Never trust anyone over the age of 30. ~ Timothy LearyMy “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”.