Raise your hand if you're a Millennial/Gen Z/Gen X and you've ever had someone from the Boomer generation lecture you about your lot in life, and probably say something like, "Well I did XYZ, worked really hard, and I turned out fine."
Yep, it seems to be a universal experience to have our Boomer elders criticize us for not owning property, not having kids, and generally not having as much money/things as they seemed to have when they were our age. Their typical theory? That we're "lazy" and simply "don't want to work."
Well, Reddit user u/gregsw2000 just brought a few things to light. In a now-viral post in the r/antiwork subreddit, u/gregsw2000 (or OP, for Original Poster) detailed a conversation he had with his grandmother, who's almost 90 years old and "part of the 'Silent Generation,'" about how different things were when she entered the workforce. And the main takeaway seems to be that, well, things actually seemed pretty easy for the Boomer generation*. See for yourself:
*Note: This is just one Boomer's experience and obviously doesn't speak for ALL Boomers, but the details are still pretty damning.
OP's grandmother allegedly joined the workforce in 1951 as a payroll clerk, and was an "old maid," meaning that she didn't get married until she was almost 30.
As for her pay, "She made $0.75 an hour as a woman in 1951, the minimum wage. She says there was no reason she could not have supported herself on that $0.75 an hour, because her expenses would have been much less than her income, as even rents around here would have been around [a third] of her minimum wage income." According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, 75 cents in 1951 is roughly equivalent to $8.60 in 2022.
Now, the reality OP's grandmother described seems preeeetty different from our current reality in the US. Right now, the federal minimum wage sits at $7.25 an hour, and hasn't changed in over a decade. According to a 2021 report, it's completely impossible for minimum wage workers working 40 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country, let alone cover all of their other living expenses.
Moving on, OP also shared that his grandmother had a pretty easy time landing her job: "We started talking about it, because she told me she has seen some of the wild requirements for jobs these days, and wanted to tell me she never even had to turn in an application for any of these jobs — her parents knew the owners from around town, and they knew she needed a job, and the owner approached her about it. When she left there, she went to work as an office manager for a florist. Same deal. They approached her. She didn't even know the job existed."
After getting married, OP's grandmother moved out of her family's home and in with OP's grandfather. "My grandfather didn't want her to have to work, and supported both of them on his near-minimum wage job as a 'shoe cutter.' She doesn't remember exactly what he made, but less than $1.25 an hour."
Maintaining a family/home on just one income? Must be nice!!! These days, single parents in the US need to make an average of $75,000 a year (about $35.80 an hour) to support a family with two children, but 32% of the US workforce makes less than $15 an hour, and 28% of minimum wage workers are parents.
According to OP, his grandfather "never made good money in his entire life," and only worked at a single "'low skill' factory job, which was eventually offshored sometime during the Reagan administration, and my grandmother only worked part-time, with little inheritance." But despite that, "They had everything. A new, standalone, home in 1962, with a 20-year mortgage, an extremely affordable payment, new cars, and my grandmother is a self-described 'impulse shopper,' who would buy all kinds of random shit she'd never use if allowed."
"My grandfather died around five years ago, but my grandmother is still living on Social Security and proceeds from selling their house for 10 times what it cost them (never renovated, sold as it was built in the 1960s).
In closing, OP had this to say: "When Boomers try to tell you life was hard during their lives, they're not telling the truth. The minimum wage almost always supported a decent living, as intended, while they were up-and-coming."
"Don't let old folks gaslight you. They're outright lying about what their financial lives were like, or the amount of 'hard work' they had to put in to have those lives. It is a mythology they have built for themselves, not reality."
Thousands of people commented on the post. Many shared stories of their own Boomer relatives who had job trajectories that are completely bonkers by today's standards:
"My grandma didn't graduate high school, maybe not even middle school, and got a job at an investment bank on Wall Street. I think she took a few courses in bookkeeping but that was it. If I tried getting that job with those same qualifications, they would throw my application in the trash asap."
"[My] grandfather was a farm boy who didn't go to college. Started as a department store stock boy, and was the VP of a multi-state franchise by the time he retired, which he was able to do early. This could never ever happen today."
Others couldn't help but compare their lives to their parents' and grandparents':
"My nan raised three kids on her bank job and my grandfather's war disability in the '50s. In a three-bedroom house. My mom has no idea how I'm always broke, with a degree and a good job. Gee ma, you sold your house for $2 million and nan's house for $500,000. Huh. I live paycheck-to-paycheck with some savings because my rent is higher than any mortgage you ever had. And I have a roommate."
"I think about this a lot. Both my sets of grandparents were very, very working class, but they still owned their homes. My dad’s parents lived on my granddad’s factory paycheck and grandma didn’t work. Meanwhile, mum's parents both worked (Nana was a cleaner at the high school, and granddad drove taxis) and they could afford a lovely semi-detached house and holidays to France in the summer.
Like, what was the bar for 'not working hard enough' back then? I work two full-time jobs and I’m trying to get my master's degree while also making peace with the fact that I’m getting too old to start a family and I’ll never own a home because it’s too expensive."
And one Boomer actually jumped in to give their two cents:
"I'm a Boomer and I confirm everything you said is true. In 1976, I had a two-bedroom apartment for $75 a month. Utilities included. I worked part-time at a movie theater and my ex worked sporadically doing construction and odd jobs.
The economy is the worst I've ever seen. I don't know how people do it, especially people with kids. Ridiculous medical costs, college tuition, and skyrocketing housing costs, rapidly growing homeless population, and 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with no savings. Some people want to virtue signal and some are simply blind to the fact that the reality they grew up in no longer exists."
Overall, people felt very validated and seen. u/DannyHewson summed it up perfectly:
"Funny thing is, that generation gets upset when we say they had it easier. They don’t seem to get that we’re not saying, 'you didn’t work hard at your job' or, 'you shouldn’t have had what you did.' We’re saying, 'we want work to pay like it did for you.'"
What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever had a Boomer lecture you about finances, despite things being wildly different these days? Tell your stories in the comments.
Note: Responses have been edited for length/clarity.