A recent study reflected a remarkable change in parents’ expectations for their children’s future. For the first time in memory, the majority of parents did NOT expect their children to exceed their parent’s fiscal success. And, in my opinion, this is the reality we are currently facing. I had it easier than my boys’ do and will. I was lucky. They may not be so lucky.
Making a living in a single career has gone the way of the horseless carriage. Making a good living, period, is now a genuine challenge!
Two recent conversations really startled me. One was with a married friend, who is about 40 years old. He and his wife have one child and they both work. They live in a VERY modest house in a suburb in the Conejo Valley. He ran his budget, income, and expenses by me. I was sure I’d find a hole in his logic, spending, or arithmetic.
Nope, he and his wife were spending all their (take home) income and I couldn’t see a single way to pare it down except to leave California. And, given that both their jobs were based here, that wasn’t a good option.
My other friend is a thirty-something single woman who has a good job at a bank. She, too, laid out her income and expenses. Perhaps I could find a trim here or there, but not much.
What I took from these two situations was the stark contemporary reality that making money today is hard, saving money is almost impossible, and the feeling of living on the edge is more common than I’d ever imagined. And, all three of these people were working and doing the right thing by any objective standards!
By “the edge” I mean being a paycheck or two away from not being able to pay the bills. My single friend has a VERY small amount of savings, invested in index funds, and her choice of “investment” seemed sound. My other friend and his wife don’t have a nickel in their “rainy day account.” Amazing.
I’m fond of counting my blessings, but these two encounters went far beyond that. I was virtually screaming in gratitude on the way home from these fiscal updates from friends.
What does it mean? How can our kids succeed in this current, stale, stagnant economy? Is it just a cycle and it will pass? Are we entering a long period of no growth and lesser incomes and lifestyles?
Yes, is the answer.
I’ve already written two lengthy essays about the diminishing fertility rate in much of the world (see Part One here and Part Two here). So, the demographics are almost literally killing many of the world’s economies and the futures for younger generations. That is perhaps the single biggest, untold aspect of the general malaise in the world’s economy.
Two-job marriages are and will continue to be the norm. My married friend already has two jobs and rarely has much time to play, let alone vacation. My single friend travels a bit because her roommate shares his allotted companion airline ticket with her, given he’s an airline steward. Otherwise, she wouldn’t get to see the world as much as she’s had. But, even going “Dutch” with a room and traveling super economy-style has shrunk her savings to nearly nil. She’s not going to give up this limited-time travel opportunity nor do I blame her. She’s still young enough to save and will hopefully and eventually partner with a good man with a good job.
My boys are just beginning to enter the work place, both with minimum wage jobs and uncertain futures beckoning them. Both want to pursue careers in the arts. Both have talent but, coming from the entertainment world, I know their path to success is fraught with challenges and obstacles. The likelihood that they’ll purchase a home in Southern California at 23, like I did, is virtually zero.
Will they have the chutzpah, passion, and persistence to break into their respective dream careers in music and Broadway? I don’t know. I want them to at least give their dreams a try but will they be living in small flats/apartments with several roommates, eating spam (some of you older folks may know that that was originally a food product), and struggling to pay their share of the rent?
Will they give up and pursue a more practical job path? And, what is that “practical” job path going to be? The irony is that I believe the most practical jobs are the ones least explored or even mentioned to our children in primary school, Middle, and High School, or among their peers. Working for the government, fire department, police, teaching, and nursing, and most EVERY blue-collar trade such as plumber, electrician, and mechanic have likely job prospects and maybe some job security. But, “shop” isn’t much offered anymore in our schools. Everything is oriented towards college.
I have no answers. I only have questions. What do you think? What are you advising your kids?