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  • Rob Tillman

The Psychology of Boomers and Millennials

As the magnitude and shock of the coronavirus peaks over the next few weeks and months, the impact on our world will result in some massive changes. As with other moments in our country, the post-pandemic psychology will accelerate several shifts already in motion, and taking a look at how boomers and millennials may react could tell us a lot.

In an effort to relax and take our minds off the crisis just for a couple of hours, we went to Netflix and watched a stand-up comedy special with Dana Carvey. Sitting with one our young daughters, we all laughed at his take on how millennials and boomers look at things differently. As he said, “You guys won’t mess up your life like the baby boomers. We were way too ambitious, man. Millennials you’re not going to mess up your life; you’re gonna work small, live small.”

There is a lot of truth in those comments, and this was before the virus. As spring breakers finally leave the beaches and the bars and restaurants are closed, millennials are working from home and connecting through virtual happy hours all over the country. Working remotely isn’t new and millennials are great multi-tasters, but the lack of social interaction, particularly in the large urban cities will have a huge impact on the psychology of millennials.

And what about the boomers? They’re once again watching their nest eggs and 401-Ks crash. The memories of 2008-2009 are all coming back, and for the boomers who were lucky enough to get out of the way and already downsize and reduce their exposure to equities, they dodged a bullet. But for many, this means they may need to dump their house in the suburbs and push out the calendar to retirement, again.

As a recruiter, coach and one of the youngest members of the boomer generation, many of my clients, candidates, and friends are fellow-boomers. The current focus on keeping our families safe and staying calm in the face of the crisis are consuming us, and eventually the new realities will settle in. I’ve been listening to how people are reacting, and it’s clear that boomers will reset their plans and reorder their priorities. Less is more, and the last remaining believers that materialism is ok are tucking it in and realizing that flying under the radar is going to change the way they live, and work.

So how will this moment change the psychology and decisions boomers and millennials make in their careers and lives? For boomers, this will be the last curtain call. Much like what occurred after the economic crisis a little over a decade ago, companies and investors will seek out experienced hands. This will give boomers a final chance to serve in key leadership roles as we move through a period of crisis and recovery. After this time passes, the boomers will retire en masse and never go back to work.

For millennials, they will be watching how their peers and the companies they respect handle this situation. It will be a time of adjustment and letting go of the times of their youth. Why would you live in a crowded and highly-taxed city like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, if you can work in a lower stress, lower-taxed city, and work remotely? The shift will likely be significant, and mid-sized cities and their suburbs will benefit from a migration of boomers and the companies who employ them.

But for all of us, we will most likely be far more conservative over the next decade. We'll save when we can and spend less. We'll stay at home and enjoy simple things rather than go out and spend money on extravagant vacations. We'll also rethink our views on healthcare and the role of government. And we'll be much more thankful for our families and friends, and the simplicity of just being together.

Good comes out of everything and this time shall pass. Stay safe and stay strong!


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