Monday, December 1, 2014

What do Baby Boomers and Millennials Have in Common?

Some of you may know, from reading my eBook, that I began my real estate investing education by renting rooms in my home.  This was right after a divorce in 2007.  I gladly took the 5 bedrooms, 3 full-bath home my ex-wife and I shared and turned it into a business.  I imagine I did a good job of being an in-home landlord as leases were never broken, and my tenants were always sad to have to leave.  To this day, I keep in touch with three of the ten tenants that lived with me from 2007-2013.

I took the time to reflect on the people that lived with me as tenants.  Not for the sake of sentimentality, but rather to offer you, my loyal readers, an interesting perspective.  This post may also prove worthy of a read by companies who are betting the farm on "acquiring" the Millennial generation.  First mistake these companies are making...announcing and publicizing that they will "target" Millennials.

Ten tenants.  Three of them were Baby Boomers.  Seven were Millennials.  First, understand that I am by no means trying to place members of these distinct and unique generations into a box.  I'd also like to remind everyone that I started working as a High School Assistant Principal at 28.  Guess which generation to this day "owns" the central office of any school in America?  Baby Boomers, of course! So, you can say I have a good handle on knowing how to work with these folks.  "Folks" is a word I learned to use from them!  And finally, I'm only 38.  I'm just half a decade removed from being considered part of the Millennial bunch.

Ambition versus Living A Happy Life

Early going in my vice principal career, I had to learn something fast about Baby Boomers: they are cutthroat political.  Whereas I was a young man trying to do a good job, and show others how I could contribute, Boomers were out there doing some fancy talking.  They knew how to get promoted by promoting themselves, not with actual skill-set or accomplished work, but with their oratory swordplay.  Boomers taught me to always look for a hidden agenda.  They taught me to bring down my intelligence near the bosses.  They taught me that work can be done in the late hours and the day was for talking to people.  And why hurry to get done?  After all, you'll be working until 65, maybe longer if you get bored at home.  They are an ambitious horde.  When it comes to investing, the majority is real estate savvy.  Many of them have a stock portfolio, but they don't like to talk to anyone about it.  It's just not something they go around babbling about.  Their focus is on the next promotion and retiring wealthy.

My Millennial peeps (short for people) struggle with verbal communication.  They're just not that great at conversation (with older people, that is).  I don't blame them.  We shoved media and technology in their face right from the start.  Once I advised a tenant that she should stay employed at her reputable Biotech company, allow this company to pay for her Masters degree in Biology, and then promote to management.  She decided her passion was being a Pharmacist.  Her millennial siblings encouraged her to pursue her "dreams."  She enrolled in one of the top Pharmacy schools in the nation.  Sounds great, right?  Ask her about her student loan debt and job prospects.  She graduates in a year.  Millennials make huge sacrifices to get what they believe will make them live happily.  The system has lied to them!  The Baby Boomer generation has both exploited and de-humanized them!  How?  Who was Apple making gadgets for?  Who were universities fighting each other for, raising tuition prices like an education was going out of style?  But I digress...There's a lot of pent-up resentment Millennials have for Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers, suffice it to say.

"Target," "Acquire," "Getting," etc. Millennials

Google, "Targeting Millennials," and you'll see 386,000 search results.  Baby Boomers and Generation X company leaders are using their own jargon to talk about exploiting Millennials even more.  Few Millennials have discretionary income.  And here are the Baby Boomers treating them like what little money Millennials do have is theirs for the taking, in some sort of race against time.  Millennials are not a commodity you can shove your marketing dollars on and expect a return.  Try and you will ultimately lose your own shirt!  They're intelligent enough to see through the schemes.  If a company isn't doing something right by the world, not out of fabrication for the purpose of "looking" righteous in the eyes of others, but rather out of some true and genuine modus operandi, then you can forget getting a single penny from Millennials.

"Service," "Guide," or at minimum, "Court."

Here is a known fact.  Many public large cap companies have saved millions in cash during the bull market that just keeps going.  How many have offered to help Millennials with their debts in some creative and productive way, and in turn, save the nation?  Hmmm...  Oh, that's right, their major shareholders are Baby Boomers!  These companies wouldn't want to displease their mostly, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps," contingency.

Where is the mentoring?  When I first started working with Boomer teachers as their admin supervisor, I took a lot of heat.  I was called "rookie" and "inexperienced" more than I like to remember.  Lucky for me, my vice principal counterpart at the school had clout.  A former district union henchman converted administrator, he took me under his wing and vouched for me with veteran teachers.  I didn't need him to do so, but it certainly helped me fit in sooner.  Millennials more than any other group need guidance.  They don't want to be coddled; however, they are very appreciative of any wisdom an X'er or Boomer may provide with sincerity.  I was lucky to befriend my Boomer buddy and he was lucky to befriend me.  I helped revitalize his career before he retired.  I also helped him leave work at a decent hour, like 4:30 p.m. most evenings.  It took me joining him out on a ride with our road bicycles twice a week to ingrain the attitude of, "work is just work," in him.  You want to see a flock of Millennials fly away from your company?  Try to convince them that work is more important than time with family or time at the gym or time doing their hobbies, etc.

Credit for pic

The hardest skill I had to learn when working with Boomers was following rules.  I just couldn't play by all their known and unknown rules.  I didn't understand why they were so reticent to try doing things not just slightly different, but vastly different.  My ideas saved time and were effective.  How did I know?  I used to sit in my office essentially twiddling my thumbs from 3:30 p.m. until I could leave.  Why couldn't I leave when I was done?  Oh yea, there is a hidden rule (tradition) about remaining at the school until most teachers leave even when you have nothing left to work on.  Ridiculous!  Not to the Boomers.  They were just starting their emails.  Turn them loose!  Turn those Millennial minds loose on how to best improve your company, without fear of looking dumber than them, and watch the company reach the top!  Mistakes will happen.  Smart Millennials thrive on them.  It is up to you, Mr. CEO, to have parameters in mind, but not necessarily to always define them, for fear of losing creative output from your Millennials.          

Final Thoughts

Capitalism has gotten so out of control that the sharks, seeing very little in the form of a meal out in the ocean, are beginning to cannibalize their own young.  

What do Baby Boomers and Millennials Have in Common?

Not much.  And that is both refreshing and troubling.

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