This blog is intended for what I like to call the 'We' Generation. People currently in their early teens to mid-thirties are in this generation. I would like to talk about some stand-out features of our generation as compared with those before us.
Our generation has unlimited access to seemingly unending information. Libraries are pretty buildings in nice neighborhoods or in the heart of downtown. The Internet has not only connected us to overloads of information, but it has also connected us with each other. When there is a problem and someone needs advice they can turn to the collective knowledge found on the Internet. People can share similar experiences with each other and help advise on how to handle the outcome of any given situation. These principles have existed with past generations but on a much smaller scale.
Our Grandparents and Great Grandparents could get the same type of advice, but were limited to their family and friends. It is my belief that the 'We' generation needs to use the information they have available to great benefit, both personally and professionally. While it is a great waste of time to gossip with friends and family through your computer, you could be using the resources handed to you in a much more beneficial capacity. Use the Internet for research. Not simply academic research that is assigned, but anything you might want to know more about. HowStuffWorks is a fantastic website to do just that.
The current economy has caused some on our generation to become severely frugal. There is a minimalism movement similar to that of the 1960s. People are choosing to 'do without'. As the current generation builds wealth I can already see major differences in this and the previous generation. Most of our grandparents lived through the Depression or grew up towards the end of it. This caused them to spend money cautiously and live modest lives (hence the smaller home construction in the 1950s). As that generation had children (these children would become our parents) they expected the children to finish school, work hard, and start a family. This is exactly what they did. The only problem is that they wanted everything their parents had immediately. Finishing school meant getting school loans and going into debt. Having a good job meant getting a nice car and going further into debt. Then a promotion leads to a big home and even more debt. Start adding kids, nice clothes, swimming pools, etc and you get a family that lives well beyond their means. All this and most of these people did it all by the time they were 30! So what happened?
This is all speculation and personal opinion (much research has been done and you have Google now to give you the facts) but I suspect that with a rapid growing economy, a booming technology industry, more TVs and more advertisements our parents generation were a product of their environment. I am not giving reprieve to anyone, but the rapid growth in technology enabled people to have access to information about more products and 'stuff' they 'needed' to own. So after school loans, multiple car payments, large mortgages, credit cards, and kids where do you think it was headed? When most of our parents were entering their forties the economy crashed. Mortgage Banks went bankrupt, people lost their homes then their jobs, and even banks went bankrupt. Shocker! Of course hindsight is 20/20 but have our parents learned anything from it? Some have, but others went right back to what they were doing before. It is up to us as a generation to break the cycle.
We are the kids. We are the children of the generation that broke the bank so-to-speak. How many of us got a car when we turned 16? How many of us got a brand new car when we were 16? And how many of those brand new cars got totaled shortly thereafter? All the money for those cars were from loans carried by our parents. This is a small example but you can see how our parents' generation wanted to give us everything they didn't have due to their parents trying to live modestly and have some sort of savings. I do not care how much money you make, a 16-year-old kid has no business driving a brand new car. As a matter of fact, in most states, 16-year-old's can work and save up some money for their own car. It is all about teaching effective responsibility to prepare our children for life outside the home. Let him save up enough to pay for half the car, then you match him. I bet you won't have a wrecked car in a few months. When you pay for something yourself you generally have a better appreciation for it. How many friends did you (or do you) have in your school (college and/or high school) that have never had a job? What do you think will happen when school is over and they try to enter the workforce? They will have to start where the 16-year-olds started. Not very much fun when you are a college graduate with mountains of loan debt and have to work retail on top of bar tending nights just to make your loan payments while you still live at home. I think I have made my point, but there is not much that is more important than preparing your children to be fiscally responsible in our current world economy.
My wife and I try to model our lives after the way our Great-Grandparents lived theirs. For us, our Great-Grandparents were born shortly after the turn of the 20th century. They tackled a world at war and the Great Depression head on and made it work. Our individual parents were products of their own economic destruction and had no means to help us pay for college. We had to get loans. Since graduating we've paid off all our credit cards and we're getting close to paying off both of our relatively new cars. After the cars, we'll pay off the loans. We plan to be debt free (excluding a respectable mortgage) by the time we are thirty. I don't want to have to make $100,000 a year just to pay our bills. By the time we pay everything off, my wife and I could each have part-time jobs and still manage to live comfortably if we wanted to. Think about how much time we would have to spend with our son! It is important to build wealth, but it is even more important to build it constructively. My wife and I plan to be able to put our children through college and retire comfortably. This is most likely everyone elses goal as well. The faster debt is overcome and smart saving begins, the quicker this dream becomes a reality.
I have rambled quite a bit while trying to get my thoughts down. Feel free to leave comments or questions about anything I talk about. There's is plenty more floating around this head of mine but my tangents get a little convoluted :) If you would like to share personal experiences feel free to use the comments section to offer advice of your own that may help the 'We' generation in fostering more responsible homes.