Big Issues

The Generational Piggy Bank

The Budget, Grexit, stock market meltdown in China – this week money really does seem to make the world go round.

Piggy bank

I’ve only a minor(taur) idea about the complex reasons Greece is in the enormous pile of Euro-poo it’s in and I only hope it gets sorted out without any more misery being heaped upon the heads of the people who didn’t cause the crisis in the first place.

What it got me thinking about on the train was wondering what kind of a world, economically speaking, will my son grow up in? And will it be better or worse than the one I grew up in?

A lot of people think that generally the younger generation have it tougher today than previous ones. That it’s harder to get an education, a job, buy a house, save for the future and so forth.

It gets talked about so often it becomes a given, and referring to the woes of young people today is always appended with a line about how the older generation had it easy.

I think it all depends which end of the telescope you’re looking down. And who sold it to you.

I do agree that my parents, leaving school in the 50s when the economy was starting to boom after the post-war austerity probably hadn’t ever had it so good. But they and their parents had lived through a WORLD WAR! So, you know, swings and roundabouts.

My dad often tells me he bought our house for £2000 and waits for me to spit out me chip butty. But then we remember he only earned £20 a week so it doesn’t seem so cheap. It still took my parents twenty years to pay off the mortgage.

Now, here’s the thing. I am old enough to remember the 70s and it certainly wasn’t all glitter balls and sequinned flares grooving on a multi-coloured flashing dance floor. In fact, where I grew up in the North East of England it was, while not being entirely like a Monty Python sketch, a bit grim.

The thing is, we didn’t seem to know it was meant to be grim. i don’t mean that “wi wuz ‘appy wi’ we lumps o’ coal to eat and play wit” but only that there wasn’t the same cornucopia of STUFF that we had to have right now. So everyone seemed to be roughly equally well off. We did alright, my dad ran a bakery and my mum looked after me.

There was the posh girl or boy at school whose dad worked in management, and there were some kids whose uniforms always needed mending. But most of the mums and dads round our way were comfortable with the occasional panic around Christmas time.

But it was tough for anyone trying to leave school and get on – I could see that even through my rose-tinted childhood national health spectacles. And by the 80s things had, though it seems almost cruel in hindsight, worse – courtesy of a woman called Margaret whose surname I still cannot bear to write.

So I upped and moved doon sooth as soon as I left school and went, along with a small proportion of the local class of 1990, off to university. When I graduated and moved back up north it was the middle of the 90s recession and there were loads of people applying for every job. So, again, it didn’t feel easy but eventually the economy picked up (which we now know was fuelled by cheap credit).

For Little B and his generation – they may not find that some things are as free or cheap as they were in the past. But I do think opportunity is greater.

As long as you have the skills there are certainly a wider variety of new jobs that have appeared, and he will grow up a 100% digital native. He’ll probably have sold an app when he’s five. And anything digital has to better than working in an dull grey office in a council sending out letters on a TYPEWRITER. Yes, with sheets of blotting paper to make copies.

Then again if you don’t have the skills or are born in an area of monumental deprivation it doesn’t really matter what decade it is – you’re f#cked.

So I think a lot of whether things seem harder now depends not so much when you were born as where, and what chances you have from the off. My baby with his comfortable life in London will have much more of a head start in life than I or my parents did. For that I am very thankful, that things worked out OK for us.

But I do worry about young people starting out in life today. Especially those not fortunate to have been born in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Because as we’ve seen this week the world is uncertain and built on ever shifting sands. One minute you feel safe and the next you can be homeless or struggling to put food on the table.

So lets stop setting one generation against another and try and help each other share the wealth and experience and love that are all free today and tomorrow and the days to come. Now, I need to go and set up a savings account for our son…

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2 replies »

  1. I worry about the world my kids live in and will raise children in. It’s interesting you say it took your parents 20 years to pay off their mortgage. How many people achieve that in this day and age? Our mortgage is set to run for longer than that so goodness knows what our kids will face. As much as I want to live close to them throughout their lives, I wouldn’t discourage them seeking opportunities overseas. As much as the UK is a wealthy nation, it is one whose status is in decline.

    I note you commented on my post about retirement and whether mums and dads give enough thought to this subject. I don’t they do because their heads are so full of the here and now. You may want to read some of my Retire Savvy blog posts for more about this.

    The only other thing I’d say is you almost certainly won’t be receiving your State Pension when you’re 65. Having met you I’d place you about the same age as me. For us the SPA was shifted upwards to 67 some years ago! I fully expect it to go further north in the years to come as the Stat stuggles ot cope with an increasingly ageing population.

    Good, thought provoking post.


    • Thanks John. I’ll be working for the rest of my life. But hopefully the hours and the amount I need to earn will fall as I get older. I think we’ll see a lot more older workers and that’s not a bad thing if it helps reduce isolation and keeps people active. But the world of work needs to adjust to the needs of older employees and let’s face it most employers aren’t getting it right for parents yet!