Eighty-seven-year-old Lew Manchester has just returned from a three-week trip touring Buddhist temples in Laos and cruising the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. His 61-year-old daughter Lee lives year-round in the basement of a friend’s cottage on Cape Cod. Both worked all their lives, both saved what they could. Yet Lew, a son of the Great Depression and former company man, and Lee, a baby boomer who has pursued careers as an entrepreneur and a midlevel manager, ended up in different economic strata. “Timing is everything,” says Lee, who now works at an inn, “and my dad’s timing with jobs, real estate, and retirement benefits was better.”
While plenty of baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, have become affluent, and many elderly across the U.S. face financial hardship, the wealth disparity of this father and daughter is emblematic of a broad shift occurring around the country. Many graying boomers are less secure financially and have a lower standard of living than their aged parents. The median net worth for U.S. households headed by people aged 55 to 64 was almost 8 percent lower, at $143,964, than those 75 and older in 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and in the aftermath many also lost their jobs at a critical point in their productive years.