Millennials Are the Future, But Boomers Are Today

Recently my columns have focused on millionaire consumers, those with a personal net worth (total assets less total liabilities) of $1 million or more. The columns have generated some interesting feedback regarding the wealthy, who number about 20 million adults according to our projections based on Bureau of the Census estimates. 

During the past few weeks, readers have asked which of the generations has the most spending power. The media has increasingly been focusing on Millennials as the generation to target, but is that a good business strategy? We believe it’s only part of a good business strategy. While adults of the Millennial generation — especially upscale Millennials — are becoming prime targets of the marketing community, an even more valuable and affluent segment, the Boomers, have recently been going largely unnoticed and not mentioned. Following are our estimated shares of personal net worth held and income received (estimates from the Bureau of the Census) by each generation (the estimated number of adults in each generation follows the generation’s name):

Share of Total Share of Total 

Generation (size) Net Worth Dollars Income Dollars

Millennials (67.9 million) 21% 18%

Gen X (60.4 million) 29% 31%

Baby Boomers (74.9 million) 34% 39%

Seniors (33.7 million) 16% 11%

Notably, the 75 million Baby Boomers, the largest generation, who constitute 32% of all U.S. adults 18 and older, hold 34% of estimated net worth dollars and earned 39% of total income dollars, while Millennials, the up-and-coming generation (about 68 million adults), hold 21% of estimated net worth dollars and earned 18% of total income dollars. 

A further look at the Baby Boomer generation reveals findings that marketers should not ignore, including:

  • There still are more Baby Boomer adults (about 75 million) than any of the other generations. More importantly, about 9 million of the Boomers are truly affluent (they either live in households with household incomes of $250,000+ or their personal net worth is $1 million or more);
  • The Boomers' share of total estimated net worth dollars (34%) exceeds that of any of the other generations (Gen Xers are in second place);
  • The Boomers' share of total income dollars (39%) also exceeds that of any of the other generations (Gen Xers again are in second place).

For marketers focused on affluent Boomers (those with household incomes of $250,000+ or personal net worth of $1 million or more):

  • The affluent Boomers' share of total estimated net worth dollars is 23%;
  • Their share of total income dollars is 13%;
  • Their spending plans take a back seat to investing and saving: only one in five expects to spend more in the next 12 months compared with the past 12 months, which is in sharp contrast to over 90% who plan to invest and save either more or about the same;
  • Finally, virtually all affluent Boomers (98%) have traveling for pleasure in their plans, and over half plan to make charitable donations while also intending to buy one or more luxuries.

Given the fact that Boomers are the largest adult generation with the highest proportions of income and wealth, it would be wise for marketers and the media alike to keep their eyes on this very valuable target market. Even as marketers cultivate and engage Millennials, who will eventually replace Boomers as the #1 generation in spending power, they shouldn't let the Boomers — especially upscale and affluent Boomers — pass them by.

Recommend (4)
1 comment about "Millennials Are the Future, But Boomers Are Today".
  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center , July 2, 2014 at noon
    For companies marketing to luxury consumers, Bob is right on target with his observations about focusing on where the money (and spending power) currently exists. His message is especially important to public companies that need to report good quarterly revenue and profit numbers. I don't understand why millennials attract so much attention in the media.