Watching NBC National News the other night, there was an article about money which caught my attention. The story discussed the amount of debt that the average person in their 20s is carrying, why they've got such a load to carry, and the outlook for them going forward. I was again reminded about how tough it is going to be for this group of individuals as a whole, and the fact that their parents set them up for it.
Disclosure: My children are 28, 25, and 24. I'm a baby boomer. The NBC story resonated with me.
The United States of America is richest nation in the history of the world, and, at the same time it's the world's largest debtor nation.
US citizens throw away more 'old stuff' per capita than almost any other nation in the world and yet the average individual in the country is carrying a debt of about $9000.
When one looks at personal satisfaction indexes, almost every country in the world rates themselves as being considerably happier in 2005 than was the case in the 1950s. But that's not so for Americans. We showed no significant increase in satisfaction at all. And that's despite the fact that we earn 3 times as much now, live in bigger homes, and have more toys than other nations. There are actually more registered cars in the US than citizens.
The 'parental units' of the 20somethings created an environment and promoted 'values' which fostered debt both nationally and personally. The 50somethings created false hopes for our children. The dreams which for most people in their 20s today are unlikely to manifest as expected.
When I see young adults entering the workplace after college carrying 50, 75, or 100,000 dollars worth of debt, I hate it. Those are very heavy yokes around their necks. I think it foretells a strong possibility for a reduced standard of living with each passing year. And that's not what this generation was told they could expect once they graduated. But they were set up by parents who, for the most part, are bad at managing - or even understanding - money themselves.
We need to do better at teaching everyone how to understand money and what connection it has to real personal satisfaction. Otherwise, the once called GenXers are going to be the first generation of the new, lower standard of living ahead.
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.