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The Greatest Generation: Definition and Characteristics


“The Greatest Generation” is a term popularized by journalist Tom Brokaw, referring to those who grew up during the Great Depression and later went on to fight in World War II. In the financial context, this generation is known for their strong saving and spending habits, influenced heavily by the economic hardships they experienced. They are generally considered risk-averse, favoring stable investments and holding a strong belief in saving for the future.


“The Greatest Generation: Definition and Characteristics”Phonetics: /ðə ˈɡreɪtɪst ˌdʒɛnəˈreɪʃən: ˌdɛfɪˈnɪʃən ænd ˌkærɪktəˈrɪstɪks/

Key Takeaways

  1. The Definition: The Greatest Generation refers to those who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II. It was coined by Tom Brokaw in his book “The Greatest Generation”. The generation is celebrated for its resilience, sacrifice and achievements in the face of economic hardship and world conflict.
  2. Characteristics: Key characteristics of this generation include a strong work ethic, perseverance, honor, respect for authority, and a sense of personal responsibility. They often prioritized the needs of the community or the nation over individual self-interest. They demonstrated great bravery, both on the battlefields of World War II and on the home front during the Great Depression.
  3. Impact: The Greatest Generation is known for their collective contributions to establishing strong societal and economic structures that shaped the modern world. Many of these individuals worked towards creating a world of prosperity and peace, setting up institutions, policies, and infrastructure that are still in use today.


The term “The Greatest Generation” is important in business/finance because it refers to the generation born in the U.S. from 1901 to 1927 who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. This generation is characterized by their strong work ethic, self-sacrifice, and commitment to ideals such as self-sufficiency, discipline, and honor. Their mentality towards savings, investment, and financial management was largely shaped by these historic events and hardships, leading to a conservative and frugal approach to personal finance. Understanding the behaviors and attitudes of the Greatest Generation towards money and business can provide valuable insights for financial institutions, marketers, and policymakers today, particularly when comparing and contrasting with the attitudes and behaviors of subsequent generations. Their financial decisions and values can also serve as lessons for current and future generations looking to establish sound financial habits and strategies.


The term “The Greatest Generation” refers to those who were born around 1901 to 1927, lived through the Great Depression, and later fought in World War II. This term, coined by journalist Tom Brokaw in his book “The Greatest Generation,” is used to commemorate and honor the hardiness, courage, and sacrifice of the millions who worked towards preserving freedom for future generations. They are often characterized by their strong work ethic, discipline, and commitment to service and responsibility, making significant contributions to the nation’s economy and political landscape.In the context of finance and business, The Greatest Generation set the economic foundation for post-war prosperity through their resilience and labor. They contributed to building businesses, infrastructure, institutional structures, and enacted key policies that ushered in the golden age of capitalism. As consumers, they also played an essential part in driving post-war economic expansion. Their saving and spending habits, informed by their experience of the Great Depression, helped shape the consumer culture and the financial markets of the mid to late 20th century. Despite facing tremendous economic hardship, their societal contributions have been monumental, hence, their significance to analysts and economists studying economic history and trends.


“The Greatest Generation” as a term largely refers to the generation of individuals who grew up during the Great Depression and lived through World War II, showing their resilience and strength. Here are three real-world examples related to business/finance:1. Federal Mutual Aid Programs: After surviving the Great Depression and World War II, the Greatest Generation supported the creation of various federal mutual aid programs such as the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This act, also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, played a vital role in the growth of the U.S. economy, enabling businesses to transport goods more efficiently throughout the country.2. GI Bill:The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill, is another important financial factor related to this generation. The bill provided World War II vets with benefits like college tuition, low-cost home loans, and unemployment insurance, significantly boosting post-war prosperity and leading to the growth of the middle class.3. Rise of the U.S. Economy & Global Power: The Greatest Generation is credited for their immense role in making the United States a global economic power after World War II. For instance, they were fundamental in the construction of the international financial architecture, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, that underpinned the global economy for decades.Remember, these examples are not merely business/finance examples but rather highlight the pervasive impact of the Greatest Generation across all aspects of society and economic life.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Who are The Greatest Generation?

The Greatest Generation is a term used to refer to those born in the U.S. from around 1901 to 1927 who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, showing resilience, determination, and sacrifice.

Who coined the term The Greatest Generation?

Tom Brokaw, a reputable American television journalist and author, coined the term in his 1998 book The Greatest Generation.

Why are they called The Greatest Generation?

The term is used to honor and acknowledge their contributions during the worldwide turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II. Despite enormous adversity, this generation proved their resilience and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.

How does The Greatest Generation influence finance and business?

The Greatest Generation’s work ethics and perseverance shaped the post-war economy. This period experienced significant economic growth, the rise of the middle class, and the creation of programs like Social Security and Medicare, which remain instrumental to our economy today.

How has the Greatest Generation’s economic impact been felt long term?

The Greatest Generation’s influence still echoes in today’s economy through massive infrastructural development, increased homeownership, investment in education, and substantial growth of the middle class.

How does The Greatest Generation compare to other generations in terms of financial habits?

The Greatest Generation is typically characterized as financially conservative, significantly influenced by their experiences during the Great Depression. Learning to live within their means, avoiding debt, and saving for the future were hallmark financial habits of this generation.

What are the key characteristics of The Greatest Generation?

The Greatest Generation is known for their strong work ethics, financial conservatism, resilience, bravery, self-sacrifice, and a sense of responsibility to the community. They are also recognized for their commitment to personal responsibility and duty above self.

What can current generations learn from The Greatest Generation in regards to finance and business?

The Greatest Generation offers valuable lessons in financial responsibility, resilience in the face of economic downturns, and the importance of long-term planning. Their emphasis on savings, investment in education, and homeownership could guide current generations.

Related Finance Terms

  • Post-War Economic Boom
  • Baby Boomer Generation
  • “The Silent Generation”

  • Financial Management in the twentieth century
  • Historical Stock Market Trends

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