Dios aprieta pero no ahoga. (God squeezes but doesn’t choke.)
— Spanish proverb
Somebody rained on my parade this week. I saw it coming, in banner headlines and economists’ warnings, but kept hoping the weather forecast would turn sunny and dry.
It hasn’t — but I’m not giving up.
New data reveals, and The New York Times confirms, that we baby boomers are Generation Squeeze, the most affected victims of this, The Late Great Recession. Those of us in our 50s and early 60s are at the tail end of our careers, close to retirement but not close enough to claim Social Security and Medicare. Stuck in this limbo, we’ve lost the most earning power of any age group. Our household income is 10 percent below what it was three years ago, just in time for us to help support our underemployed children and elderly parents.
We could work longer, but that may be wishful thinking for those who have a lost a job. The average duration of unemployment for older workers is 53 weeks, and when we do find a gig, we end up making less than we once did — a lot less.
To add salt to the economic wound, our retirement savings and home values plummeted at the very time we should have started to cash out in preparation to exit the job market. Sure, housing is crawling back and stocks have made a good run, but neither market is where we thought it would be.
Could it get any worse? Apparently yes. A new study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs before becoming eligible for Social Security lost up to three years in life expectancy, mainly because of limited access to affordable health care.
And yet … yet … in the long shadows of our dark times, I have found pockets of hope. People who have clawed their way out of the hole, people who have chased dreams long-deferred, people who have re-invented themselves. They are proof that even the grimmest challenges can be lined with opportunity. Backs against the wall, we’re never too old to face down our fears.
I have a friend who is writing the young adult novel she has always longed to pen — and she will keep at it until her savings run out, though she’s confident it won’t come to that. I know a man who set up a consulting firm weeks after he was laid off, a human resources executive who is buying a yogurt franchise with a friend and a former journalist who now runs a couple of websites.
They are proof that we boomers are, if anything, a resilient, resourceful generation. Maybe a little whiny and self-absorbed, maybe even a bit spoiled, but we are also survivors. Of the Cold War and Vietnam. Of political assassinations and presidential disappointments. Of gas shortages, stock tumbles and civil rights sit-ins.
So yes, call us Generation Squeeze, pinched here and jammed there, but we are, by no means, Generation Choke. We baby boomers won’t let a little rain cancel our parade.
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.