Generation Debt: What Can Be Done?

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.

The book ends with a section that outlines what people can do to fix the deplorable situation outlined in the book. What can be done to ensure that later generations do not have to face the obstacles faced by Generations X and Y?

First of all, the book offers a collection of suggestions for baby boomers with children in the 20-35 age range. Here’s a few that stood out to me:

Understand that the financial experience of your child is much different than your own experience at that age. This is basically the entire premise of the book; if you read this book and still don’t understand this point, I have to wonder what you’ve been reading.

Have an adult conversation with your kids about money. This doesn’t mean trotting out the same old bromides, but actually listening to their issues and considering their reality. Often, the best support that you can give is a serious talk where their point of view is considered, no matter how you may feel about it.

Use some of your leverage to help. You can do any number of things, from offering clearly-delineated financial assistance to references to potential employment opportunities to contacting legislators about improving opportunities for Generation X and Y.

On the other hand, the book also offers a litany of suggestions for those people in Generation X and Y:

Divorce yourself from rampant materialism. You do not need that PlayStation 3; you do not need that $500 pair of pants. Don’t spend money on wasteful consumer product – buy what you need and bank the rest for things that really matter, like a home.

Maximize what you have. If you have a steady job that pays reasonably well, stick with it, even if you don’t like it. Build a financial backbone so that you can afford take a career leap later.

Take a stand. Form a political action committee or join with others that already have and take your message to the legislators. Work to reform the system instead of just complaining about it and bearing the burden.

Tomorrow, I’ll give a final “buy or don’t buy” recommendation for Generation Debt.

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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