Empowerment and engagement


Those Millennials. This young generation, the oldest of which is 28, has had more influence on their parents, and more sheer buying power, than any other generation in American history. Why? They were born during the technological revolution, and they were raised with a mouse in one hand and a cell phone in the other. How many Boomer parents wouldn’t buy a television or a computer without the advice of their children today?

With this early sense of empowerment has come a strong feeling of engagement, says Chuck Underwood, generational researcher, author and speaker, and this week’s guest of The Real Story. The Millennials are more plugged into “the grand experiment called America”, and are looking to be actively engaged politically.

They are also expecting a greener, more environmentally conscious world, and are willing to do their part—as voters and consumers—to see that happen. This group, Chuck says, will make a difference through the sheer power of influence.

The personal side of the tech revolution

The personal side of the tech revolution

Chuck Underwood, author and speaker on the subject of generational research, talked to The Real Story this week about the Millennials, our youngest generation (born 1982 and onwards). As workers, the leading edge of this generation throws away the compartmentalized work-life balance that Gen X lives by, and instead integrates their work activities and their social lives—which means that their work days may last till bedtime with long breaks during the day.

As enthusiasts for green living, no group is more environmentally friendly—and they find staunch allies in their Boomer parents, who famously gave us the first Earth Day back in 1970. Chuck opines that tomorrow’s America, with the leadership of the Boomers and a Millennial workforce, will see an explosion of new green products and services coming to market, to market.

Next Gen: The Millennials

Next Gen: The Millennials

It is always a pleasure when The Real Story gets to talk to generational researcher and author Chuck Underwood… his insights into how America looks through the eyes of its five living generations are worthy of discussion. Chuck is talking about the youngest generation, the Millennials, the leading edge of which is now 18 to 28 years of age. These young adults could not be less like their older siblings, Gen X, especially in their entrance into adulthood. Where Gen X was anxious to escape from their parents’ homes and create homes and families of their own, the Millennials are content to stay at home with their Boomer parents for a long time to come.

Why? They are entering adulthood with no perceptible employment market, and they owe plenty on college loans and credit card debt. They are not interested in taking the leap, so to speak, into adulthood, and since they consider their parents to be their friends, they are in no hurry to break up that nurturing relationship. They know that time is on their side, and that the economy is not offering the opportunities that other generations have seen in their post college days. So they are sitting on the sidelines, content to consider their parents’ homes as their own for the next few years.

Marketing to the Millennials

Marketing to the Millennials

The Millennial Generation doesn’t consume brands; it creates them. Or at least it creates the network to communicate about brands that speak to them through social media. Advertisers will be hard-pressed to convince this group to support a product or brand that doesn’t live up to the Millennial view of the world, which is very green and very tech friendly. This generation has money to spend, if only because they are putting off many of the traditional steps toward autonomy, like purchasing their first home.

Instead, this group is more likely to work on paying off their college loans by moving back in their parents; staying open to job opportunities by accruing little debt and maximum flexibility. This generation may like their Boomer parents and have much of the enthusiasm and positive outlook of that generation, but they are completely dissimilar when it comes to taking on the mantle of adulthood: the term “prolonged adolescence” is aimed at them, and it seems to fit. Says generational researcher and author Chuck Underwood, with the Millennial Generation having the potential to live to be a hundred years old, putting off adulthood seems rational…after all, they’ll have seventy or eighty years to work on their adult behavior.

Peaceful co-existence with ‘boomerang’ kids

Peaceful co-existence with ‘boomerang’ kids

If your recent college grad has moved back home, you’re not alone. A poll of 2,000 new grads, conducted by and reported on, indicates that more than 80 percent of 2010 grads expect to move back home after graduation: 11.5 percent say it’s just for the summer, but a whopping 68.9 percent say it’s until they find a job.

Not having a job lined up (and 70 percent of college grads are in that category) is just one of many financial reasons for joining these growing numbers of “boomerang kids.” Other reasons? Many new grads have crushing educational debts, the job market is challenging, starting salaries are lower than in years-gone-by, and San Francisco is the second most expensive rental market in the nation.

There are emotional reasons for moving home as well.  Today’s college grads belong to the Millennial generation, “the most adult-supervised generation in American history,” according to Chuck Underwood of the Generational Imperative. As a result, they have closer ties to their parents than Gen X. Since many grads are so at ease in their parents’ home, there’s not a real sense of urgency to fly the nest and be independent.

What do you do when your adult kid eats your food, drinks your beer, sleeps all day and stays up all night paying video games? Behavioral experts have plenty of advice, but most agree that a few clearly defined rules will help everyone set expectations.

Here are some tips:

Establish a timetable. Even if the schedule changes, time limits for living with Mom and Dad will motivate your child in the job search process.

Define the house rules. College kids are used to doing what they want, but this is your house. Talk about what you expect in regard to household chores, overnight guests, curfews, etc.

It’s OK to charge rent. If your adult-child is able to contribute to household costs, it’s fine to ask monthly rent. Should you not really need reimbursement, consider collecting “rent”, investing it toward a starter nest egg for the day your grad is ready to move on.

Make your grad work. While your grad is searching for the perfect job, they find a “survival” job. This is another important “reality of life” lesson that will benefit grad and parents alike.

Avoid slipping into old roles. Both parties should create an atmosphere of mutual respect: kids need to take responsibility for their own well-being (including laundry!) and parents should encourage independence. Relax and enjoy getting to know your child as an adult.


Different generations, different priorities

Different generations, different priorities

It’s interesting to look at proposed changes to the way we live in the Bay Area through the prism of the different generations. Chuck Underwood, author of The Generational Imperative, talks today about the regional planning movement  toward public transportation.

No surprise, both the Millennials and the Gen-X commuters are in tune with public transportation—but for very different reasons. Gen-X, characterized as a time-starved group, wants more time to get more work done. Whatever hours they can shave from their commute gives them time to catch up. The Millennials embrace public transportation because it is green. The environmental movement is their cause, and their habits as consumers and voters will be influenced by environmental considerations.

Each of the generations has learned to appreciate good value during this recession. Even the Boomers, with their propensity to spend freely, are going to watch every dollar for some time to come. This does not mean, however, that everyone is going to plunge into the foreclosure market for the absolute bottom line value. In the last year, we have seen many first time buyers entering the market, enticed by tax benefit programs.  Perhaps the older edge of the Millennials, that “Failure to Launch” generation, is moving out of their parents’ homes, often aided financially by their parents—to benefit from the prices and programs that this downturn has created.