Believe it or not, several surveys offering offbeat comparisons between boomers and their millennial children indicate that they share more commonalities than you might think.
Take wasting money. Both generations cite eating out as an unnecessary expense. More than half of boomers and three-quarters of millennials agree that they spend too much money in restaurants. Also topping the list: throwing out uneaten or expired food, with about 30 percent of both generations admitting that they waste money by not planning better.
The takeaway: Invite your kids for dinner and then send them home with the leftovers. You'll both save money: Eating one less meal out can save up to $600 annually.
While we often read about the generational differences in technology use, several surveys found similarities. Millennials might have a mobile device glued to their hands, but boomers are not far behind as heavy consumers of online media. More than 65 percent of boomers use Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center, and a Google survey reveals the majority check their profiles daily. As far as text messaging, 85 percent of boomers send an average of 80 text messages per month. Of course that's a lot less than millennials — most top that in a day!
However, when it comes to using technology during mealtimes, boomers lead the pack. A Nielsen survey shows that more than 50 percent admit to checking a phone, computer or TV during dinner, compared with 40 percent of millennials.
In a cautionary note, another survey found that while millennials might text more when driving, it's more dangerous for boomers to text and drive. A Wayne State University study found that older, more experienced drivers — even those very adept at texting — are more likely to lose control of the car. "There is something unique to the distraction of texting that makes older and more mature drivers worse at it," notes the Washington Post.
Another generational touchstone is classic rock. Although millennials flock to their electronic music festivals, they still buy tickets to concerts headlined by 60- and 70-year-olds like the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett. These boomer bands rank among the top 15 biggest earners on the Forbes list of highest-paid musicians. Why do our kids love classic rock? Perhaps because so many grew up with a classic rock soundtrack played constantly by their parents. Even today, those songs are often the background music for contemporary movies and TV shows.
This data does not surprise Cam Marston, CEO of Generational Insights. Even in the workplace — where differences are often emphasized — there are similarities, he says. "Both boomers and millennials are very social beings and very attuned to building consensus," Marston says. Still, the motivations are different. Boomers are "team builders" seeking everyone to be on the same page with goals. Millennials have a "herd mentality" that started in kindergarten classrooms with desks facing one another. "They are most comfortable with other people, not so much for team building, but for the social environment."
Putting the differences into context, Marston believes that millennials also share a lot with their parents when it comes to making career and life decisions. His research finds that they are just taking longer, and suggests adding five years to expectations about milestones. What a boomer accomplished by 25 will often not happen until 30 with a millennial. "The affluent society they grew up in allows them to take their time growing up and gives the freedom to stay younger longer," he says.
Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. A New York University journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at http://Mothering21.com