Pay forward

Written by Brenda Schimke

Today, we baby boomers, myself included, need to recognize our generation’s many privileges, focus less on our own grievances and seriously worry more about our grandchildren and future generations.

In our day, all boats were being lifted up, today the only boats being lifted are those who dominate the stock market, chief executives, financial institutions and the ‘one per cent’.

When we left high school, there were a multitude of high-paying, full-time jobs. It mattered not whether one was a high school dropout or graduate, a trades journeyman or held a college diploma or university degree.  Our options were many—lose a job today, start a new job tomorrow. Baby boomers, starting their careers, didn’t face globalization and the crushing blow it has had on good paying jobs.

When we baby boomers went to post secondary institutions, 75 per cent of tuition fees were covered by governments. Beginning in 1990, post secondary tuition fees have risen roughly three times the rate of inflation and today government funding is 22 per cent of the total and shrinking.

Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) help those with discretionary income and taxable income but not the vast majority, and grant programs for those in need are severely limited. For baby boomers, student loan programs were run by governments, not self-serving banks.

When we baby boomers were in the market for housing, costs in comparison to household income was half what it is today. In 2016 dollars, Statistics Canada reported an average house in 1976 was $210,000 versus $490,000 in 2016. In sharp contrast, average wages peaked in 1975 and have been all but stagnant since.

We baby boomers made comparatively low CPP contributions than today’s workers, yet as a group we will benefit the most.

In constant dollars, Statistics Canada reports the average value of an acre of crop-producing land was $544 in 1980 rising to $2,941 in 2019. Revenues have gone up, but so have input costs. Between 2008 and 2018, commercial seed costs doubled, fertilizer costs grew by 36 per cent, the cost of machinery and equipment depreciation rose 54 per cent, commercial feed increased 27 per cent and debt servicing became a significant cost burden for young farmers.

We baby boomers gained our wealth through appreciation of land and assets and generous job compensation packages, whereas today’s generations are often gaining their lifestyle through debt.

Well-respected, Canadian economist, Jeff Rubin in his latest book “The Expendables” sums it up well. “If you’re a millennial or Generation Z worker you are most likely struggling with several minimum wage jobs in the booming gig economy to make ends meet.  And with that tenuous income stream, you are likely paying off the student loans you racked up getting a university education in the hope that you could earn a decent living after you graduated.” 

What a stark contrast to we baby boomers.

All the above examples are intended to remind us that younger millennials and generation Z workers are facing significantly harder circumstances than we baby boomers ever did. Today’s generations are much more constrained to find work in big cities with higher costs of living. For many, two working parents has become a necessity, not a choice.

Baby boomers must stop the dilution that we ‘made it’ on our own. We didn’t! We benefited greatly from generous government policies and programs.

Today and future generations deserve the same hand up from the government we enjoyed, starting with affordable childcare, reduced barriers to education, re-training programs, affordable housing, tax reform and student debt forgiveness. 

It is incumbent on baby boomers to lift up today’s younger generations just as our forefathers sacrificially lifted us up.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.