Photo: Gene Anthony

Never Trust Anyone Over...80?

"That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another."
Adlai Stevenson

"And you know, the baby boomers are getting older, and those off-the-rack clothes are just not fitting right any longer, and so, tailor-made suits are coming back into fashion."
Amy Irving

The following material refers only to early baby boomers (born 1946-54); late boomers (born 1955-64) were still only 5 to 14 years old at the end of the '60s. Statistics provide a generalized view of the early boomers, but do not reflect the full range of their diversity.

The first wave of baby boomers came of age hearing the slogan "don't trust anyone over 30." Today, those boomers are starting to turn 60.

Back in the 1960s, the early boomers had a big influence on American pop culture, first as kids, then teens and young adults. As they grew up, so did their purchasing power.

Now mature adults, 40 years older and wiser, this group continues to wield economic clout. There are about 21.9 million early boomer households, with an average of 1.8 earners in each household-with the combined power of 39.4 million paychecks. Their total estimated spending power is $1 trillion annually (more than the Gross Domestic Product of Canada).

Who They Are

Based strictly on statistics, a Model Early Boomer (MEB) is getting close to 50 years old-exactly one year older than the average American consumer. They live in a household with 1.6 other people (the 0.6 being a child under 18), and own 2.4 vehicles.

The average MEB household has a healthy cash flow, with the highest average income among age groups tracked in the National Consumer Expenditures survey: $64,000 after taxes, or 24 percent more than the average consumer household. The MEB household also spends more than any other age group: $50,000 a year.

31.1% Housing
19.6% Transportation
13.6% Food & Alcohol
11.6% Insurance & Pensions
6.0% Health Care
5.4% Entertainment
3.8% Apparel
3.4% Cash & Savings
2.7% Reading & Education
1.6% Miscellaneous
1.2% Personal Care
100% = $1,010,904,000,000/year

What They Buy

The generation that once sported tons of tie-dye, five-inch-wide neckties, and love beads, is still interested in style. The early boomers account for 20.1 percent of consumers, but buy 26.9 percent of all apparel sold to men (16 and older), and 27.4 percent of all the apparel for women.

When it comes to kickin' back, late boomers actually spend a slightly bigger share than the MEBs (25.8 percent and 23.5 percent respectively) of the total $237.5 billion that Americans spend on entertainment annually.

The MEBs also like an occasional drink, and it appears they're willing to pay for the good stuff. The age group represents a fifth of all consumer households-and a quarter of all money spent on alcoholic beverages.

The Older Population in the United States: March 2002, (P20-546), U.S. Census Bureau.
Consumer Expenditure Survey 2003, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Snap ShotsNews MakersReflectionsOn the Record