Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Remembering the past...investing in the future.

Recently we had dinner with three other couples we’ve known for 43 years. It is amazing that we live within 30 minutes’ drive of these couples who knew us even before we were married. All four men were the “junior officers” in Navy squadrons on the USS Kitty Hawk in 1967 and 1968. All four women were the “dates” they brought to squadron parties when the ship was in port between cruises. All of us got married in 1969. One of the husbands was among the 40 men who attended our wedding in Sasebo, Japan when the ship pulled into port in May.
Our lives took different paths when the men left the Navy. Two of the four men went into large real estate development companies. After a brief time dabbling in that market, Joe opted for government service and the fourth husband became an airline pilot.

Among the four couples there are 11 children and 12 grandchildren. We have shared milestones along the way that remain among our favorite memories: baby showers; 30th, 40th, 50th, and 60th birthday parties; weddings of our children; and, more recently, my college graduation celebration and retirement parties. We only see each other a couple of times a year, but whenever we get together we have an unmistakable bond.

While reminiscing at dinner, we were doing a lot of “Do you remember….” talk. Topics included childhood games and TV shows and the products we “had to have”. They are a litany of the things that the baby boomer generation made profitable. How I wish I had invested in the parent companies of this list through the decades:

1. Schwinn bicycles…remember playing cards and Popsicle sticks in the spokes?

2. Chatty Cathy doll (a personal favorite) and Barbie soon after.

3. 45 rpm records and the record players to play them...I had a black and white vinyl carrying case for going to slumber parties.

4. Transistor radios – the entrance of the Japanese into the electronics market.

5. Frozen foods and Corningware – I have to lump them together because they did more to liberate women (from kitchen drudgery) than the feminist movement ever did. TV dinners on fold-up trays...is that when families stopped talking?

6. Calculators – what did your first calculator cost and didn’t you wish you’d had one in high school?

7. VW Beatles and vans…everyone had a friend who had one or the other.

8. Pampers – and the myriad of other baby products that “boomed” as the boomers had their own babies.

9. Station wagons (without seat belts).

10. Home Depot – every suburban husband belonged to this “club” (Joe still does…they know him by name when he walks in the door).

11. Computers - it took a building to house the first ones...what would that scientist think if he could have seen the iPhone?

12. Japanese cars…and remembrance of long lines at the gas station.

13. Blackberries and cell phones that got smaller every year.

14. Viagra – that doesn’t need an explanatory sentence.

15. Supplemental Medicare insurance – retirement has its “down” side.

This blog is partly a “heads-up” to anyone out there wondering where to put their discretionary funds (if you have any). What do you think the next trend will be for this huge segment of the population? Well, if the current health care reform goes unchallenged and stays as it was designed, there will be a czar of healthcare with a government official in charge of determining the appropriate medical care for patients at the end of their lives. Extraordinary means, even “slightly-more-than-ordinary” means, will not be exercised on behalf of the baby boomers when the cost is determined to be too high for the possible length of time the patient may gain. Dr. Jack Krakorian went to jail for practicing this theory before it became the law of the land. Difference was that the doctor “asked the patient”…we won’t be asked.

If that happens, the patient (the baby boomer) will not have to use up their savings on life-extending medical care and they will, therefore, create a new consumer group. They will be called “the inheritors”. With less time in the hospital or hospice, there will be more wealth to pass on to our children, they will then become “the baby-boomers’ babies” generation and their children will be the “baby-boomer-babies’ babies”. Wish I had a crystal ball so I could invest in what they'll be buying! Then I could leave it to my grandchildren's children who will be the "baby boomers' babies' babies' babies"! (I'm a little dizzy after trying to figure that out.)

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