A little more than a decade ago, my wife and I were enjoying our annual vacation to Cape Cod, with our one-year-old daughter in tow. One evening, we were eating at a cozy family restaurant that was really a little too cozy – the tables were so tight that other patrons kind of hovered over you while they were trying to make their way to their table. We didn’t mind, though, and our daughter was soundly sleeping in her carrier, so all was well.
In the middle of dinner, a group of patrons who looked to be in their 70s made their way past our table and as they did, the lady bringing up the rear looked at our girl and asked, “Is that your daughter?”
“Yes she is,” I replied proudly. “Oh,” she replied. “Was she planned?”
I was gobsmacked. Planned? I’ll take “Questions I never thought I’d have to answer” for $1,000, Alex. “Yes,” I answered.
“Mm-hmm,” she said, noticing that I was wearing a Bucknell sweatshirt. “And did you attend Bucknell?”
“No,” I said. My sister-in-law did. I attended Washington & Lee. But Bucknell is a great school, too.
“I didn’t think so,” the lady sneered, and then moved on. To this day, when my wife wants to get my goat over something, she simply looks down her nose at me and says, “I didn’t think so.”
I like telling this story because, in hindsight, it’s pretty funny. It is also the rudest thing ever said to me, and being a professional journalist, that’s saying something. All kidding aside, though, at that time, a lot of my friends really did think my wife and I were insane to be having kids at our age, even though I was 30. I suppose to the lady in the restaurant, I looked a lot younger than that. But even today, when we meet with the parents of our kids’ friends, they usually have anywhere from five to 10 years on me. My wife and I had kids at a time when we realized we would never be fully prepared for parenthood (who is?). Plus, we were playing the long game: we wanted to be able to play with our grandkids, too. Now, folks don’t consider our timing so crazy.
Such thinking might not be a luxury afforded to many of my fellow GenXers and the Millennials who have followed. Thanks to nearly a decade of economic turmoil, a lot of people in my age bracket are well past their 30th birthday without sight of any of the life changes - marriage, house, kids - that tend to make one serious about life insurance and financial planning.
Frankly, it all makes me wonder if perhaps the really serious demographic issue facing this industry isn’t the “silver tsunami” of the Boomers all getting old at once, but the dead zone that’s going to follow when GenXers and Millennials hit middle age 10 to 15 years behind on their plans to send their kids to college, to arrange a decent retirement and to ensure that their families are protected in case of tragedy. In the meantime, my little family will keep on keeping on, looking around and wondering, where are the people our own age? Was this planned?