We know that every generation is different. How we grew up and the times we grew up in shape our view of life, religion and everything else. I belong to the Baby Boomer generation (will explain more what that is) – a generation that saw the biggest economic boom and is likely the generation to-date that has accumulated the most wealth. So what about the rest? Let me walk you through.
- My parents belong to what is called the Pioneer Generation (in America, they are referred to as the Greatest Generation), born before the end of World War 2, which makes them over 70 today. They grew up in a time when getting a telephone landline for your home is something to brag about. In Singapore, they grew up in the the very formative years of our nation and saw a lot of turmoil and change. They are frugal people who knew uncertain times but worked hard so that their kids will have a better life. They lived through a time of scarcity, including the basics such as education and healthcare — but are not the complaining or whining generation. This generation has grit. As a result of inflation and little savings, this generation also sadly needs a lending hand from our government.
- The Baby Boomers, named after the spike in the number of babies born thanks to the post-war peace premium, are those born between 1946 and 1964 and are in their mid-fifties through early-seventies. Man’s first step on the moon is probably the global event that this generation has etched in their minds because of the images in black and white television that broadcast live. In Singapore, the Baby Boomers benefited from the fastest growth in household income as Singapore made it’s climb to join the ranks of the First World. We most associate our time with the rapid growth of HDB housing, which became an integral part of our lives — and saw what was then big infrastructure projects such as the PIE and MRT. The Baby Boomers continue to be a very significant contributor to the economy even as they retire and will do so for many years – being the generation that will probably live longer than generations past.
- Gen Xers are born between 1965 and 1979, and are sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials. The world event that probably impacted them the most is 9/11 — when so much of the world as they know it changed when the world’s most powerful nation was attacked on its own soil. The Gen X is also the last generation that can remember a computer-free life and saw the ascension of Apple and Microsoft — and the rise of the internet. They are also the bridge between the analog and digital world. Gen X is also poorer than their parents because they saved less in part because of having to take care of their kids and their ageing parents (and VISA and MASTERCARD is also partly to blame!). Probably the most famous GenXer is Elon Musk (born in 1971), the brash dreamer and genius that created Tesla and Space X.
- The Millennials are born from 1980 to 2000, and generally welcomed the 21st century as young adults. The most significant trait is that this generation is the first digital native generation – they grew up after the birth of the internet. Technology has changed almost all aspects of this generation’s life — from the way they learn to the way they communicate. Unlike their parents, they hardly get their news from television as we know it and almost everything in their world is on demand. Digital media has also loosened their connections to traditional institutions such as government and religious organizations and are more liberal and open to ideas and beliefs coming from all corners of the world. This generation also cares more for social justice and the environment, and are able to effectively use digital media to connect and champion their causes. In terms of work, they are less attracted to the traditional career or big companies with life time employment – and some have embraced the “gig-economy” offering greater freedom between work-and-life balance. The most famous Millennial is probably the iconic Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Faceboook.
- The budding next generation is called the iGen, those born after 2000. Some refer to this as the “app generation”. To them, there is literally an app for everything. They also grew up during the boom of video games, e-commerce and live streaming. The iGen’s life revolves around the next release of the iPhone and has probably never seen a rotary dial telephone or cassette tape player. Since technology is interwoven in every aspect of their life, they are most likely to challenge traditional ways of learning. Politically, this generation will probably be the most open minded generation and less bothered with traditional divisions in terms of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Sadly in America, this is also the generation that grew up knowing school shootings as a norm!