The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow ... Or Not
The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
There'll be sun!
Jump forward some 30 years to the Great Recession. It isn't so sunny any more. Boomers are entrenched in middle age, feeling their age, facing mounting debt as the kids go through college and the parents face healthcare needs. Squeezed by both and suffering from a shrinking 401(k) balance and an economy destined to remain soft, it is not surprising that some of that youthful optimism has faded.
Four recent reports about attitudes at the end of the Uh-Oh's (the 2000's) indicate that the bloom has indeed come off those rose-colored glasses.
First, our analysis of new data from the January 2010 BIGresearch Consumer Intentions & Actions survey, focusing on the attitudes of better-off consumers of all generations, those who live in households with incomes over $50,000 a year: The Boomers are bummed. They're feeling poorer than they did a year ago. (Do you remember how things were a year ago? Not so hot. A year later and Boomers feel worse? This is not a good sign.)
Boomers aren't happy about their health, which is no surprise considering the rising rates of obesity. As the generation that defined itself through work, Boomers aren't feeling particularly chipper about their jobs, either.
Second, Pew Research reports in "Current Decade Rates as Worse in Fifty Years," that Boomers are the least optimistic about the next ten years -- only half say the next decade will be "better" that the current one. Think overcast, not sunny.
A third measure, fairly new, is the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The Well-Being Index tracks responses to several questions about emotional health, physical health, work environment and other aspects of life to gauge an overall "well-being" score. That score is on an upward trend since March 2009, when the stock market bottomed out. As of November, 2009, it stood at 66.7. But Boomers report lower scores than other generations. Their "well-being" is a little sickly.
A fourth study, by Mintel International, also reports only six out of ten Boomers "expect the future to be better," and that score is driven by 44 percent who say "I expect the future to be better because I have become better at handling problems in the past couple of years." With age comes experience, it seems. And again, compared to other generations, fewer Boomers are optimistic.
Our sense is that middle age pragmatism is trumping youthful optimism in Boomers. Despite countless warnings by their elders to save for a rainy day (lessons they learned thanks to the Depression and World War II), Boomers didn't save and find themselves in precarious financial position at exactly the worse time in their life -- when they need to be saving for their retirement.
What does this mean for marketers?
Boomers will respond to pragmatic marketing messages, not overly optimistic ones. They are looking for products and services that can help them deal with life's current issues, which include stresses over money, care-giving responsibilities, kids, and careers.
The sun will come up tomorrow, but Boomers now realize it might be cloudy for quite a while.