Generation Debt: Overview

This week, The Simple Dollar takes a look at Generation Debt, a book that proposes to show why today is a terrible time to be young, from a financial perspective, at least. Is there enough meat on this idea to make an interesting argument, or is this book just blowing in the wind? Let’s find out.

My interest in Generation Debt came from the fruits of a series of lengthy discussions I’ve had with my in-laws as well as the parents of other friends. These discussions basically focused on a two-pronged central concept: that Generation X and especially Generation Y have had a terrible financial hand dealt to them compared to the Baby Boomers, and the Baby Boomers are mostly at fault for causing this.

Generation Debt mostly focuses on the first piece of that discussion, as it argues in detail that young American adults are entering a workplace and economic environment that is not condusive to gaining the levels of material wealth that their parents held. In fact, the book goes so far as to argue that the current environment makes it much more difficult for young adults to reach traditional thresholds of adulthood, namely leaving home, finishing school, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having a child.

In fact, using the above definition, people under thirty are significantly less likely to be considered an adult in 2000 versus 1960. In 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men under thirty had met the above definition of an adult, while in 2000 only 46% of women and an astonishing 31% of men had reached that level.

What changed? During the next three days, I hope to extract some explanations from this book. Tomorrow, I plan on focusing on the high costs of school and the low value of labor; on Wednesday, I’ll look at the broken social contract; and on Thursday I’ll take a look at how the book recommends that my generation wakes up and takes charge of their situation. Finally, on Friday, I’ll give a “buy or don’t buy” recommendation.

Generation Debt is the fourteenth of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.

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  1. David says:

    I am interested in reading your thought on this book as I read it a few months ago. I will reserve further comments until your review, I would really like to see what you think of it!

  2. Francis says:

    Looks like a good read. I’m awaiting your thoughts on the book.

  3. Mitch says:

    Does “meeting the definition” requires meeting all five “thresholds”?

    It’s worth noting that there are intrinsic reasons that some of the thresholds may be met at lower rates (e.g. philosophical opposition), and that others are impractical for medical, political (e.g. gay marriage), financial, etc. reasons. These are two very different threads to tease apart, and it would be useful to know what the statistics quoted actually mean.

  4. laura k says:

    I agree with Mitch. I also find it interesting that, assuming I need to meet all five thresholds, I will likely never be considered an adult: I don’t plan to ever get married, and I have no desire to have kids. Personally I think I’m making a more “grown up” decision to not have kids, instead of having them just because society dictates that as my next logical step.

    Sorry for the rant. I have not read the book, so I can’t judge, but their definition really pushes some of my buttons!

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