Douglas A. Boneparth is a Westfield resident and Founder of Bone Fide Wealth, LLC, a boutique wealth management firm in New York City, and co-author of The Millennial Money Fix. Contact Douglas to learn how he’s not your parent’s financial advisor.
Not too long ago, I overheard the parent of a teenager share a story about how their child used the phrase “OK Boomer” during an argument over something unimportant. I remember the other parent giving a quick and confused laugh before moving on to the next parent-child related subject. Meanwhile, I was shook. I had no idea that “OK Boomer” had transcended to Generation Z slang. After all, as a Millennial, I am usually on the receiving end of the derogatory generational vernacular. Now it seems the generation after me is the one dishing it out.
Recently, Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times published an article titled “’OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations,” which examines the phrase and its growing popularity among teenagers. According to the article, “‘OK Boomer’ has become Generation Z’s endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids. Teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people — and the issues that matter to them.”
I f-e-e-l that in so many ways.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a presentation to the Greater New Jersey Estate Planning Council about working with younger generations. The chapter president found me online after members expressed their concerns and struggles in working with Millennials. I was delighted to receive the invitation not only for the opportunity to speak on a topic I am immensely passionate about, but also because it was a chance to engage a room filled with Baby Boomers who were seemingly interested in understanding more about working with young people.
Having remembered what I had overheard at daycare from earlier in the year, I began my presentation with a question for the audience. I asked, “When I say Millennials, you say?” My question was promptly greeted crickets and awkward blank stares as a cloud of general discomfort filled the room. Quick on my feet, I told the audience that we were in a “safe place” and that there was nothing they could say that I haven’t heard before. After some light laughter, I asked my question again.
“Entitled!” shouted a woman in the back of the room.
“Distracted!” said a gentleman to my right.
“Lazy!” exclaimed another.
One by one, the room sounded off on just about every negative millennial stereotype imaginable. Indeed, it was nothing I’ve haven’t heard before, so I couldn’t help but laugh, nod and smile. After the air was cleared, the room seemed to be at ease, focused and ready to listen. The presentation went great as many of the members in attendance stuck around to either thank me for my time or pick my brain on matters specific to them and their business.
But as the Times article points out, there’s a growing animosity between Baby Boomers and younger generations. Apparently, things have become so uncomfortable and so “in your face” that we’ve forgotten how similar we actually are. Did we forget that we still need each other to survive both physically and financially? Have our differences really brought us to a place where we’re too angry at one another to listen, and too frustrated to engage in basic forms of communication? It sure feels that way. A times, I know I feel that way.
But after giving my presentation, I was reminded that despite whatever issues we have with each other, or whatever mistakes were made (and mistakes were made), we generally want the same things. We all want what’s best for our families, we all want to be happy and we all want to achieve the great things in life. The audience that day showed me that if we can strive to get a little more comfortable with one another, we might stand a better shot at working together in a way that both embraces our differences and promotes our similarities.
When I made the decision to market and brand my wealth management firm to Millennials, I remember being deeply concerned that the strategy would alienate, if not offend, my existing Baby Boomer clientele. My concern was so great, that I went as far as to model out what losing them would look like and how it would affect my firm’s ability to grow. I had planned for an exodus and justified anyone’s potential exit as the result of me taking a calculated risk to invest in my generation and future.
There was never an exodus, but over the last three years a few Baby Boomers left my practice. I was thanked for my years of service as they amicably made their way to big banks with advisors who looked and sounded more like they did. At first, I blamed them for not “getting it”, but when I finally tried to put myself in their shoes, I understood that it was really a matter of discomfort more than anything else. Instead of embracing our differences by pulling them closer to me, I may have inadvertently pushed them away by thinking their leaving me was a foregone conclusion.
After all the flack my generation continues to receive for who we are, a part of me wants to relish that kids are saying “OK Boomer” to suggest someone, or something, is out of touch. However, deep down I know all too well how that feels. It ain’t good because what generational mudslinging and finger pointing does is rob us of our ability to effectively communicate with one another. Moreover, it makes things uncomfortable to the point of being unable to convey what it is we can offer each another.
In a more perfect world, younger generations would recognize that Baby Boomers possess a tremendous amount of wisdom and experience that can be utilized to transform the world around us. Simultaneously, older generations would recognize that younger generations need their help in building the future that we will live in together. Moreover, we all need to recognize that getting comfortable with each other is how we ultimately repair our crumbling relationships and begin paying each other the respect we deserve.
I can’t think of a more fitting example of coming together than the March for Our Lives demonstrations led by Parkland High School students last year. Baby Boomers, who are no strangers to civil dissent and protest in our country, alongside members of Gen Z organized and collaborated together to thrust the topic of sensible gun reform into the national and political spotlight. Their teamwork resulted in, among other things, 11 states passing gun laws restricting gun access to people linked with domestic violence and a nationwide ban on bump stocks.
While the leaders and participants of that movement are still fighting for change, they together moved the needle on what then seemed like an impossible undertaking, whether it be gun control, climate change or financial inequality. It speaks volumes to what we’re capable of achieving when we’re willing to cooperate and find our common ground. It reminds us that our future, for better or worse, depends on what we can do for each other, not what label we call each other.
This post originally appeared on my blog.
Advisory services offered through Bone Fide Wealth, LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser.