If you want your thinking to stay fresh, you need to browse outside your regular route sometimes. For me, that means sometimes reading the automotive section of the newspaper, [among other things]. It was a rewarding detour, because there was an interview with Lee Eisenberg, author of the book The Number.
The Number is the amount of money we think we need to enjoy our post career lives. But it also symbolizes our success and social status in a very significant way. Eisenberg's book [which I confess I have not yet read] is about the different ways people think about and plan for their financial future.
Reading the interview got me thinking about the boomer demographic, who is now moving into another major life change. The impacts will be huge, and not just for the automotive sector.
The boom in births following WWII spanned approximately 1946-1965, according to Diane Galarneau writing for Statistics Canada. Writers divide the boom in different ways. Ms Galarneau divides it into those born from 1946-1955 (Wave 1) and those born between 1956-1965 (Wave 2).
Wave 1 women today are aged 52 to 61. Wave 2 women today are aged 42 to 51.
Wave 1 encountered better economic conditions and less competition in the labor force than Wave 2 women. But Wave 2 women were more likely to get out of exclusively clerical jobs, and had higher representation in professional and managerial work.
The rates of higher education also show fascinating differences. By the age of 35, only five per cent of pre-boom women had degrees; 13 per cent of Wave 1 women got degrees and 16 per cent of Wave 2 women earned them.
Wave 2 women had their children much later, on average. At every age (in an admittedly old study), she found that Wave 2 women were in the work force in larger percentages. The dual income family became a reality of life for most baby-boom women, and it hasn't gone away since.
So what does this all mean for customer experience? And why focus on the women?
The change in women's life circumstances during the last few decades has been one of the big drivers of change in society.
Unlike many of their mothers, these women will enter retirement having had a lifetime of dealing directly with money. They made their own money, they spent their own money, they saved their own money.
These are the women who have adopted any method possible to streamline their lives, and were the force behind everything from better frozen food to workplace daycare to franchised home-cleaning services.
Because of improvements in birth control, they were able to defer having children. This means, for many, that when they finally get their children off on their own, they are in the crunch years of saving for retirement. And they may also be caring for their own aging parents.
What these women decide they want for the next couple of decades of their lives will be interesting to watch unfold. For organizations that pay attention to their evolving needs, there are likely to be tremendous opportunities.
But we'll need to be paying attention. Like every other cohort group, the boomers will bring their values and their history along for the ride as they move through the stages of their lives.
Globe & Mail interview by Michael Vaughan, "How to enjoy that long post-retirement road", June 14 2007. Not generally available without a subscription. http://www.globeandmail.com
The Number: A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life, by Lee Eisenberg, 2006. ISBN 13: 978-0743270311
Baby Boom Women, Diane Galarneau, Statistics Canada Report, 1994