The Crack Generation: It's Not What You Think It Is!

The Baby Boom is the 800-pound gorilla of American demographics.  Nonetheless, a crack does divide the first and second halves of the Boom from each other, separating the economic outcomes of the older group (and their philanthropic potential, too) from that of the younger cohort.  

The biggest demographic group from a philanthropic standpoint today is not the Baby Boom. It is the combination of the Silent Generation, and the first half of the Baby Boom, together.  

This large group is distinguished not only by its comparative wealth, which is spread widely if not evenly throughout the cohort, but by another characteristic. They are planners when it comes to money and finance.

The Early Boomers (born 1946 through early 1950s) and the Silent Generation, (born between 1930 and the end of World War II in 1945) share the distinction of being the wealthiest cohort in American history. The Later Boomers (born early 1950s through 1964) do not match up the same way.

A few data points are illustrative: Both the Silent Generation and the early Boomers, managed by their mid-50s to accumulate assets roughly equal to three times their annual salary as a group, adjusted for inflation. Late Boomers, by contrast, scraped together just less than twice their annual salary, adjusted for inflation, by the same point in their lives. 

Late Boomers (born after the early 50s) largely missed the postwar golden years, struggling first with inflation, then years of wage stagnation from the 1980s onward.

Studies also show that individuals in the Early Boom/Silent Generation tend to be proactive, thinking about, and acting on, their financial future to a greater degree than those before and since, even correcting for levels of wealth.

So, evidence suggests that people born between around 1930 and 1952 share notable characteristics that set them apart from cohorts born before or since.

What does this mean for you as a fundraiser?

You should concentrate much of your effort on this group, as a group. Anyone in this age range who has made it onto your list is likely to have some resources. This group includes almost everyone still living who is much past age 60.

And, the planners in this group may well be open to planned gifts, and react positively to non-profits who make personal finance part of their communications.

So, whether you call them Crackers or not, they deserve your focus. And it might not hurt to let a little personal finance break into your outreach with this group. For example, the springtime is likely to be when your oldest (and many of your wealthiest) supporters are deciding how and when to spend their required annual distribution from their retirement accounts.

Wouldn’t it be great if they gave some to your organization?


Bradley Purcell, JD,  Consulting Associate, West Avenue Associates

Copyright J. Bradley Purcell 2015