Baby boomers weren’t exactly the pampered generation

I apologize. I’m one of those awful baby boomers born after WWII between 1946 and 1964.

It was our generation that destroyed the environment while getting cheap houses and free college educations.

Now we want to raise the drawbridge so that today’s younger generation, Generation Z, will not buy a house, but spend the rest of their lives paying for the education we received for free.

I have some sympathy. A graduate on £51,000 a year will pay 51% tax if we include 40% higher tax, 2% National Insurance and nine per cent student loan. That’s more than a baby boomer by over 150,000 pounds.

To make matters worse, house prices are high, but if they can’t afford a deposit or a mortgage, rents are high too.

Now that we have left the EU, there is no longer the option to work in Europe for a few years, as the Beatles did in Hamburg.

A recent survey showed that only nine percent of young people were excited about their work. And anyone who has been a student for the past two years has had to deal with Covid lockdowns and online university education without the social life of a student.

No wonder they look down on us old geriatricians with envy.

There are over three million people over the age of 65 who own property and assets worth more than £1 million, although my house is not worth £1 million. Maybe I should have bought from the Southeast.

I accept that my generation was lucky. My parents fought and lost friends and family in WWII and my grandparents fought and lost friends and family in WWI.

Straight out of university at the age of 25, my father led a convoy through France to Dunkirk before fighting in Burma.

But sometimes Gen Z’s caricature of our easy lives isn’t entirely accurate.

I don’t want to start an argument over who had the hardest time like Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen, but I would like to point out a few truths.

In 1969, when I started college, only six percent of school leavers went on to university. If we include polytechnics and teacher training colleges, which are now universities, the figure is 14%.

While I am grateful for my free education, most of the almost 50% of students going to university today would not have entered.

Higher education was a privilege for a small elite. This is not to say that Gen Z has less skills than my generation, but it creates a real problem for the government, how to pay.

We also struggled to buy our first home. I just found a pay slip for when I was a hospitalist in 1977.

As an SHO, three years after qualifying, I was earning £2,859 a year, which included nights and weekends, working a 120-hour week. In today’s money under £20,000.

When I joined my first GP practice aged 30 I earned £7,500 a year including on-call nights, which is just over £35,000 today.

I faced major financial difficulties in the late 1980s when the mortgage interest rate rose to 17%. I had negative equity in both my home and the practice building.

But is my generation also to blame for creating climate change? Gen Z will have to live with the consequences much longer than us baby boomers.

In hindsight, we might be responsible, but I can’t feel too guilty about something I knew nothing about.

Before anyone shouts that we should have known, the first UN environmental conference in 1972 discussed chemical pollution, atomic bomb testing and whaling, but barely mentioned climate change.

We need to support Generation Z, who are the future. It’s a credit to their generation that they didn’t riot like we baby boomers did during the Vietnam War.

It’s not fair to ensure our generation has inflation-proofed pensions while Gen Z struggles, but we weren’t quite the pampered generation it’s sometimes portrayed to be.

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