My Generation And The Economy
Over the last four to five years I have had a conversation with those older and younger than me about which generation was hit hardest by the recession. People usually agree that it was those in my age bracket. The younger generations were expecting to have trouble in the job market when they got out of college. The older folks have already experienced tough stuff. Us mid-30s folks aren’t proud of this and we aren’t asking for sympathy, but we’re the ones who got shot down right when it counted.
Back in the 1970s when those from my class were born, America was dealing with a number of challenges. Its economy had big problems, Vietnam’s painful memories were still fresh and there were fears that the Soviet Union was going to overpower all other nations including us. We didn’t even know this because we were too young.
The 1980s came around and things changed in America. Vietnam became a distant memory, the economy turned around and our nation started to take pride in itself once again. The Soviet Union crumbled and the Cold War fizzled. My generation was going through elementary school or junior high. We were enjoying this prosperous time from the playground. Our parents were likely doing fairly well. Life, in general, was good and we believed this was the way it was going to be for the rest of our lives.
The 1990s rolled around. We hit high school. This era was also prosperous, barring a brief recession in the early 1990s. President Bill Clinton was charismatic and…for lack of a better word…entertaining. Our music groups such as Nirvana, Snoop Dogg, Pearl Jam and 2Pac rocked like the music of no other generation. We had great movies and great TV shows. We had a great economy. Job offers were practically hitting us on the forehead when we walked down the street. Our early professional years lead us to believe that the sky was the limit for years to come.
When we entered the 2000s, barring another recession early in the decade, we experienced the same economy/level of opportunity. Major corporations were recruiting us and offering nice salaries. We were building our lives in a big way. Many of us bought the “McMansion” of our dreams. We were truly a blessed group, we had it all…until the late 2000s.
The economic collapse that started in October of 2007 and, many believe, lives on today took us down. We lost those high paying jobs that were coming at us from every angle a few years prior. Many lost homes or went through economic droughts during periods of unemployment or underemployment. Some saw how this affected their personal lives. They went through divorce or had to wait to start a family. We were more baffled than any other generation because we had never seen things so tough.We were more accustomed to using credit. We expected the good things up front and we would just pay for it later. Lo and behold, we got burned by our credit mentality.
I, personally, avoided the debts but I did get hit hard by The Great Recession. I had to watch a lot of what I worked for in my life evaporate. It just didn’t seem like something that was supposed to happen. However, people from older generations who lived through tough times understood that life can stink at times. I didn’t fully understand this. During these hard years, a number of older Americans have told me that I have just been welcomed to the real world.
Younger people in this country now accept tough times. I have often thought of this as a real problem. When I was talking to a young college student a few months back, I asked what he wanted to do professionally. He said, “Hopefully I can just find someone to pay me for something.”
I was sad to hear that type of talk. I remember when I was in college and fending off job offers. I wish the students of today could fully experience how great of a feeling that is. Instead, it seems they are just taking what they can get. Now, I am not blaming this trend solely on Barack Obama or George W. Bush. It seems our nation as a whole has dropped its standards alongside our drop in the economy. That’s something that should never happen. We should work to not forget what it was like when times were good. We need to have that winning attitude back. It isn’t wrong to expect prosperity and opportunity. It’s wrong to expect mediocrity.