkly?

My point was that house purchase has never been easy unless you buy within your means. In the past few decades people have bought outwith their means. Salaries are comparable with the 50s and 60s regarding property - unless you live in the SE where it's always been extortionate.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

It has always been easy for the banks SR, when they were only exposed around £6k for every £100k mortgage!

Which was why, when covered by their various guarantees and liens etc., they thought they could never lose until the lost themselves in a maze of self corrupting avarice.

True we all bought into it - but it was sold hard and constantly and for every generation it's, for a time, their brave new world.

Anon said...

"We allowed the destroyers of family life to push through their liberal policies, thinking they would improve the lives of our children."

Things changed for kids in Dundee when TV arrived, sometime in the 1950s. TV has come to have a corrupting influence.

But Dundonians have always had to face various negative influences - cruel mill owners, uncaring military leaders, freemason police, councils that built tower blocks and horrid schools...

(I think the riots in England were an inside-job.)

- Aangirfan

subrosa said...

A temporary brave new world as us older folk realised Crinkly, but our voices weren't heard.

subrosa said...

Agree with you about TV Aangirfan but I can't say the schools in Dundee in the 50s were horrid. Mind you, some I visited in the 90s could qualify.

Whether an inside job or not David Cameron has to show some metal and change the culture and corruption within the police force. For starters.

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