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Charity Begins At Home

November 22, 2010

In an alarmingly short time, we are embarking on an overseas trip.  Our destination is a country often referred to as “developing.” 

My main reason for telling you this is to let you know that postings for the next few weeks might be sporadic.  Additionally, in anticipation of the trip, I had to go to the doctor to get a shot (or jab as they call them down here).  I thought it would be one shot but it turned into two shots plus two prescriptions.  Can’t be too careful.

These days when you get a jab you have to hang around the waiting room for 20 minutes to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction.  That meant that I had the opportunity to pick up a magazine and catch up on some reading. 

And what I read was scarier than the needles the nurse was wielding and the advice the doctor was giving me.  I read an article about something called “intergenerational theft.”  If you were born between 1946 and 1964 you are guilty of this crime, even though you may not have known about it.  It’s not what John McCain was referring to.  This is different.  So pay attention, because, as the saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

According to the article I read, many of the Generation X & Y people have looked around at the situation of people under 40 and decided that it’s not as good as they would like it.  The short explanation is that there is lots of stuff they want to do and buy but can’t for the following reasons:

  1.  They can’t get good jobs because the Baby Boomers won’t retire.
  2. They have huge student loans because college is so much more expensive than when Baby Boomers went to college and their Baby Boomer parents won’t pay for their university degree.
  3. They can’t afford houses because they are more expensive than when Baby Boomers got into the market and their Baby Boomer parents are going on cruises and buying Winnebagos instead of giving them money for a down payment.
  4. Even if they have jobs, they can’t save money because their salaries are being “taxed to extinction” in order to fund Baby Boomer pensions. And worse still, they will have to fund the health care costs of the aging population.
  5. Basically, the world would be a better place if the Baby Boomers weren’t so selfish and threatening to live for so long.

I had to double check to make sure the article wasn’t some kind of joke. 

But it wasn’t.  They had “case studies.”  

One was a thirty-something who vilified her retired parents.  It seems that they are too selfish to provide free babysitting which means she has to pay for day care.  This is preventing her from buying the luxury condominium she wants.

Another was a twenty-five year old single engineer.  His life is miserable because he has a student loan he has to pay back.  His quality of life is seriously degraded because he is therefore not able to take six months off and go to Europe.  Plus, and I couldn’t tell if this is worse, he desperately needs a new kitchen table because he is mortified to be using his parents’ old table.  Apparently that doesn’t impress the ladies.  His suggested solution?  Eliminate income tax for young people so they can live the lives they want instead of having to “pay for old peoples’ pensions.”

I don’t know anyone under 40 who thinks this way.  Or at least who articulates these sentiments.  But then again, I don’t know anyone who has ever been abducted by aliens, even though I know those people are out there.  I’m no expert on sociology, but if there are people like that, we have a rather serious rip in the social fabric. 

After the allotted time the nurse told me I was free to go and while driving home I tuned in the oldies station.  Obligingly, they played Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’.  While waiting for a red light I amused myself by thinking of how he might have written it today:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
Don’t be so greedy,
We can’t afford name brand.
Your sons and your daughters
Don’t ask, they command
Your 401ks are maturing,
Please write them a check
And give them a hand,
For the times they are a changing.

Fortunately the times weren’t the only thing a-changin’. The traffic light turned green and my poetic efforts ended along with the song.  Maybe you can do better!

It will be interesting to see if the Gen X&Y people in the developing world have the same attitudes.  I’ll report back!

24 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2010 12:50 am

    AAARGH! Generations X and Y: the entitled generations! Gag!
    I am one of those “privileged” Baby Boomers, who will turn 50 next year. I do not and never have owned my own home. I’m lucky if I make my rent and buy groceries every month. If my kids want to go to university, they’re going to have to get loans and work their butts off…I haven’t got it!


  2. November 23, 2010 1:08 am

    It’s disturbing to me the number of kids that think they are entitled to their parents retirement money. My parents worked hard for their money and I think they should enjoy it. If they spend it all before they die doing things they always wanted to do, good for them. It’s not supposed to be my “lottery winnings” for me to have things I never worked or saved for.

    Can’t wait to hear the details of the trip. Have fun!

  3. November 23, 2010 10:19 am

    Kids are given so much from birth through college that they don’t understand why the parents quit giving once college is through. And often, the parents give in and keep supporting the kids so that they think this will just continue forever and ever … and in some cases, it does! I know one couple whose parents bought them a house, another whose parents bought them a business, another whose kids are watched day in and day out by the ailing grandmother for no charge, and another whose parents buy them cars, appliances and computers — because otherwise they’d have to earn it themselves!

  4. Len permalink
    November 23, 2010 12:12 pm

    My wife and I married after our divorces. We both worked, paid off the house that her ex promised he would give her. We did some traveling and enjoyed our kids, always keeping in mind that some day we would have t o retire and live off our pensions and savings.
    Those pensions were earned through hard work and dedication. The monthly deposits into our accounts are well deserved and through our work future generations have a place to work and earn their monies.

  5. November 23, 2010 6:13 pm

    You know, these are legitimate issues worth talking about, but these are awful “case studies.” Sounds like a writer on deadline talked to his or her friends and called it research.

    I’m really looking forward to reading your posts about the trip to the developing country. Don’t forget to take a camera!

    • November 24, 2010 3:37 pm

      Thanks–you got it–camera, notebook and imodium!

    • November 25, 2010 2:06 pm

      I agree. I don’t like that it seems we have this wall of ignorance that keeps baby boomers angry and defensive about what the younger generations don’t have while also keeping X and Y (or whatever they are called) feeing bitter and entitled.

      I’d like to see everyone come together to solve a problem but, it doesn’t seem to be happening that way. I’ve no sympathy for baby-boomers who are getting all indignant when they still got it pretty good comparably while my friends are going on foodstamps. However, I can’t pretend that it is productive to blame the older generations for “screwing up.” We’ve got to live our own lives and make our own paths. Eventually, we’ll be older and we’ll start acting like old people and then everyone can get mad at us because we gave them too much or too little or burned up the sky or pass a law or whatever.

      I’m interested to see your next post.

  6. November 23, 2010 7:52 pm

    They should just do like the Japanese do. When an old person becomes a burden to their family they push them over a cliff. It’s the honorable thing to do, you know.

  7. November 24, 2010 5:09 am

    Have you read Michael Kinsley’s big piece on the Boomers?

  8. November 24, 2010 12:47 pm

    The work habits of that group seem strange too. They have expectations of the workplace that I wouldn’t have dared express or even feel when I started my career. Seniority and earning one’s status is out, expecting to be magically elevated is in.

    Travel safely, looking forward to hearing of your adventures!

    • November 24, 2010 3:44 pm

      Is that still true even with the recession? I thought the Googleplex concept was losing its appeal.


  9. November 24, 2010 4:24 pm

    Enjoy the trip. Looking forward to what you have to say about the developing world.

  10. November 24, 2010 7:33 pm

    My parents refused to buy me the fruit of the month club membership, and I thought that was really selfish of them. I like exotic fruits, and as parents, isn’t it their duty to see my dreams realized? We’re still not talking even though they said I could have an “Exotic Man of the Month Club” membership. That’s just throwing my singleness in my face – typical parents.

    I might forgive them for Thanksgiving because my mom makes really delicious mashed potatoes and stuffing. But then that’s it – I’ll go back to being mad the day after.

    This attitude isn’t immature is it? Someone said it was, but I just think they were being immature when they said I was acting immature.

  11. November 24, 2010 8:26 pm

    I think you are being very reasonable–Fruit of the Month is such a modest dream after all! Just make sure they don’t confuse the Fruit of the Month membership with Man of the Month!

  12. November 25, 2010 7:30 am

    Where overseas are you going? South Island?

  13. November 26, 2010 4:25 am

    Happy Thanksgiving Thomas!

  14. November 26, 2010 10:19 pm

    Ahh, you can find the greedy and unappreciative in any generation I think. I know that a lot of media are making a big deal about the fact that this is the first time that the quality of life has not gone up from one generation to the next. That it has, in fact, gone down. Personally I think that this is a good thing. I’m hoping that the world begins a gradual shift away from materialism, that is, in my opinion, is the root of most evil.

    I hope you have an amazing holiday. Developing countries are the best places in the world in some respects!

    • November 27, 2010 9:39 am

      Thanks, Scott!
      I agree with you–have a look at The Happy Economist by Ross Gittins. He has some interesting ideas about alternatives to materialism.

  15. November 29, 2010 7:54 pm

    I will, thanks.

  16. December 14, 2010 8:08 am

    Great post as always Thomas. Hope your’e having a great holiday in the developing country your’e visiting. Being a travel fanatic, I look forward to the posts!
    As for this article……”bite me” I am a ‘Baby Boomer’! 🙂 and I plan to make the most of it. I got my 1st job at 16 packing groceries and shelves at the local supermarket and as soon as I finished school, was sent out into the the big bad world at the tender age of 17 with my Mother’s words throbbing in my ears…….”Don’t come home till you get a job”. I got a job that very day (by the skin of my teeth at 4pm in the afternoon) and have worked for everything I have had and intend to have in the future…….and I expect my daughter to do the same. In fact she started working the day she turned 16 and has done so since, a fact of which she is exceptionally proud…as am I. I worked for and bought my own home, my own car and my relocation to a new country. I have provided for my retirement (…94 days and counting) with policies and intend givng some of the returns to my daughter, not coz she feels entitled to it, but because I want to. It is hard today and it was hard 39 years ago when I started work. Every generation has it’s difficulties and if there are people about like mentioned in the article….well then the parents have themselves to consider……did they bring their kids up to ‘expect’ what they think they are ‘entitled’ to? Unless they live in the UK…. here we have a ‘nanny-state’ in which case….. the Government is to blame 🙂
    Love the words of your song!!

  17. December 26, 2010 4:57 am

    Hi Thomas,
    Just checking in on you to make sure you are OK.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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