I’ve been around this planet since 1930; and I’ve been as guilty as most in my generation — and the next, for that matter — when it comes to shaking my head in dismay at the attitudes of today’s young people.
Like any old geezer, I’ve been looking back at the “good old days” and a time when youngsters were raised with appropriate respect for their elders, when they didn’t sass their parents, and when they were taught to take responsibility for their lives.
These were the same old days, of course, when our elders held the same views about our generation. How easy it is to be blissfully unaware of the negatives of our time and to overlook the positives of today’s emerging culture!
Mine was a generation only once removed from an age group that was expected to make room in their households for their parents when they reached their late 60s and, “nearing death,” were unable to care for themselves. And now, we’ve reached a time when, truth be told, our kids have grown into adulthood without our having adequately prepared them to care for themselves.
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Hell, this is a time when our kids and grandkids should be well enough off to take care of us if need be. Instead, according to Pew Research Center, 36 percent of young millennials between 18 and 31 live with their parents. And this isn’t going to get better for a while yet.
Whose fault is it that our nation is deeper in debt than we’ve ever been — likely too far in debt to ever be able to pay it off? Whose fault is it that these kids are going way into hock, themselves, for an education that hasn’t given them their money’s worth — to say nothing about the fact that it was our responsibility and not theirs to pay for it? Whose fault is it that our kids are still being encouraged to buy stuff — new cars, for example — without being able to afford them, or without having been taught all they need to know about managing credit?
Those are rhetorical questions that the famed comic-strip character Pogo could have answered — and did when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Let’s face it, we and our offspring, the Baby Boomers, allowed our children to grow to adulthood without knowing enough about money to survive. We allowed — hell, demanded — that we borrow enough from our kids’ futures to pay for stuff that made our generation feel good but which we simply couldn’t afford.
So now, whether they like it or not, this is the generation we’re going to have to depend upon to fix the mess we left for them. If they feel entitled, maybe they have a right to feel they were entitled — to be equipped by us to deal with the problems they’re going to have to clean up after us.
If they seem independent, even rebellious, maybe it’s because they’ve got enough sense not to use the folks that left these problems for them as an example to follow. And, if they seem to be more interested in relishing and respecting the responsibilities and joys of raising their families than they are in pursuing the bucks in their career paths, maybe it’s because they learned some poignant lessons from our poor examples and their own experience.
Funny thing about it is that, on our present course, it will be the young people now living in our homes who may eventually wind up paying the bills, because we won’t be able to afford to live there without them. So we had better think twice about the magnitude of their potential and what we can do, before it’s too late, to encourage and support their efforts — if, indeed, we have enough worthy of their respect to pass on to them.
Ellis Traub was a founding partner of Investware, LLC. Traub, who is retired and lives in Davie, is the author of “Take Stock: A Roadmap to Profiting from your First Walk Down Wall Street” (2001, Dearborn Trade).