Thursday, August 18, 2011

Look on the Bright Side, Alicia

August 18, 2011

I read an article by Tiffany Hsu and Shan Li, writing for the Los Angeles Times, that says that young Americans are having to re-adjust their expectations of life because of the downturn in the economy. They shelled out a lot of money for college and now can’t find the jobs to pay for the loans they took out. It stinks.

But this line got me thinking:

“Alicia Thomas, 20, had it all planned out: career at a nonprofit, married by 24, mortgage by 26.”

She wanted a mortgage by age 26??? Alicia, you may have had a narrow escape, dear.

Houses are a HUGE investment and a mortgage is not something to be entered into lightly. (Investment, schminvestment.) I would cheerfully have rented all my life in order to avoid roof repairs, plumbing repairs and “Hey, I’m your house and I just feel like falling apart” repairs.

So it’s possible that “young people” are learning lessons now that will come in handy later: I don’t need it all at once. I can save for the good life (if I ever get a decent-paying job). I can cut back on what I think I need to survive (who knew I could live without an iPad?), and the world won’t end.

And maybe they’ll advise their younger relatives not to go deeply in debt for college. A degree is useful—an expensive degree is not necessary. (It’s a sad truth that none of the jobs I’ve held has NEEDED college-level learning to do it; but having the degree helped me to get the jobs and the promotions.)

I hope the economy gets back on track right smartly. But in the meantime, maybe the lean times are teaching us things we can use in the boom times.

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