Economic Mess: Are we better off than our parents?

I was reading a blog post (A New Generation Gap) in which Mike Neiss, a baby boomer, discusses his perspective of how the boomer generation “failed to build a solid foundation for those who will follow us. We have made a mess. We are not the victims of changing economic conditions, we created them.” He goes on to say “the next generation may be the first in a long time (ever?) that are not better off than their parents. I think we baby boomers own that.

This is an interesting concept and question. Are we, the children of the boomers, worse off than our parents? Is Gen Y going to be remembered as the first generation that had it harder than our parents did?

I think NOT! In fact I think quite the opposite. I think we are at an advantage:

  • We want it all and we are willing to do whatever it takes, including not sleep. When we are passionate about something we are full steam ahead and that’s really the only attitude that’s going to work right now. In your twenties you can get away with not sleeping.
  • We aren’t worried. Nisha Chittal sums it up greatly, those that have been successful “are the ones who stopped worrying about that which they can’t change, and started taking action to change what they do have control over.
  • We are willing to make the most out of a less-than-ideal situation, take ownership of our role in our company and excel just for the sake of learning. Since we haven’t experienced 20 years of life being a different way we just make the most of what we have.
  • This is the perfect opportunity and time for innovation and new thinkers. The way I see it, whether our current economic state is all on the boomers or not, something hasn’t been working. And when something isn’t working, really the only option is to change it. Who better to make these changes and redirections than a fresh set of eyes.
  • We are at a time in our careers that we are hitting the ground running and we are eager to take on the world. My mom said to me the other day “I really don’t have the motivation to set the world on fire anymore I did that in my 20s“.
  • Our world is smaller. Because of our experience with technology and growing up on the web our view of this big vast world isn’t as overwhelming. I can just as easily contact an developer in Australia as I can my dad 20 miles away. In a matter of moments I can take an opinion poll on most any topic and provide instant feedback to anyone who wants to know. I personally have used this connectivity several times to create direction on a project and build relationships that turn into business.
  • What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I think if there is ever going to be a hard time in a career cycle I’d rather it be at the beginning – it creates tenacity and resilience. I see jumping into the deep-end of the pool and trying to figure out how to handle it, as a challenge and much less stressful than spending 30 years in the shallow end and then being shoved to the deep-end.
  • We are being taught valuable lessons about money and overcoming circumstance at a much younger age. I know for me, because of the current uncertainty, I’m very conscious of where and what I spend my money on. I read books like I Will Teach You To Be Rich instead of romance novels and celebrity gossip magazines. I’d rather drink my $1 lattes from Big Lots and donate what I would have spent at Starbucks to a much bigger cause.
  • We use every opportunity to learn. What I think is great about Gen Y is that we can use any situation as a chance to learn and grow. Ryan Paugh wrote a post about how the bar scene teaches us to do social media the right way. While others may be using the bar as an escape from the stress of work Ryan, like many Gen Yers, is a creative thinker and is always on the lookout for an opportunity to make his business better.
  • We are willing to help each other out. I am blessed to have an awesome network of like minded people always willing to help each other out. I think Gen Y never outgrew the sandbox mentality. I find myself sending my friends links that would help them in their business or search for a job and they do the same in return. We send referrals back and forth and whatever else we can think of to make a difference in each other’s lives.

An additional piece that found interesting in Neiss’ post is his ending thought “I believe that our parents unwittingly made us soft. We had our needs and wants indulged by parents driven to make sure we had more than they had had as children. We can’t leave a great legacy without honest-to-goodness hard work.” I find it ironic how similar this sounds to what is being said about Gen Y and not being willing to put in the work.

Call my an optimist or call me a naive but those are my two cents and for now that’s the attitude I’m stickin’ with. I’m proud to stand in excitement for what’s next instead of fear of the future!

15 thoughts on “Economic Mess: Are we better off than our parents?

  1. Elysa, Great post. I wish every student graduating out of college and every person out of work recognized how fortunate they were. Every job is an opportunity to learn, if anything to learn what you don’t like. In this case, for some people the next 18 months is about survival too. The key to success every day is being thankful for what you have and recognizing you can get what you want in life. Set your goals, believe you can achieve and the mind and body will follow!


  2. Awesome post. I love the part about our like-minded friends and how we all help each other out. That is what will save us when the times get tough!

    Good luck at Big D, I can’t wait to see you guys again, we must reconnect soon.

  3. Great post, Elysa! I for one am with you on the optimism front. I also think that because we get so much advice from our parents that we’ll be able to learn from their advances and mistakes.

  4. Um, not to burst anyone’s bubble, but waaaaay back in 1990 when I got out of college we were having similar discussions, we just didn’t have blogs.

    It’s why Bill Clinton (the man from Hope who preached Change) got elected. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Now get off my lawn! :)

  5. Great post Elysa!!!

    There are so man opportunities for our generation and ways that we can really achieve great things at early ages. It’s so exciting to see GenY’ers making a difference!

    Looking forward to speaking with you at BigD!

  6. I agree with some of what you have written and I think the optimism is fantastic. However I do think you are taking a very middle class view on the issue and only looking at people like yourself.

    What about the men and women who didn’t go to university, who don’t have a decent education, who work in the industries that have been worst hit? Many of these people already have kids, they struggle every day and the struggle is getting harder.

    I won’t go into the issues (too many, too depressing) but I don’t think the ability to connect with someone in Australia is going to help them. Their jobs are dissapearing and when industry gets back on its feet (because you and I feel secure enough to buy a new hybrid car) many of their jobs will be moved abroad. Thus jobs are scarcer and places far more competitive.

    You’re also forgetting the 3rd world (or whatever we’re supposed to call it). The coffee you and your friends don’t buy from starbucks is being multiplied across the rich world. The loser is the guy in Peru who can’t sell his coffee beans or is being forced to reduce his price because all the big coffee buyers are reducing margins.

    This economic ‘mess’ is a huge issue and shouldn’t be trivialised. It’s the poor and the ‘working classes’ who are the worst affected.

    History tells us that mass unemployment leads to war and revolution.

  7. I think that every generation has challenges…and life was not easier for us twenty or so years ago…It was just different. Today the frantic pace is just part of life. Being a parent has become a full time job…No more freedom in this department.

  8. Duh, he isn’t talking about you. He’s talking about the next generation which is generation X.


  9. I love this post. This is exactly how I feel about the recession. I have recently lost my job and these are the points that I keep trying to convey to people. I am currently looking for another job but I have been learning as many things I can while I am unemployed. There is no reason to add to the negativity that is already too abundant in the world. I think it is important to keep pushing and striving towards your goals.

  10. Perseverance through adversity makes for one hell of an individual, and I think it will make us a better generation. Sure, the boomers screwed the pooch and left a mess for us, but where's the fun in having nothing to do and nothing to fix? I say, bring it ;)

  11. Perseverance through adversity makes for one hell of an individual, and I think it will make us a better generation. Sure, the boomers screwed the pooch and left a mess for us, but where's the fun in having nothing to do and nothing to fix? I say, bring it ;)

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