Older Versus Younger Boomers

Some older Baby Boomers say that if you weren’t subject to the military draft during the Vietnam War, you’re not really a Baby Boomer.

But demographers chart “generations” in 18-year cycles, so those born in 1964 are lumped together with those born in 1946.

Boomers born between 1946 and 1955 are often called Leading Edge boomers. Some call them the “me” generation.

Those born between 1955 and 1964 are called Echo Boomers, or the “me too” generation.

Born in 1946?

Think Jimmy Buffett, Liza Minelli, Naomi Judd, Pat Sajak, Sally Fields or Tommy Lee Jones. They were too.

Born in 1964?

Think David Spade, Courtney Cox, Cedric the Entertainer, Lenny Kravitz or Jose Canseco.

Leading Edge boomers may regard Peter Fonda as a countercultural icon for his starring role in 1969’s Easy Rider, but in fact his daughter - actress Bridget - is the Baby Boomer of the family, born in 1964. (Fonda himself was born in 1939.)

A Canadian group, Certified Senior Advisors, puts it differently: “A person aged 45 differs greatly from someone aged 60! A person aged 65 differs greatly from someone aged 85 or 95 plus. Think about it, how much do you have in common with a person 20 years older or younger than you are at the age you are today, very little.”

“You do not think like someone 20 years younger, or older, and you certainly do not want to be treated the same as someone 20 years younger or older.”

Last February, James Quinn, a senior director of strategic planning at The Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania, wrote a provocative essay, “Baby Boomers - Your Generation’s Crisis Has Arrived.”

Referring to Leading Edge Boomers, Quinn wrote, “Their Mousketeer ears and Leave It to Beaver lives of the 1950s were brought to an abrupt, confidence-shattering end with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.”

The Vietnam war, the assassinations of RFK and MLK followed, as did campus riots, the Kent State Massacre, rampant drug use and promiscuous sex.

“The end of this period in 1984 was marked by the classification of the then-25 to 35 year old Baby Boom generation as Yuppies,” Quinn wrote. “Young, upwardly mobile professionals were characterized accurately in the movie The Big Chill, the novel The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe and the TV show Thirtysomething. These were not flattering portrayals.”

Leading Edge boomers came of age during a time of affordable housing, easy acceptance to colleges and good job markets. The youngest boomers spent their formative years mired in deeper recessions, crowded workplaces and, now, outsourced jobs.

Watch "Tom Brokaw Reports: Boomer$!", Thursday, March 4 at 9pm ET on CNBC. The program will also air Saturday, March 6 at 7pm ET; Sunday, March 7th at 9pm ET; and Monday, March 8th at 8pm ET.