Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Recession Generation: Part 1

Source: Flickr: Carolyn
The Great Generation 

Our grandparents fought in World War II, and came home to start families and enjoy all of the perks of a nation who came out on top.  They were raised, during the Great Depression to be resourceful and frugal, and they carried those skills with them, even during times of great abundance.  Coming home from Europe they bought houses and started business with their military salaries.  All of the 18-20 year old men, answering the call to serve their country, left home, not to return for several years.  When the war ended, many hadn't seen their wives in years, and well, storks were dropping babies, right and left, like a rain storm in Smokey Mountains.  These where the Baby Boomers.

The Baby Boomer Generation 

The Baby Boomers never saw the cruel hand of the war, or the depravity of the Depression.  Instead, they were born into a booming economy.  Public Universities sprang up across the country, cookie-cutter suburbs spread like spider webs across the plains and valleys, televisions entered every home, and luxury goods became cheap in comparison to the mighty gold-backed dollar.  

However, all was not well in paradise, those born in the late 40's or early 50's were draft age when Nixon played his Vietnam war game.  Despite a few small recessions and an ill executed end to communism in Asia, the Boomers lapped in pleasure and luxury.  Consumer goods made the daily grind of life easy, allowing them to spend more time taking vacations to Disneyland, working on their golf swing, and keeping up with the Brady Bunch

Source: Flickr: Daniel Lobo 
The Boomers were the first generation to really embrace the opportunity of higher learning, which caused them to, in general, marry and have children later than the prior generation.  They all had children in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's, producing the Tech Generation. 

The Recession Generation 

For those growing up in 80's and 90's, life was awesome!  Within a decade, the whole world changed: Personal computers were in every house, cell phone towers connected us as never before, the stock market made penny stock holders overnight millionaires, MTV and Nickelodeon created a media obsessed generation.  Housing prices sky rocketed, and the Boomers were busy buying new 4000 square foot homes, cabins in the mountains, gym memberships, speed boats, and German imported cars.  All of the women's rights movements had culminated in a majority of mothers working outside the home, and doubling the family income. $4000 a week trips to Hawaii, private flute lessons, and traveling soccer clubs became the sign of middle class affluence.   

The recession generation enjoyed all of the perks of technology, but wasn't old enough to invest in it. Lucky for them, their allowance wouldn't have bought enough shares of the dot com bubble to bankrupt a brokerage account.  Most hadn't graduated college before Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple, and Intel sent us on on our current roller coaster ride. 

What defines this generation is September 11th.  There is a stark difference between the generation
Detroit, post-recession
Source: Flickr: Bob Jagendorf
that was old enough to understand September 11th, and those born after 2001, with absolutely no idea of how drastically it changed our nation.  What ensued is a seemingly endless war against an elusive enemy, and right or wrong, it took us from the surplus days of the Clinton Administration, to so much debt that our great, great, great, great, great grandchildren will still be paying for our mistakes.  

Enter in, the Great Recession.  The recession generation grew up in the abundance of the dot com bubble, the get rich quick housing bubble, and the technology boom, but all hopes of a comfortable middle class life left in 2008, when the stock market went down faster than the Titanic.

The stock market crash revealed a weakness in our economic structure that had been there all along.  Greed caused banks to issue faulty loans, and for home buyers to buy more than they could afford.  Top that with the Federal Reserve printing money out of thin air and a few trillion dollar endless war, and it soon became the perfect storm that would topple the American economy and send the world economy into a tailspin.

It is now 2014, six years after the market plunge and we are still trying to pick up the pieces.  The media loves to tell us that the unemployment rate has gone down, that savings are up, and the market has recovered, but all I see when I look around is fragility.

Read The Recession Generation: Part 2

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