Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quarter Life Crisis

Never trust anyone over the age of 30. ~ Timothy Leary
My “baby” recently celebrated her 30th birthday earlier this year. When she was born I had just turned 30. Back then I had a good job (which I hated) and my marriage was beginning to unravel. Mt. St Helens would blow a couple of months later on May 18th and that Fall Ronald Reagan would be elected president. Overall, though, life was pretty good for us Thirty-Somethings back then.

Fast-forward another thirty years. It’s tougher now to find work or to buy a house. Our country’s finances are in a seemingly endless downward spiral into national deficit. We import way more than we export, primarily because we don’t make anything any more. Our expectations are high but our opportunities seem scant. As a Baby Boomer I have often said that I feel that our generation has lived in the best times man has ever had, and will ever have, on this planet. All the while the global population will soon exceed 7 Billion people.

My kid’s generation is facing “Quarter Life Crisis”, the sinking realization that they may not have an entirely better life than we enjoyed during our peak years. There are books and web sites devoted to the concept. You can probably download them onto your Kindle.

Some of the recognized symptoms of Quarter Life Crisis are general insecurities about the ability to have meaningful employment, sustained income, friends, family and primarily, fun. In short, the same things our generation worried about as we were reaching Mid-Life crisis. Although one of the major differences facing the younger generation is that there is more competition for fewer resources than there was in the Boomer generation. Advanced technology, in the form of instant access to information, may really only serve to make these inadequacies more apparent.

Our parents often helped us financially when we were young. But we now note that it is somewhat more difficult to help our kids to the extent our parents helped us. Many of our generation are considering “reverse mortgages” to supplement our dwindling purchasing power. In times passed, parents could be expected to hand off their house, or at least some estate, to their kids. Today, even with the mortgage paid off; our medical insurance premiums alone are now more than our house payment was – about a third of our retirement income. We Boomers are feeling the squeeze.

Some pop sociologists lay the blame for Quarter Life Crisis us Boomers, claiming we brought up our kids in a permissive atmosphere, implying to our children that they deserved anything they wanted; that life should expected to be fun and entertaining, or that upward mobility was a given. Did we raise our kids with a sense of entitlement? Did we promise them better lives than we had? Perhaps; but I think it is a gross generalization. I think we hoped that we raised our children to feel they are at least as deserving as anyone else (not better). Hopefully we were able to instill some sense of ethics and justice – what goes around; comes around. I hope.

The new corporate mindset within this country has now been hard-wired into our culture and politics. It has resulted in the largest transfer of wealth in our history since the Great Depression. In a decade the disparity between what executives earn compared to their workers has gone from 30% to a 300% difference. They have effectively gutted the Middle Class.

One has to wonder why, philosophically at least, the wealthy are so eager to kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg that has been the progenitor of their wealth. The symptoms have manifested itself in the form of the housing and related financial collapse of 2008, high unemployment, widening trade and budget deficits. These are very real issues which affect our children directly. Most of our kids feel there will likely be no Social Security available to them when they reach retirement age.

So how do we advisr our kids about dealing with Quarter Life Crisis? What can we do besides simply dying off and leaving them our dwindling assets?

Hopefully the solution won’t be to seriously implement “Logan’s Run”.


Gorilla Bananas said...

Ah, the great Dr Timothy Leary! Now what was that famous advice he gave college students? Turn up, talk crap, go home?

I think humans throughout history have been prone to waves of excessive optimism and excessive pessimism. Last time I looked, the USA made pretty good aeroplanes. And computer software and movies...

PeterDeMan said...

Robert, I think constantly about the 'world' our children and my new granddaughter Lexie is facing. It's already morphed into something strange and alien to the one we grew up and lived in. I've long stated we were fortunate to have lived in the greatest era of our country; ah, if only it were so simple again to just duck under our desks to shelter ourselves from a Russian nuclear attack. The Gordon Geckos in our country have greatly increased in numbers, as has their utter greed; and they're controlling the puppet strings of our political system, further assuring their increased wealth at the expense of regular people. I better quit. Great post as usual.

The Mother said...

I, for one, didn't raise kids in a permissive atmosphere or to think the world owes them something, so I refuse to accept blame from pop psych or anyone else for the current mess.

That said, each generation defines itself, and romping through history, it's clear that there's a pattern--every generation is convinced that the one before it totally screwed up. Sometimes, they're actually even right.

DJan said...

I sometimes lament that I didn't pay more attention to the world around me when I was young, because I thought it would remain the same in our country, and it didn't. Now that I am old, I pay attention to the direction we are going, and I find little to be optimistic about. But this too shall pass. Nero fiddled, Rome burned, but you can fly over there and visit it today. Maybe the same will happen with this country in a few hundred years...

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas The USA used to make a lot of pretty good stuff. However our military recently awarded a huge contract for airborne tankers to Airbus. Congress kvetched and the contract went to Boeing.

In my area a lot of software is developed... by engineers brought in from Pakistan and India on H-1B visas and paid a fraction of what a US engineer could earn.

Movies... don't get me started.

Peter Yes, with all the Islamic countries and N. Korea with "the Bomb" now, I'm wondering if "duck and cover" will be the new thing my grand kids will learn about in school again?

Dr. Mom We didn't raise our kids that way either; still there seems to be an "I'm entitled" attitude that has become pervasive in society in general. Pointing to our political climate; clearly it seems people expect government/society to attend to "MY" needs/wants/desires. There is little sense of the greater good... or is that "Socialism"?

DJan You may have a good idea there... take all our empty high-rise corporate towers and turn them into amusement parks for the European and Asian tourists. Maybe we can revive our economy!

Kay Dennison said...

I was different but then that seems to be a recurring theme in my life. My kids were raised to be successful, happy and independent and the good news is that they are. That said, I look at the world today and I fear for my grandchildren and I understand my daughter's decision to "neither marry or reproduce".

Wow, that was awkward said...

Interesting topic. As for the workplace part of it, I really like the philosophies of a democratic workplace (not the political kind of democracy). It is based on immersed employees being healthier mentally and physically. My company is totally into it. Check it out at www.worldblu.com

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kay Yes, I have heard similar worries about having grand children brought up by two of our kids. The only place you won't find such concerns expressed are in Utah.

Awkward I checked out the web site and had to squint to be sure it wasn't a joke. In my 30 years of employment we have gone through these "empowering worker" phases... which always eventually have reverted back to top-down, kick-butt, management styles. This usually happens when business starts going bad. Interesting your company is based in India. What more need I say!!

Nance said...

I fear that we are neither the goose, the Golden Egg, or the feathered nest. Technology, globalization, and changing economics have meant that the corporate money looks straight past us toward their new preferred target: the up and coming markets of China, and India, where employees are cheap but pockets feel fuller. I foresee the day when the home offices of companies that got their start in America are relocated off-shore, where the real business is being done.

Nance said...

P.S. You had a thought about my Sanity signage, but it didn't get completed. I'm dying to know...!

Wow, that was awkward said...

India? LOL, did you go to the right site? worldblu.com. Zappos is probably the most well known example of this practice in action.

Artist and Geek said...

Great and interesting post. The current and future workforce is competing with billions of others that have suddenly "appeared", who work for less and will not complain about lack of standards or human rights.

I'm not sure that blaming it on "a sense of entitlement" is the correct term. I watch recent graduates with higher education debts, compete for jobs that only high school students used to do for extra pocket money. MBAs who work for minimum wage.

Higher education used to mean something, working hard on your way up used to mean something too. And the 20 year olds, who are just joining the workforce are entitled to decent work.

We're in a global recession, but the number of billionaires in India has jumped drastically in the last couple of years.

Rain said...

Add to that another concern-- what might global climate change do to any carefully made plans, how do we protect or help at least our grandchildren if worse does come to worse. I seriously do think about all of these things while trying not to ruin my current days. We are definitely in a time of transition and unfortunately an element of our political system isn't trying to help us.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Nance No, I think you are right, The American Golden Goose has been gutted, cooked and served. Perhaps in 30 years China's middle class will have risen to the point of affluence where they need to ship their cheap labor needs over to the low-paid workers in the USA who will work for pennies. Not kidding... I think we are headed for a big pendulum swing here.

Awakward Went to the right site but got confused on HCL technologies. Awesome that you work at a company that holds open mined values like that... I think they are very very rare, though.

Artist When I was a kid, my friends had paper routes they rode each day, delivering newspapers for extra cash. Now those jobs are mostly held by retirees who need the money. Likewise summer jobs for kids have dried up, taken by people who are trying to LIVE on those jobs.

I heard one analyst say that a high school diploma was worth nothing today, you MUST have a college degree to get any moderately decent job. Yet we have a HUGE drop-out rate in this country. What do these kids think they are going to live on? They can't all play pro ball.

Rain The climate is yet another variable in this mix of global interaction. And IT doesn't care what our political, religious or other positions may be. The first big fallout from our global ignorance will be the declining sources of fresh water which ALL HUMANS NEED. I believe there will be wars over this in the near future.

Orhan Kahn said...

I think over the next decade or two something very major is going to happen to all of us. I can feel it in the water. And it will change everything, for better or worse. There are too many rouge nations, traders and armed militia out there for something not to come to an influential halt.

With that said I've been out of home since I was 14 so whatever comes my way was of my own doings and I will only ever hold myself responsible. Quarter or mid life crisis just seems to be an easy excuse to make drastic changes in ones life. We should be forever evoling and involving ourselves in the change of others.

Artist and Geek said...

I'm a great believer in "as close to the informed truth as I can get".

Robert-harsh but unfortunately too true. Thank you for the "head not in sand ostrich mentality".

As to pendulums, a frightening thought, I hope that future generations won't have to move to Asia for jobs.

There is a strange sense of Karma here. For decades the mostly western world (corporate or otherwise) has been using Asia for cheap labor, inadvertently helping them build their middle class. I recently watched a documentary, in which Chinese CEOs are tired of making our "cheap crap". (Yes, I'm quoting).

About global warming; India's energy needs are going up, the new $3000 car will contribute to that. I'm not saying it's right, but who are we to begrudge them cars and consumption, when "we" have lived in excess for soo long?

Politically incorrect good news: those of us living north of the equator will experience global warming less. We need to stabilize or reduce world population if humans want to survive. The planet will recover either way.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Ohran I do not doubt you. Indeed, many nations that a decade ago had little military reach now have rudimentary missiles and fissionable weapons. If in a position where they would have nothing much to lose, why wouldn't they use them?

Artist You are right, America's actual "exploitation" of cheap Asian labor has been to it's benefit at the expense of those nations. When I was growing up "Made In Japan" (found on a lot of our consumer goods) was a negative comment referring to something that was cheap and poor quality. Japan turned that image around when it became a major manufacturer of quality products. I myself have two Toyota in the driveway, we previously owned three others.

I can see China evolving as a manufacturing and economic power as Japan once did, perhaps even faster. India as well in medicine and intellectual property.

I believe Americans to day are "asleep", we are riding high on our reputation, not noticing that it has, in reality, slipped out from under us. The lesser of our intellects want to blame our government for their loss, but it is our own fault. We need more than slogans for our country to sustain itself and it's standing in the global community.

Thoughtful comments, Artist. Thank you!

GutsyWriter said...

Don't you think every generation says, "I lived in the best generation?" My Mom worried about my generation and pollution and overpopulation. She was born in 1925.

I think we have to stay positive. Each generation has to adapt. After watching the movie, "Waiting for Spiderman." about the future of education, it seems like getting a great education is the way to go. Hasn't it always been that way though?

Artist and Geek said...

Robert-And THANK YOU!!!
Yes somehow we've grown apathetic and sleepy. It's sad when people view the truth as hopelessly depressing. It's not. Awareness leads to action.

Maybe that's just me.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Gutsy There is a difference between living better than our parents did, which is mostly true, versus the expectation that such a trend will continue. I do not believe it will. My father-in-law grew up in a cabin in Utah, they slept outside in the summer, in the attic during winter, a wood stove only for heat. He retired well off from the university.

Today his type of defined pension plan, which had become the norm, is now a thing of the past. The jobs we used to take as teen-agers, waiting tables, lawn mowing, paper routes, are now the sole income of many adults. We have the best medical care in the world and increasing numbers of our population have no access to it. Wages are stagnant or increasing slower than the GDP; unions make up a decreasing segment of the workforce. Education, which is the key to success in a competing world, is becoming too expensive for the middle class. We live in a nation that has prided ourselves on our innovation in science and technology where now half our population believes god snapped his fingers and created humans in their present state from magic.

Yes, each generation has seen their lives improved over the successive ones... but I believe will no longer be the case. I have said it many times; I believe that our generation, at least in this country, has see the best times man ever has, and ever will have, on this planet.

Artist Yes, Depressing!!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I am very thankful I was born into my generation. My kids are going to face a lot tougher road than what I had to face.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Idiot (No, really, that is his blog!!) I can't even imagine what the world will be like for my four grand kids. For some reason I am unable to stomach watching "Blade Runner" when I think about their future.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Robert. I found a new blog (to me, anyway), and it made me think of you: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

If you haven't found it yet, check it out.

sorry for being off topic

GutsyWriter said...

Thanks for a detailed analysis. In a way I agree, however, I have to have faith in our young people. Over-consumerism was not a good thing, and it seemed to happen more in the U.S. I also think that it's a myth to believe we have the best medical care here. Many doctors train in the US and then offer better hospital care and service abroad. In fact, we're thinking of getting the tourist medical plan at a fraction of the US cost.

Artist and Geek said...

Robert-the wonderful thing is that we can't predict the future. Yet.

I could be wrong, but I do think that we are in the early stages of an ideological revolution. The pendulum keeps swinging.

As to bladerunner, one of my faves layers upon layers, but let's not forget that Philip K. Dick though brilliant, also suffered from more than a healthy dose of paranoia.

secret agent woman said...

Logan's Run is one of my older son's (I got pregnant with him when I was 30, by the way) favorite movie. I fell sad about bring kids into a culture where they have fewer opportunities. And I'm so disgusted by the incredible wealth gap in this country. Have you seen Michael Mooer's "Capitalism: A Love Story."

DJan said...

Robert, something is wrong with your latest post. It shows up in its entirely in my Reader but only the first few lines on the blog itself. And no place to leave comments.

Let me know about the Craigslist scam, whether it worked out for you or not!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Healthy and intelligent debate...I consider it my Halloween treat. I think the generation to which our children belong (my son just turned 31) either feels the sense of entitlement or has become pragmatic, realizing there are no longer any guarantees. The notion of a mid-life crisis always seemed an indulgence, though my opinion is tinted by seeing a parent and former husband thrash through it with high drama. What the next generation is going through is something quite different...this is real fear about the future.

In the same week Social Security announced that the cost of living had not risen, so there would be no increase in benefits for the second year, then the new Medicare information arrived and my provider has lowered the prescription benefit by $1,000 and added at least $2 to the cost of every prescription, as well as eliminating some basic care. I just received the notice telling me that in February I could earn AS MUCH AS I WANT without losing any benefits. If only...

Finding the balance between acknowledging in the moment all that is good about life and trying to look ahead and have something that resembles a plan is an enormous challenge.

Apologies for ranting moments. All of this is never far from my mind and I have not a clue what the answers may be. A great job, as usual.

Robert the Skeptic said...

BackRow Yes, I know about Pharyngula. It is run by PZ Myers who is highly sought as a speaker and commentator on Atheist and other non-belief issues. I am a regular reader.

Gutsy You know I am going to temper my remarks about the medical care in the US, we don't have a market on excellent care. Where we suck is in delivering it cost-effectively to all our population; for this country to be unable to do this we should hang our head in shame.

I agree in having faith in our young people; but I fear the growing corrupting power of money, profit and greed will trample any headway we try to attain. It's pessimistic, I know... but I think I am a realist.

Artist Ideological revolution? They had one in France as well some time ago and a lot of intellectuals lost their heads. After which they put an Emperor in power. I feel like this is history repeating itself.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent I haven't seen Moore's latest film, it's on my Netflix with a lot of other depressing documentaries. Sometimes I honestly don't know if I am keeping myself "better informed" or "more discouraged" by trying to keep up with the disturbing trends. (I am a big Michael Moore fan, though)

DJan Your comment came through.

Marylinn The realization is sinking into my kid's consciousness, I believe. It is not encouraging. They don't believe there will be a social safety net for them when they reach retirement age... whenever that is. The dream or expectation of something greater than their parents may be evaporating. The specter of it may be lost in the dazzling technology that so easily distracts us from our daily toil - i-phones, streaming video, instant on-demand comforts. The seduce us (them) into thinking that things are better.

But the underpinnings, the rights, the sense of social justice, the ethics I feel are all being lost or abandoned due to misuse.

Our kids don't know that there was a time when having an abortion was a crime, when birth control was only allowed for MARRIED couples, where rights were denied to people because they could be. The biggest fear I have for our youth today is complacency.