Ben Lowry: Lucky baby boomers reach their three score years and ten

The oldest baby boomers turn 70 on Monday
The oldest baby boomers turn 70 on Monday

Happy birthday baby boomers!

The first of them turns 70 in a few days.

Ben Lowry News Letter Deputy Editor

Ben Lowry News Letter Deputy Editor

Strictly speaking a baby boomer is someone conceived on or after the euphoria of Victory in Europe Day, which was May 8 1945.

The earliest baby boomers were thus born around February 8 1946 and reach their three score years and ten on Monday.

Born in late 1945? Sorry, you’re early (or your parents were) and you don’t make the grade.

So now we have people aged 70 who are still listening to pop and rock music.

Whoever, in the swinging sixties, when the very notion of being old seemed risible, would have thought that life would pan out this way?

It is often commented that baby boomers got the best of everything, and it is true.

Free education, an ever expanding economy, low house prices, good pensions, peace (although not for the Northern Irish boomers), and medical advances that will ensure that many of today’s 70-year-olds will reach their centenary (with iPad in hand).

I don’t in fact think that baby boomers were born at the perfect point in history. I think that such births happened almost 20 years earlier.

People born in 1926 or 27 turned 18 just as World War Two was ending and so they generally avoided having to serve in it.

But they were old enough to witness the war and so to better appreciate the peace and prosperity that followed. Those of them who have reached their late 80s or 90s have also witnessed a remarkable span in human history.

They remember the tail end of an age in which horse and cart was still widely used and in which TV was unknown. Those who are still alive have also benefited from all the aforementioned advantages enjoyed by the generation after them, the baby boomers. They saw man reach the moon and the completion of the human genome project.

A bunch of famous people in Britain and Ireland were born around that time: Margaret Thatcher (Oct 1925); Garret Fitzgerald (Feb 1926); Ian Paisley (April 1926); the Queen (April 1926).

We should not scold that generation, or the baby boomers, for their good fortune. They did well partly because no-one knew how much society would improve: final salary pensions are only that ‘generous’ because it was assumed that people would retire at 65 and die at 70, not that they might retire at 60 and still be cashing pension cheques at 95.

But I do think those generations should be at least aware of their good fortune. The two most important elements in their prosperity have been those very pensions and the low prices they paid for their homes, the cost of which, even if they seemed expensive at the time, was washed away by inflation.

A young person borrowing five times their income to get on the ladder today will not have the same benefit, because inflation seems set to be permanently low and their debt pile will remain high in real terms for years to come.

I stopped contributing to a pension almost a decade ago. I was given a projection that if I continued to pay 6% of my salary into a scheme, I would have a private pension of around £5k per annum from aged 65. I decided to find other ways to invest for the future.

I struggle to listen to older people threatening to strike due to modest proposed reforms of pensions many times that amount.

The generation behind me, which will work to 75+, will be even angrier at the discrepancy between the pensions of today and the pensions of tomorrow.

ROLL ON THE 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s

Talking about advancing old age, a report this week said that people in their 90s are happier than middle aged men.

This cheered me up no end.

It did not suprise me.

I have enjoyed my 40s more than my 30s.

I enjoyed my 30s more than my 20s.

And I enjoyed my 20s more than my teens.

Schooldays are the happiest days of your life? For some unfortunate folk perhaps.

Me? I hope this increasing sense of happiness to keep growing with the decades, and expect to keel over in my 90s in a state of ecstacy.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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