I was born at the end of 1969. A proud Gen Xer who just last week danced in the lounge room with my old school buddies to every 80s song we could think of, belting out the lyrics without missing a beat.
I love that I’m a late 60s baby, even if only just. It was a time of The Beatles, revolutions, Woodstock, the moon landing, the call to give peace a chance, women’s liberation, colour television, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was, in all, a very cool time to be born.
We are not the Baby Boomers, the rigid and hard-working, world-changing, now ageing generation that loves to spend their time judging and tsk-tsking the younger folk, mostly the Millenniums and Gen Ys for their narcissism, laziness and sense of entitlement.
We are not the Millenniums, who – like the Baby Boomers before them with whom they battle today – are intent on saving the world one online campaign (the Obama ‘Facebook election’) or viral meme (ALS ice bucket challenge) at a time. So what that they are too impatient to work up the ranks, they have other tools at their disposal, and they’re not afraid to use them.
With half as many Gen Xers as there are both Baby Boomers and Millenniums, our generation is characterised by being pragmatic and independent, adaptable to change, the latchkey children of divorced and working parents. Gen X doesn’t get involved in the ‘you think you’ve got it bad’ battle, we are too busy over-parenting our children to make up for our deprived and lonely childhoods (cue violins) and creating little companies like Google, Twitter and Amazon.
Why do we get hit with every adverse change?
And so it is with discomfort that I raise this whinge-fest observation. As pragmatic as my stereotype demands I be, I’m getting a niggling feeling that someone out there has it in for us late 60s babies. We just seem to keep getting hit by changing government policy, and not in a good way. Too old for this, too young for that.
First there was free university education. From 1974 to 1988, those sneaky Boomers (and the very early Gen Xers) enjoyed free university education for the only period in Australian history. That’s right, as the Baby Boomers entered their university years, for the first and only time in history it became free.
Then, just when I was leaving school, in comes HECs and the cost of university education has increased sharply since. Now I don’t disagree with HECs, it has its merits, however it was so perfectly timed to affect me. And of course, many of us will have children at university when the federal government’s contribution to degree costs will reduce, so if I want to pay for my 4 year old’s degree, I’d best get saving now.
Then there’s the First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) scheme introduced on 1 July 2000 to offset the effect of the GST on home ownership. When you’re scraping your pennies together to afford a deposit, mortgage insurance and stamp duty, $7,000 helps (the equivalent of $10,000 today). I was almost 31 at the time, and like many of my friends in their late 20s, had bought my first teeny tiny flat the year before at age 29. No FHOG for me, I bought too early. Millenniums enjoy!
(Yes, yes I know house prices now make it impossible for Millenniums to ever get in the market, I get that, but right now this is my rant.)
Cheap housing for us? Hardly. The Housing Price Index started its upswing in the late 80s (as the late 60s kids entered the workforce) and continues today. No cheap housing in sight for us – that was the Baby Boomers boom.
I waited and waited for paid maternity leave until, at the ripe old age of 40, I caved and had my first and only child in 2010 (ok, I admit that wasn’t what I was waiting for). Less than a year later, on 1 January 2011, in came Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme. Missed out by a whisker again, all yours Millenniums!
And what’s yet to come?
Now in our mid 40s (ugh), we slowly turn our minds to the possibility that retirement is somewhere on the distant horizon. Of course, I can’t get to my superannuation benefits until age 60 where my Baby Boomer friends are accessing theirs at 55, and now my Age Pension age has gone up to 70, with the real value of future Age Pension payments set to reduce by the changing indexation.
It had to happen, but here are we late 60s kids once again taking one for the team. Good heavens, is this personal?! Am I just imagining this pattern of policy changes directly aimed at hitting us?
Ok, compulsory super came in reasonably early in our working lives, I’ll acknowledge that, and it’s been a good thing. There’s no way I’d have had the discipline to put into it what I have now – home ownership, school fees and holidays are much more fun.
But Super Guarantee started in 1992 at a measly 3% of salary, and it wasn’t at a 9% rate until 2002, by which time I’d already been working in some form or another for 15 years. It’s the Millenniums (and later the Alphas) who will reap the full benefit of the Superannuation Guarantee system.
Australia’s superannuation system is currently remarkably generous and flexible. Payments from super are tax-free for anyone over 60, and there’s no restriction as to how it is taken. No compulsory pension, once it’s released you can do whatever you like with it. There’s always pressure on the government of the day to attack this.
“Tax haven for the wealthy!”, “Middle class welfare!”, “Inequitable and unsustainable!”
You can bet – knowing my luck – that as those pesky, over-populated Baby Boomers swamp the age pension system by blowing their tax-free super benefits on holidays and their huge houses they refuse to sell, in will come compulsory lifetime pensions or annuities, capital gains tax on assets backing super pensions, caps on tax concessional superannuation benefits, the end of dividend imputation, the return of death duties and who knows what else.
You watch, it will happen. And these new measures will come into effect somewhere around 2030 just as – you guessed it – we late 60s kids retire.
Alex Denham was Head of Technical Services at Challenger Financial Services and she is now Senior Adviser at Dartnall Advisers.