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Loosened Family Ties Haunt Baby Boomer Vanguard Reaching Age 60
Newhouse News ^ | 4/21/2006 | Kathleen O'Brien

Posted on 04/21/2006 11:56:05 AM PDT by Incorrigible

Early baby boomers Claudia and Jim Burns will celebrate their third anniversary this year. It is her third marriage, his second. (Photo by Sylwia Kapuscinski)

Loosened Family Ties Haunt Baby Boomer Vanguard Reaching Age 60

BY KATHLEEN O'BRIEN

 

At first, the only thing setting the earliest baby boomers apart was their sheer number.

They acted much like their parents' generation when it came to life's milestones. By age 20, nearly half of the first wave of boomers were married. Once married, they started having children.

The similarity ended there.


Now, as the boomers born in 1946 reach age 60, they have experienced more family disruption than their parents could have imagined. Love has been a bumpy journey.

As a result, they head into their senior years far more likely to be divorced, remarried, cohabiting or living alone. Demographers warn such disruption could leave this generation with weaker family ties, making them more vulnerable as they age and need help.

"Many of these ties are going to be frail," says Mary Elizabeth Hughes, a Duke University sociologist who has studied the boomers. "They don't have the glue that previous ties did."

While every generation has seen some of its members divorce, remarry or live alone, those numbers are all bigger for the group Hughes calls the "early boomers," those born from 1946 to 1955.

Consider Jim and Claudia Burns of Whippany, N.J. These two "class of '46" boomers have five marriages between them. She's on her third; he's on his second.

Claudia isn't exactly proud of her two previous divorces, but she isn't ashamed of them, either. "I have a theory," she says philosophically. "I believe I needed a different husband for each stage of my life. I feel like there was a reason for each person."

As she and Jim approach their third wedding anniversary this June, she says emphatically: "This time is it. We just know it."

Sociologist Hughes says of the 1946-55 babies, "We're rewriting the books here":

 -- They are twice as likely to live alone as their parents' generation. While the percentage is not huge -- just 11 percent -- it reflects a striking break with the past.


Hughes is quick to say she doesn't equate living alone with being lonely, or being without support. "You could be living alone but you could have tons of friends filling the gap. Living alone is only one piece of the puzzle -- a huge piece. But other social connections matter, too," she says. "When living alone becomes a problem is if you need help."

 -- By age 40, a third of early boomer women were divorced. By contrast, only 13 percent of their parents' generation were divorced by that age.

It is a myth, however, that early boomers began the divorce revolution. Their older siblings, the War Babies of 1936-45, were the generation that actually led the upsurge in divorce. But early boomers then went on to surpass them. (And their rate was topped in turn by the younger boomers, those born 1956-64.)

Many of those divorced boomers remarried -- but not all. "Remarriage rates for them are on the high side, but not high enough to compensate for all the divorces," Hughes says.

 -- Raised to look on cohabitation as "shacking up," early boomers nonetheless came to adopt living together as an acceptable way to form a family. Even in middle age, 4 percent were living with non-relatives; the figure was a paltry 1 percent for their parents.

"It simply wasn't in people's repertoire," Hughes says. "Now, however, people view it as an option." With the children grown, couples no longer need marriage to confer legitimacy on their offspring, and they may well want to remain single to protect pension benefits or inheritances. (An unknown amount of the cohabiting reflects gay relationships.)

By far the most common living arrangement for those turning 60 this year is the traditional one: living with one's spouse. In the 2000 Census, such a family configuration accounted for 61 percent of early boomer households -- an 11 percent drop from their parents at that same stage in life.

While some of those are second or even third marriages, many are couples still in first marriages and coming up on their 40th anniversaries.

Claudia Burns, the boomer now on her third -- "and last!" -- marriage, says her first husband was instrumental in helping her reach her goal of becoming a teacher. He was from what she describes as "the right side of the tracks," and his mother was a teacher.

That marriage foundered 10 years later as she felt his support wane. By then, the couple had two children. It took her only six months to decide on divorce; it didn't occur to her to try marriage counseling. "In hindsight, I didn't give him a chance," she says.

Her second marriage lasted 25 years -- many of them unhappy as strains developed over her "warm and fuzzy" mate's de facto role as a househusband. Still, she resisted divorce for years until it was obvious counseling had failed.

"I thought, `Two is bad. I am not going to be divorced again. I am not going to be Elizabeth Taylor!"' she says.

She and Jim met when she was a last-minute guest at a friend's New Year's Eve party in Atlanta, where she lived at the time. Jim was there visiting his adult children and had a flight home the next day. He called her that evening -- and every day they were apart since then. Their long-distance courtship was high-tech, with Saturday night "dates" on the Internet, using web cameras.

This time, she believes, she has finally gotten it right -- both in her choice of mate and in her expectations. "We haven't had a single fight," she says.

The level of divorce experienced by the early boomers is worrisome, Hughes says, because marital status affects both health and wealth.

Married people live longer. The divorced are at greater risk for health problems, even after remarriage. Demographers call it divorce's "health scar." Finances take a big hit as well, as the family's assets are spread over two households.

The concern is that such continued churning of family roles may make some extended families less likely to help once old age sets in.

Will adult children look after an elderly step-parent with the same devotion they would show a parent? If Mom remarries, then dies, will her children feel obliged to look after her second husband?

If the remarriage took place when the children were small, the resulting bonds may be as strong as blood ties, Hughes says. But if the remarriage happens after the kids have left the nest, what then?

In some divorces, the father ends up seeing far less of his children -- a problem that has always been viewed from the perspective of the needs of the child. But what about later in life, when the tables turn?

"We're used to thinking about dads who abandon their kids," Hughes says. "Well, when those guys are old, they're not going to have their kids around to help."

Compounding that worry is speculation that boomers may continue their pattern of "serial monogamy" even as they become senior citizens.

Divorce is traditionally rare among the elderly; the stress of child-rearing is over, and any marriage lasting so long is likely to be hearty anyway. So there is reason to believe the oldest boomers are done with divorce.

Yet that may be an outdated assumption. After all, says Hughes, this generation upended expectations at every stage of life. It may continue to divorce, remarry or cohabit well into old age.


Claudia Burns is sure she won't be one of those, in part because each of her two previous divorces taught her essential lessons about marriage. "This time, when we married, we didn't try to change each other," she says.

April 21, 2006

(Kathleen O'Brien is a staff writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. She can be contacted at kobrien@starledger.com.)

Not for commercial use.  For educational and discussion purposes only.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: New Jersey
KEYWORDS: babyboomers; boomers; genx

And according to most studies, Baby Boomers do not have sufficient savings to last them for their expected lifetimes given that they will still likely see 65 as a retirement point.

Then you have the the above confusion about who's kids are going to take care of who; when in fact, the kids are going to be working so hard to pay taxes to support all these Boomers that they won't have time to take care of them!

1 posted on 04/21/2006 11:56:09 AM PDT by Incorrigible
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To: qam1
Click here to see how Baby Boomers have even messed up the lives of their children, not just their own lives:

Woe Is Me, Me, Me [Generation X/Reagan]

 

2 posted on 04/21/2006 11:57:24 AM PDT by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: Incorrigible

As ye sow, so shall ye reap!


3 posted on 04/21/2006 11:58:55 AM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: Incorrigible
Claudia Burns is sure she won't be one of those, in part because each of her two previous divorces taught her essential lessons about marriage. "This time, when we married, we didn't try to change each other," she says.

I would be very wary of marrying anyone already twice divorced. Of course the advantage is that as people age, I think their expectations wrt a spouse are more realistic (lower?). Good luck to her and her third husband!

4 posted on 04/21/2006 12:03:20 PM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: Incorrigible
"I have a theory," she says philosophically. "I believe I needed a different husband for each stage of my life. I feel like there was a reason for each person."

A very telling comment, which I think encapsulates the problem with those who identify themselves as "boomers" (which is not everybody born during that time period, btw).

This is essentially an "all about me" mentality that reached its pinnacle with people like Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich.

5 posted on 04/21/2006 12:04:51 PM PDT by r9etb
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To: Rummyfan

X gen kids expect parents to make it on Social Security.


6 posted on 04/21/2006 12:06:10 PM PDT by ClaireSolt (.)
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To: Incorrigible

Look closer and you'll see the left's destructive take over during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, was led by the WWII generation, not a bunch of children and teenagers.


7 posted on 04/21/2006 12:15:21 PM PDT by ansel12
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To: Incorrigible

Now that they need the family, they regret having destoryed it when it was convenient for them.


8 posted on 04/21/2006 12:21:21 PM PDT by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along.)
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To: Incorrigible
This time, she believes, she has finally gotten it right -- both in her choice of mate and in her expectations. "We haven't had a single fight," she says.

Is this suppossed to be a sign of a healthy relationship to her? Man, no wonder she has had so many husbands. Sounds like she still has a lot of work to do, which means more life stages and according to her she has a new husband for each life stage so . . . I think we all know where this one is heading. Right now she must be going through the "i don't fight with my husband and thus it must be right" life stage. I can't wait until she hits the I am a sinner that is humble before God and I fear his wrath thus I get down on my knees and pray for his forgiveness and guidance each day according to His word stage, although I won't hold my breath.

The level of divorce experienced by the early boomers is worrisome, Hughes says, because marital status affects both health and wealth. Married people live longer. The divorced are at greater risk for health problems, even after remarriage

Maybe the new survival of the fittest! Who would of thunk, way back in the nasty little sixties that the fittest were the one's with the gonies to marry and stay married. It is easy to run away all the time and blame others, maybe this laziness will die out with their species.

As far as the money, I now see these guys in wheelchairs organizing in the streets demanding the richer married folks pay for them to live and get healthcare and their children, knowing they won't inherit anything marching along with them, but only for the money so they can continue to not have jobs and play video games at fifty.

9 posted on 04/21/2006 12:39:26 PM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: Incorrigible; ItsOurTimeNow; PresbyRev; tortoise; Fraulein; StoneColdGOP; Clemenza; m18436572; ...
Xer Ping

Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.

Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.

10 posted on 04/21/2006 12:41:51 PM PDT by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: Incorrigible
I believe I needed a different husband for each stage of my life. I feel like there was a reason for each person.

Let us reword the marriage vow, then (and see who takes the bait for marrying this bimbo).

"Do you take this man....."

"Well, for a little while, until I reach a new stage of my life, at least".
11 posted on 04/21/2006 12:42:51 PM PDT by cgbg (When you hear the words "gender" or "stakeholder" run for your life!)
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To: cgbg

Love it! LOL. It is so true.


12 posted on 04/21/2006 12:47:12 PM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: Incorrigible

Marriage takes sacrifice and putting someone else's interests first-- something the Me Generation didn't learn. They're reaping what they they sowed.


13 posted on 04/21/2006 1:12:43 PM PDT by mikeus_maximus (Welcome to Meximerica, courtesy of the GOP.)
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To: Incorrigible

"Many of these ties are going to be frail," says Mary Elizabeth Hughes, a Duke University sociologist who has studied the boomers. "They don't have the glue that previous ties did."


You make your bed then you sleep in it.


14 posted on 04/21/2006 1:57:31 PM PDT by TalBlack
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To: r9etb

Although Bill has had one long marriage, and Newt's up to number three so far. ;)


15 posted on 04/21/2006 2:02:41 PM PDT by linda_22003
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To: cgbg

"I believe I needed a different husband for each stage of my life. I feel like there was a reason for each person."

It's almost funny that there is no recognition in this remark of ANOTHER person in the union.

Almost...


16 posted on 04/21/2006 2:03:58 PM PDT by TalBlack
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To: Incorrigible
It took her only six months to decide on divorce; it didn't occur to her to try marriage counseling. "In hindsight, I didn't give him a chance," she says.

While thankfully we never get all that we deserve we do have to at least pay part of the bill.

When you treat people as disposable commodities to be used and tossed it will come back to bite you.

17 posted on 04/21/2006 2:13:28 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (Ditch the 1967 Outer Space Treaty! I want my own space bar and grill)
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To: Incorrigible

Thats where euthanasia will come in!!!!


18 posted on 04/21/2006 3:23:29 PM PDT by fishbabe
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To: linda_22003

Don't you mean one long "marriage of convenience"?


19 posted on 04/21/2006 3:31:25 PM PDT by GadareneDemoniac
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To: Incorrigible
Will adult children look after an elderly step-parent with the same devotion they would show a parent?

I do not expect my step daughter to take care of me. I have faith in the Old Soldiers Home – before I retired I made sure a lot of troops contributed to it.
20 posted on 04/21/2006 3:37:50 PM PDT by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink)
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To: R. Scott

This is a sad trend of divorce being so common.

I thik people's expecations of what marriage is and what marriage should be has changed. Divorce was once a last resort, or shameful, now it's no big deal.

But then again, close families like "The Waltons" were not common even in the old days. In so many families, people don't get along, or do something to cause family rifts. That was true in the old days and still true today. So as far as having family to take care of you in your old age, that was always problematical.


21 posted on 04/21/2006 4:29:48 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
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To: Incorrigible; qam1

I had a chilling dream about some time, perhaps 30 or 35 years in the future, where, due to the impact of all the aging Boomers, the government / the sheeple had created something along the line of giant refugee camps or slightly more elegent than hobo camp places. To be fair, there were solid buildings and OK facilties, at least military or hospital grade. The deal was, by law, everyone had to move to these places at say, age 72. The idea was cost containment by amassing the aged. Things like mass bathing in heavily chlorinated water with detergent, etc with no segregation of the sexes. Mess hall eating, etc. Sort of like old folks homes of a truly massive scale. Could it happen? I say it could. I woke up in a cold sweat from that dream.


22 posted on 04/21/2006 4:46:46 PM PDT by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: GOP_1900AD
Things like mass bathing in heavily chlorinated water with detergent, etc with no segregation of the sexes.

Fascinating. It makes sense not segregating them as you can barely tell the difference between the men and women in the boomers generation and on. They have themselves to thank for that. Prescient dream-just hope my taxes don't have to pay for their dorm facilities.

23 posted on 04/21/2006 5:30:26 PM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: Dilbert San Diego
Divorce was once a last resort, or shameful, now it's no big deal.

When I was a youngun long ago divorce was not only a last resort, it was something only the rich celebrities did. Regular people went out of their way to hide it. A woman who was divorced might as well have walked around with a large scarlet “A” on her chest.
My own parents came close several times, but stayed together “for the sake of the children”. I often wondered how my father stuck it out.
24 posted on 04/22/2006 3:14:09 AM PDT by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink)
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To: Rummyfan
Of course the advantage is that as people age, I think their expectations wrt a spouse are more realistic (lower?).

Or they become better at choosing for the right reasons – and not just because “We look so good together”.
25 posted on 04/22/2006 3:16:31 AM PDT by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink)
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To: ClaireSolt
X gen kids expect parents to make it on Social Security.

Possibly some do, but many are just so used to sponging off their parents they can not conceive of a time when the sponge will go dry. They believe it is the parent’s responsibility to take care of the offspring – forever.
26 posted on 04/22/2006 3:19:08 AM PDT by R. Scott (Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your Intelligence to buy a drink)
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To: GadareneDemoniac

That's the way it looks. I learned a long time ago, though, that I have my hands full understanding what's going on in my own marriage, let alone anyone else's. :)


27 posted on 04/22/2006 5:10:23 AM PDT by linda_22003
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To: GOP Poet

Your generational snippiness is duly noted. We Boomers did not ask our parents to have so many children; most of us would have been delighted to be only children (like me). Don't worry about paying for my dorm room; like many Boomers, I'm saving and investing - and inheriting - so I won't be your responsibility. My oil stock alone made me about ten thousand dollars this week. ;)


28 posted on 04/22/2006 5:15:50 AM PDT by linda_22003
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To: linda_22003
Your generational snippiness is duly noted.

Snippiness is an interesting word choice here. Disgust is probably a word I would use to define my feelings about the boomers--having grown up in the sh--culture that they redefined. If someone came into my home as a baby and killed my whole family and then raised me to disregard God and all things precious and beautiful, I may one day after waking up and realizing I had been trapped and brainwashed and my family destroyed, feel a certain amount of deep anguish. This anguish and sadness would exist for a time even though if I would have responsibly made the neccesary corrections to get back on the right path.

We Boomers did not ask our parents to have so many children; most of us would have been delighted to be only children (like me). Don't worry about paying for my dorm room;

As mentioned above my strong feelings of dislike for the generation overall has no connection to the quantity of its members, but the results of their actions.

like many Boomers, I'm saving and investing - and inheriting - so I won't be your responsibility. My oil stock alone made me about ten thousand dollars this week. ;)

Thank God. At least you are a boomer capitalist. I commend this self responsibility and I applaud your great success! So many boomers preach socialists ideals and blame. It is not my job to judge you personally, as I don't even know you. But I do with good experience--having grown up with seven brothers and sisters that are boomers (yes, seven)and--having lived in the the boomers cultural dregs, judge boomers destructive contributions to our country and world. Selfish self-centeredness captures much of it.

29 posted on 04/24/2006 3:42:03 PM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: TalBlack

That was my thought, all about her and what she needed. What about her husbands and their needs? YEESH! How selfish!


30 posted on 04/24/2006 3:49:10 PM PDT by kalee
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To: linda_22003
Upon rereading your earlier note, I think you were being playful and announcing also your great success, which is wonderful. In writing this a word--Boomer Apologist--came to mind, kind of like the Christian Apologists. It could be a whole new category :-). Either way, please forgive me if you were just sparing innocently with me, sometimes when I read things I misinterpret the intention and if I have please accept my apology. If not the other email still applies :). Best to you!
31 posted on 04/25/2006 1:42:45 AM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: GOP Poet

"with good experience--having grown up with seven brothers and sisters that are boomers (yes, seven)and--having lived in the the boomers cultural dregs, judge boomers destructive contributions to our country and world. Selfish self-centeredness captures much of it."

I'm sorry you feel your siblings were raised so badly. I hope you'll do better with your own.


32 posted on 04/25/2006 5:05:40 AM PDT by linda_22003
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To: GOP Poet

Best to you, too, but ultimately I don't get the point of demonizing a generation. It seems to be a great sport around here, though.


33 posted on 04/25/2006 5:06:33 AM PDT by linda_22003
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To: Incorrigible

I see a few points left out of here. I am second generation American. I grew up in a community from the same heritage. The communities were interdependent on each other. Property taxes, zoning, chain stores and eminent domain crushed the communities. I think that had an effect on crushing bonds and ties too.


34 posted on 04/25/2006 5:16:01 AM PDT by Calpernia (Breederville.com)
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To: Incorrigible
Demographers warn such disruption could leave this generation with weaker family ties, making them more vulnerable as they age and need help.

These are the years for boomers to regret the abortions they had in their youth.

35 posted on 04/25/2006 5:17:20 AM PDT by Aquinasfan (When you find "Sola Scriptura" in the Bible, let me know)
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To: ansel12

I think that is about the time media propaganda started digging it's roots in too. I'm still shocked to this day how many women read those brain washing magazines about how their lives should be.


36 posted on 04/25/2006 5:19:07 AM PDT by Calpernia (Breederville.com)
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To: GOP Poet

Yep, I fear for my future tax rate ....


37 posted on 04/27/2006 4:32:59 PM PDT by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: linda_22003
I'm sorry you feel your siblings were raised so badly. I hope you'll do better with your own.

My brothers and sisters were not raised badly and after my kindness towards you, I certainly do not appreciate this cheap shot. Another example of the lack of respect and kindness coming from this generation's behavior. The more I am in conversation with you and can see why it is hard to grasp the anger toward the boomers.

As far as my own children, I, my darling, believed the lies of the boomers that I could have it all and put off both marriage and children until it became much to late for me. I tried unsuccessfully. Now I will not be one of the blessed few to have a gift of a child. This is not blame, but an acknowledgment that feminism preaching and effects on our culture leaves many scars. May your money keep you happy love.

38 posted on 04/27/2006 5:19:30 PM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: GOP_1900AD
Yep, I fear for my future tax rate ....Gives me stomach pangs just thinking about it.
39 posted on 04/27/2006 5:20:50 PM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: Incorrigible
Baby Boomers do not have sufficient savings to last them for their expected lifetimes given that they will still likely see 65 as a retirement point.

Many of them may even be stupid enough to think SSI will help them.

PS: I am a late Boomer.

40 posted on 04/27/2006 5:24:08 PM PDT by freedumb2003 (Don't call them "Illegal Aliens." Call them what they are: CRIMINAL INVADERS!)
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Comment #41 Removed by Moderator

To: GOP Poet
Now I will not be one of the blessed few to have a gift of a child

God knows what he is doing.

42 posted on 04/27/2006 6:04:00 PM PDT by Snoopers-868th (Send-a-Brick.com. Send a brick to Washington to help build a wall on the Southern border.)
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