THE BLOG
01/16/2012 07:51 am ET Updated Mar 16, 2012

Procrastination, Thy Name Is Boomer

There's a new dietary supplement designed to help college kids struggling with procrastination. It's called "Cram It!" which makes me think that the company not only missed its target audience, but maybe also should have hired someone else to do its product-naming.

According to the press release, researchers found that 80 percent to 95 percent of college students procrastinate when it comes to studying or completing assignments. And they of course have the cure for this in the form of a dietary supplement, the aforementioned "Cram It!"

The real audience for a cure for procrastination is, of course, boomers, not university students. Our generation may not have invented delaying what needs to get done, but we surely refined it.

Think about it: Our parents put the war behind them and got right down to business. They took out G.I. loans and finished up their education, married their childhood sweethearts and then post haste created places like Levittown because they knew what lay ahead: a life in the suburbs with a wife, two kids and a job you kept for life.

Our parents saved for their vacations, their kids' college educations and their own retirements. They bought washing machines on Sears layaway plans and they kept the cars they owned for years, not months. They planned for the annual holiday spending spree by putting aside a little something each week in the bank's Christmas Club. Get this: They actually would bring a little wad of cash each week and go inside the bank and give it to a live person who knew their name.

Their path was predicable, sure and steady. And then those kids they had -- that'd be us -- grew up and rejected all of the above out of a false belief that the good life would always be there for us, even if we strayed off course.

As a generation, boomers didn't save. We spent, spent, spent. We saw it, we liked it, we bought it. We traveled like the world might run out of places to see. Taking a year to backpack around Europe after college became as much a rite of passage as taking five years to get our degrees instead of the intended four.

As we aged, we never suffered a second of angst over the purchase of a multiple homes or boats or whatever grabbed our fancy. The popular bumper sticker "Whoever dies with the most toys wins" was the credo to live by. We planned for little and just somehow knew it would all work out in the end. And then along came the recession, and the world as many of us knew it, ended. Our certainty shattered, now not only won't some of us have enough to live a comfortable retirement, but our adult children can't find jobs to support themselves and we can pretty much forget the quaint notion that they might come to our rescue.

Truth is, we procrastinated. We delayed joining our company's 401(k) plan, paid the barest attention to what pension fund managers invested our money in and assumed our financial lives were something we could deal with later. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the median household headed by a person aged 60 to 62 with a 401(k) account has less than 25 percent of what was needed to maintain its standard of living in retirement.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College chimed in saying that 51 percent of early boomer households -- headed by those 55 to 64 -- are staring down the gun barrel of a retirement of lower living standards.

So where does that all leave us? Frankly, my friends, not in a good place. And certainly not one where a vitamin supplement is going to fix us right up.

We will be working longer, tightening our belts 'til it hurts and downsizing our expectations about what our retirement will look like. As any college student can tell you, cramming for the exam at the 11th hour isn't easy. And retirement planning, unfortunately, was the wrong area in which to procrastinate.