“History Creates Generations, Generations Create History”

Published on
February 11th, 2020
46 minutes

“History Creates Generations, Generations Create History”

The Interview ·
Featuring Neil Howe

Published on: February 11th, 2020 • Duration: 46 minutes

Neil Howe, author of "The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny" and managing director of demography at Hedgeye, joins Real Vision's Ed Harrison to discuss the demographic forces shaping the coming retirement crisis and the future of America. As one of the world's foremost demographers, Howe breaks down the collective personality of generations – what he calls "generational archetypes" – and explains why he's optimistic about the future relationship between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Filmed on February 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C.



  • RP
    Raoul P. | Founder
    11 February 2020 @ 11:38
    I strongly agree with Neils observations about multi-generational household becoming the norm again. I think that is tremendously positive as Mil's and BB's get along so well (there was no generational rebellion). A household with grand parents, parents and kids all together allows 2 to 3 incomes, child care, home maintenance, pooled savings, using cheaper large houses (avoids the debt trap) and so much more. It is the way of humans for a few hundred thousand years, or more. In my mind, 50% of all the Retirement crisis is alleviated if families moved in together. It is that big a deal.
    • SC
      Sejong C.
      11 February 2020 @ 13:38
      That was how it was several decades ago in many Asian countries, and perhaps even in Western countries, when agriculture was the main driving force of the economy. Workforce was rooted to the land, and living among many close relatives was natural. With people seeking jobs in various sectors nowadays, would returning to the past be possible? This would be an interesting thing to observe for the many years to come.
    • DS
      David S.
      11 February 2020 @ 19:01
      Multiple-generational housing is an economic reality. It is not psychological it is economic. Single family homes allowed freedom for both generations because both could afford a home. If housing were cheap, we would not have multi-generation in the same home. There are many other benefits to multi-generation homes in addition to economics. DLS
    • RA
      Robert A.
      11 February 2020 @ 20:55
      I offer a small anecdote Raoul in concurrence with your observation; three years ago I was able to help financially facilitate (to a small degree) the following arrangement by my Cousins living in another State—My 30 something cousin with a full time job and full time job wife and their two children bought 27 acres jointly with his 60 something Parents who were both in the process of retiring. They both sold their houses and he built two modest houses on the property for them to live in for an approximate financial push for them. They socialize together, tend their Garden together, the kids have access to their loving Grandparents with the attendant transfer of worthwhile values and my working cousins have transfer to and pick up from school (including after school activities) handled by my older retired Cousins who relish the responsibility. I have been stunned by just how seeming less and well the whole relationship has worked along with the obvious economic benefit for all of them. As a side note, I introduced my 30 something Cousin to RV and not only does he pridefully pay for his own subscription, but he has watched scores of the Videos that I “curate” for him—he loves RV and he and I have found another facet to our relationship by working together on his financial/investment education.
    • IO
      Indi O.
      11 February 2020 @ 21:41
      I grew up in a multi-generational home with my great-grandmother and grandparents present. My oldest niece lived with her great-great-grandmother until she was 8. Even now two of my sisters, their husbands, and one's youngest daughter (only 18) and another's youngest son (10) live with my mother. My house is 10 minutes away as is my sister's eldest daughter's home with her husband and 2 young children. There is another such clustering a half day's drive away, and that pretty much makes up my entire living family. I however, a Gen X'er, left home at 16 for boarding school and only just moved back (to a separate house near them all) less than a year ago after retiring early a couple years ago. I still plan to spend Summers and coming Winters abroad. So for my family experience it is mostly normal to live a multi-generational life unless you're the leading edge of the family, which thankfully my family considers me to be, going out collecting new information and resources to bring back to the entire tribe.
    • IZ
      Ileana Z.
      13 February 2020 @ 15:21
      Not to mention that families will be able to avoid the scam that is "assisted living"! It's the fastest way to drain every penny from whatever nest egg you mangaed to put together.
    • TC
      Thomas C.
      14 February 2020 @ 22:09
      Gen X-er here....i can take my mom for about 1.5 days and I have to go home to my own space. Could not live with any family members. Even a week would be tough!
    • BT
      Bryan T.
      2 June 2020 @ 20:53
      There is a good book that can help a family consider this living arrangement. Its called Together Again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multi-Generational Living by Sharon Graham Niederhaus and John L. Graham. Lots of moving parts to consider and this book helped me consider them.
  • JA
    Jordan A.
    12 February 2020 @ 04:05
    I'm a millennial and I don't relate with anything Niel says about my generation. Then again I'm likely an outlier among my generation.
    • TC
      Thomas C.
      14 February 2020 @ 22:13
      I agree. I'm gen-x and I think Millennial are way over stereotyped with the same old repeated (live at home, snowflake, communal). I think people just parrot this stuff because they heard someone else say it.
    • BT
      Bryan T.
      2 June 2020 @ 20:44
      Over stereotyped...you mean similar to the way Millenials think about all Baby Boomers?
  • JG
    Jory G.
    11 February 2020 @ 15:35
    Interesting discussion. I would like Mr. Howe to know that not all boomers got free rides. I was partially raised by a WW2 veteran who died when I was 15. I am now 70. I worked and paid for my college and for most of my two son's college educations. I and my employers also paid into social security for over 50 years and into medicare since it's inception. So did most of my peers. The programs may be underfunded but that is not our fault. And those programs are not entitlements other than in the sense that I am entitled to what I paid into the systems which should have been invested in some way instead or blown on other social programs, or I should have been allowed to opt out and invest the capital as I saw fit.
    • MG
      Michael G. | Contributor
      11 February 2020 @ 16:20
      Jory, it’s hard to have these conversations without offending someone. You are correct that you worked and contributed into a system and you are entitled to the benefits. However, you also were born into a politically stable, dominant economy and benefitted from access to healthcare, education and infrastructure that those before you did not have access to. The language of “you didn’t build that” is offensive, but correct. Unfortunately the system was built on flawed foundations to placate and distract the public and is incapable of continuing. Whether we choose to prop up the status quo for another round (my expectation) or face the music and pull together to improve the system (low probability) will ultimately determine the outcomes.
    • SW
      Scott W.
      11 February 2020 @ 17:25
      @Michael G. Part of the issue is the sweeping language Howe employs - "WE did this and WE did that" e.g. the Hoover dam. WE did not build the Hoover dam. The federal government did. That language espouses the positivist mindset - that a process (representative democracy in this case) lends legitimacy such that every individual party to that process owns and is responsible for the results and consequences. And that speaks perhaps to Jory's point about SS. The system is flawed from the outset, yes. But he was not given a choice regarding the disposition of that portion of HIS work output. It was imposed.
    • DS
      David S.
      11 February 2020 @ 19:28
      Michael G. - In comparison to the rest of the world, the US is still stable relatively. This will not last either. DLS
    • JF
      Jack F. | Real Vision
      12 February 2020 @ 02:28
      Thanks Jory for sharing your experience, and thank you Mike as always for sharing your views. This is exactly what Real Vision is about...
    • JB
      John B.
      12 February 2020 @ 19:55
      Michael is 100% correct and I'd like to add to what he said. Once again this isn't to say "all Boomers are bad people" my parents were Boomers and I loved them dearly til the last day of their lives. On a personal relationship level, we like you guys; y'all are pretty cool for the most part. And not every Millennial is a purple hair loser who can't keep a job because Twitter prevents them from properly operating an espresso machine. When we talk in big stripes everyone gets painted a little off. We aren't talking about you nearly as much as we are talking about a composite character of many people in your cohort. Millennials don't think that Boomers "didn't work hard", we know that you did. Most of us are your children, we've seen it our entire lives. The basic bottom line that Millennials want from Boomers is an admission that the world has changed and that we do NOT have the same level of opportunity that you did. We aren't lazy and frivolous, we face major structural impediments on a mass scale. Think of a stereotypical statement preceding an "OK Boomer" meme. "When I was your age I worked my own way through college with summer/part time jobs." At a $10/hr take home pay (so $12/hr job) it would take 1800 hours or 45 weeks of full time work to pay for tuition at my state university. I'm not at a fancy private school, I'm at a state university, the kind that are "affordable". This leaves me with $3360/per year to pay for rent, utilities and food. The cheapest apartments in my cheap town are $600/month after utilities and such even with roommates. That's 5 months of rent. It is literally impossible for someone of my generation to make enough money to pay their own way through college. The math does not work. The Millennial generation knows that we are exaggerating for effect, we know that not everyone is an Old Economy Steve without a clue. All that we really are asking is for a little recognition from Boomers that the world has changed and we face a much different situation than you did. The reason so many Millennials are upset is because no matter how many times we lay out the numbers there never seems to be any recognition that our struggles are real. Its all "avocado toast and craft beer" destroying the budgeting ability of kids who think they are special because they all got participation trophies. As though we awarded those trophies to ourselves and not our parents (who we had no control over). The Millennial generation is tired of being blamed and stereotyped based on problems and realities that we had 0 input in creating. All we want is an admission that we didn't create these problems, but we are having to live with them.
    • KC
      Kenneth C.
      13 February 2020 @ 13:43
      Jory, I missed being a boomer by a few years (Gen X I think), and one strong dividing line I see in boomers is those who went to Viet Nam and those who didn't. Most of the vets I knew were a throwback to the previous generation of their parents. My dad was not a vet. However both of my parents were children of parents who lived during the depression so there was this odd mix of frugality and later what I thought was stupid spending. We were the first on the block to have an Atari but my clothes were my dads hand me downs or Sears catalog store. So yes not everyone fits these generalizations
    • RS
      Richard S.
      13 February 2020 @ 21:02
      I am watching this along with most other RV content in the fear that catastrophe will make life way more difficult for us all, and I want to hedge this away. So the discussion is all good/ useful. However, most of the discussion is from people (incl. me) who are immensely privileged to be born into a wealthy country with immense existing infrastructure and social resources. Adjacent generations of wealthy people bleating about who had it easiest ... these are degrees of wealth and opportunity that most people can only dream of. Thank goodness I didn't have to serve in a war, dig my own wells, or grow food to survive. My teenage kids have wealth in material terms that is light years beyond my own teenage years, and we are not a 'wealthy family'. I recognise that for them the world is now a flatter more competitive place, but they have a head start in planetary terms that most would give a body part for, so feeling sorry for them is not going to help them. That said, we all the more should and must demand more professionalism from those managing our taxes or investment $.
    • JC
      Jason C.
      21 March 2020 @ 20:12
      @John B. Killed it, couldn't have said it better myself. Except, I'd add the younger generations (Gen X, Y, and Z) need to do more than just ask for a little recognition from the boomers. It is time for them to hand over the reigns. And simply put, if they do not like what we do with them then they must accept the responsibility for it, having raised us. The Baby Boomers have been in control of every major institution in our society for longer than any other generation in the history of our species, and possibly at a time when things are changing faster than ever before in our history, no less. I'd go into Greek mythology here, but I think the point has been well made.
    • JC
      Jason C.
      21 March 2020 @ 20:18
      @Richard S. I think you are conflating wealth and opportunity. I agree with you on one point though, feeling sorry for your kids will not help them.
  • RC
    Radigan C.
    15 February 2020 @ 02:39
    Mr. Howe is very well spoken and knows a wide variety of history. As I watched I found myself getting upset though, and trying to understand why, so here's the highlights. - I'm a Gen I millennial. All my buddies and I did years at war in the nearly two decades of GWOT. I have 27 months in Afghanistan. Risk adverse made me shake my head. - Also, when mentioning non-competitive, living at home, sharing etc. felt like it ignored the major driver of that reason which was Fed policy. It isn't because we like it. How would you like spending 27 months in Afghanistan, coming home to looking at houses under an hour to your work and there's nothing for less than $500k and realtors tell you with a straight face that it's ok, just use my VA loan, 0% down and just chain myself to a mountain of debt for the rest of my life? - Low interest and Fed policy is doing what the Taliban didn't and killing us out here and you think we like sharing and moving back home as a war vet. F*ck. - I kept hearing Baby Boomers held up as risk-takers, firm believers in capital markets and just shook my head. Lets not forget where my fellow millennials got their fondness for socialism. They learned from watching their parents lose their shit in the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and beg the government to step in and save them from their own bad decisions. Borrowing against your home to buy an RV? Are you kidding me? But hey, they got their way. - Meanwhile people like my parents who never have debt, lived well below their means and did the right thing every day of their lives saving money are getting killed along with the rest of us with low yield. - Honestly, just disappointed and frustrated and don't think its about generations. It's about it not being a free market anymore and all of us knowing the system is rigged with what the Fed and Politicians are doing. - So fed up I'd almost pull the lever for AOC next election just for a total reset. That's terrible to say, but I'm not the only one out of vet buddies thinking it and we were as stone cold capitalist as it comes, but this isn't capitalism that we have anymore anyways.
    • DS
      David S.
      15 February 2020 @ 07:52
      Thank you for your service. The world is crazy, which means it is very difficult to make any sense of it. DLS
    • TS
      Tamás S.
      16 February 2020 @ 16:08
      Millennial from eastern europe here -with the exception of being a warwet-, but with the exact same feelings about this interview. This "millennials are getting well with their BB parents and would like to live together" is such a bullshit. The BB generation is the synonym of selfish self-destruction here, just as is the US. Probably the most correct observation he made was that the generations are now globally synchronized, at least in the western world they seem to be.
    • WM
      William M.
      18 February 2020 @ 18:49
      this is a really excellent comment that helps explain a lot of what Neil misses with his overly generalized view of generations. I know so many that don't neatly fit all these big stereotypical generational categories. Yes there's some value in seeing various patterns throughout history but it does way oversimplify things.
    • JC
      Jason C.
      21 March 2020 @ 19:47
      Say it again for the people in the back
  • DL
    Doug L.
    10 March 2020 @ 02:33
    Low interest rate policy of the Fed has ballooned the price of housing and with it, rents. Might low interest rates explain millennial's remaining at home. Not to mention that the Federal Government's educational institution inflationary easy student loan money seemingly all has laden a great many millennial's with debt that gets in the way of paying being able to afford housing....
  • GG
    Georgi G.
    29 February 2020 @ 18:42
    Who’s Jean Storley?
  • TW
    Thomas W.
    21 February 2020 @ 17:54
    Worthwhile interview, and, on one particular point, I completely disagree. The idea that the politicians will suddenly get religion in the face of ballooning deficits and decide to cut spending is farfetched. And I'm using the mildest word I can think of. Reasons: Number 1 ... almost all these people love spending and kicking the can. That makes them de facto Keynesians, even if they don't have a clue about Keynes's theoretical constructs. Governments spend to make up for a loss in aggregate consumer demand. It's an article of faith. Warren Harding called BS on this kind of thinking and ended his depression in a matter of months, but what kind of regard to we hold Harding in? Historians spit on Harding. They wrongly claim Hoover caused the depression by not being interventionist enough. Think anyone today wants to get hung with that label ... modern day Hoover? Hardly. Number 2 ... there are only a couple dozen Congresspeople currently in office who care in the slightest about fiscal discipline. Haven't you heard ... deficits don't matter. The self-described "conservative" Dick Ball & Cheney said so. Number 3 ... Almost all politicians are sociopaths and care about one thing and one thing only ... themselves. There is a thimbleful of concern for the general public welfare among the current membership of Congress. Now, you might argue that that'll change over time as the millennial generation matures and gets elected to office, although I doubt it. But, as you so rightly point out, that supertanker is gonna take a looong time to change direction. And the time for potential panic over deficits exploding will be in the next handful of years. The current crop of political weasels will take the easiest way out ... and the easiest way to to blow out the deficit and let the kids deal with the consequences.
  • MC
    Michael C.
    18 February 2020 @ 09:17
    It's for content like this that I subscribed. Deep dive with real insights and analysis.
  • CH
    Chris H.
    16 February 2020 @ 14:37
    it's superficially appealing but like all totalising theories there's a lot of generalisations and massaging of events made to fit the theory.
  • RK
    Roger K.
    15 February 2020 @ 10:56
    Ed can you please give us a summary in the written form at the end ???? If we could get the summery at the end , it would be really helpful. Thank you!
  • TC
    Thomas C.
    14 February 2020 @ 22:06
    Neil How is pretty interesting to listen to. But got nothing out of it I could apply to investing and not a lot of concrete points made. Other then "generations change" and the same stereotypes I've heard about millennials now for like 10 yrs (live with their parents., communal, yada, yada, yada).
  • JF
    Jennifer F.
    14 February 2020 @ 02:45
    Thought it was were thought provoking
  • JV
    Jairo V.
    13 February 2020 @ 15:30
    Boring dude. 10 min into this I'm still waiting for connections between this topic and financial markets and retirement planing. 👎👎👎
  • DH
    Dale H.
    13 February 2020 @ 08:01
    A lot of decisions happen without each generation having a lot of power over it. To say that each generation has chosen these things of their own accord without any other factors involved I find to be incorrect. You make it sound as if each person from each generation had complete control over the government and business interests of the time...
  • DH
    Dale H.
    13 February 2020 @ 07:57
    This has a heck of a lot of generalisation. It starts to get a bit annoying at the end...
  • IH
    Iain H.
    13 February 2020 @ 04:50
    Brilliant interview. Ed is just sublime
  • FD
    Franbcois D.
    13 February 2020 @ 01:28
    Another great interview by Ed. You keep getting better and better glad you're on the RV team. Neil Howe is a sure bet in terms of interesting interview and Ed did all he had to do. Ask a question let Neil go off and just casually steer the conversation boat. Keep doing the great work RV.
  • DS
    David S.
    11 February 2020 @ 19:51
    It is strange that Mossolini and Hiler were not mentioned as populist. Thus far in history, populists do prefer dictatorships. It is a normal step in Montesquieu's repeating cycles of government. The only main difference between left and right populist is the view of the best outcome. Conservatives believe it was better a hundred years ago. Liberal populist think it will be better a hundred years in the future. Good luck to all. DLS
    • DS
      David S.
      13 February 2020 @ 00:13
      Sorry. Hitler.
  • AG
    Adam G.
    12 February 2020 @ 23:54
    I guess we should all buy his book ????
  • JC
    Jonathan C.
    12 February 2020 @ 14:27
    This is possibly the best video I have seen on Real Vision so far. More of this from Neil Howe would be excellent.
    • Kv
      Kristian v.
      12 February 2020 @ 23:26
      If you like Neil’s work you should check out the “On the Road” series Grant Williams did with him on Real Vision last year.
  • TE
    Thomas E.
    12 February 2020 @ 22:29
    Sounds like the Boomers need to re-named from the "Me" generation to the "Leach" generation.
  • DB
    Douglas B.
    12 February 2020 @ 20:37
    This video should hopefully propel people out of their ego filled generationally “ideal” and “normal” reality bubbles.
  • PG
    Philippe G.
    12 February 2020 @ 14:48
    Excellent conversation! A refreshing change from the usual mainstream media saucy headlines - "Millenials this and that..."..."Millennials are killing the XYZ industry!!!!!!!!!"
  • SB
    Sean B.
    12 February 2020 @ 13:11
  • KD
    Kaj D.
    12 February 2020 @ 12:07
    I could listen to Neil ‘until the cows come home’. Not only interesting, incredibly important. Thanks Ed & Neil
  • FD
    Frank D.
    12 February 2020 @ 10:28
    Outstanding interview, thank you.
  • JC
    Joel C.
    12 February 2020 @ 10:06
    fascinating > particularly like that the answer to the first question came in the last 2 minutes of the interview > a 45 exposition arc to get there.
  • TM
    Todd M.
    12 February 2020 @ 05:29
    Great content, thank you. Major props to Ed's interview skills - he is simply on another level from anyone. Bravo!
  • MS
    Mark S.
    12 February 2020 @ 02:18
    I could listen to him for 6 more hours. Very few individuals can talk on this topic.
  • KT
    Kai T.
    11 February 2020 @ 18:32
    I'd like to make a suggestion for all interviewers: If interviewing someone on demographics, please ask them a specific question about Generation X.
    • DS
      David S.
      12 February 2020 @ 01:11
      Spot on! We X-ers get sidelined during inter-generational conversations involving baby boomers and millennials as if we are merely boomer v.2 et al.
  • SW
    Scott W.
    11 February 2020 @ 15:07
    These qualitative descriptions of generational central tendency are interesting and no doubt accurate. But are we too quick to accept that these tendencies explain the complexities of the real world? Or anything substantial for that matter? The Han dress like Xi because of a generational tendency? Or do they dress like Xi because he's swinging China with a vengeance back to the Orwellian realm and they're under nonstop surveillance and relentless social scoring? The examples in the US derive mostly from depression war and force, rather than some imagined constant and friction-less democratic processes. The boomers don't build dams because they neglect infrastructure? Or because of a newer awareness of environmental impact (among other things)? Most synopses of "this generation did this because of that" come across as too simplistic. Maybe take his statistical data at face value, but not his broader causative narratives.
    • DS
      David S.
      11 February 2020 @ 23:42
      Scott W. - I agree. For those who want to believe they will find their truth. For me it is an interesting fiction as far as predictive purposes in investments. Demographics, on the other hand, is predictive within the boundaries of the discipline. DLS
  • SM
    Stephen M.
    11 February 2020 @ 21:20
    Notice he refrained from saying Donald Trump. America has a difficult time at holding a mirror to its face. US is in a period of authoritarianism with demagoguery currently leading the politics.
  • DS
    David S.
    11 February 2020 @ 19:22
    Zeitgeist, as developed by Hegel, has a supra-human mind driving world history forward. Zeitgeist could not be determined without the era under discussion being completed. I believe one can use demographics to uncover how markets may develop. Looking for archetypes in current evolving events is best used in marketing. The Fourth Turning is interesting projections, but I do not believe it is investable in today's market. DLS
  • AH
    Andreas H.
    11 February 2020 @ 18:49
    Love it!
  • RM
    R M.
    11 February 2020 @ 15:53
    Brilliant. Please do a part 2 with Neil. He has lots more to say......Please!
    • RP
      Raoul P. | Founder
      11 February 2020 @ 17:20
      We have more coming...
  • WA
    Wissam A.
    11 February 2020 @ 16:34
    Neil Howe is such a joy to listen to.
  • GH
    Gary H.
    11 February 2020 @ 16:12
    Always outstanding content from Neil Howe. Very thought provoking
  • WT
    Wouter T.
    11 February 2020 @ 07:50
    Great interview!