Accordingly, for the under 40 crowd, and especially for the twenty somethings trying to get their careers started, it's tough sledding out there.
And it will remain tough sledding indefinitely for at least three simple reasons: in the past several years, (1) home prices have collapsed; (2) student loans outstanding have reached historical highs; and good well paying jobs remain hard to get.
So let's take a look at some of the things that our younger friends can do to help themselves until conditions change for the better. Although admittedly easier said than done, they should make every effort to get a solid education, get a job, acquire some basic understanding of personal finance and stay out of debt, but if already in debt, then make every effort to pay down that debt. Doing all that will be tough, but it's doable.
And to borrow from a game that aspiring young basketball players seeking to become good shooters use, rule #1 is don't start in the hole.
When shooting baskets on the playground or in the gym, kids often compete against themselves in a game to 21. The rules are simple: 1 point added for a make and 3 points subtracted for a miss. The objective is to win by scoring a total of 21 points.
But the 'official' scoring doesn't start until the first basket is made, or at least that's the way I learned the game. Otherwise it would be no fun starting from 3 points behind if the first shot was missed. And if the first couple of shots were missed, it would be downright discouraging, maybe even to the point of quitting. And quitting isn't a good habit to develop.
But in real life the scoring system doesn't work that way. Do-overs aren't allowed.
And since we don't get to set the rules of the game of life all by ourselves, all too often our young people find themselves 3, 6, nine or more points behind before making the first basket. As a result, they become discouraged early and never climb out of the initial 'debt' hole that's been dug.
Credit cards, student loans, getting poor grades, not getting the 'right' job, buying a house with little or no money down, and on and on all represent commonly 'missed shots' at the outset of the real game of life.
Younger Generations Lag Parents in Wealth-Building relates the issues which frequently put the young behind the proverbial 8-ball today. Here's the story:
"Pearl Brady has a stable job with good benefits and holds two degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s. But despite her best efforts, she has no savings, and worries that it will be years before she manages to start putting away money for a house, children and eventually retirement. . . .
Ms. Brady has plenty of company. A new study from the Urban Institute finds that Ms. Brady and her peers up to roughly age 40 have accrued less wealth than their parents did at the same age, even as the average wealth of Americans has doubled over the last quarter-century.
Because wealth compounds over long periods of time — a dollar saved 10 years ago is worth much more than a dollar saved today — young adults probably face less secure futures for decades down the road, and even shakier retirements.
“In this country, the expectation is that every generation does better than the previous generation,” said Signe-Mary McKernan, an author of the study. “This is no longer the case. This generation might have less.” The authors said the situation facing young Americans might be unprecedented.
A broad range of economic factors has conspired to suppress wealth-building for younger American workers; the trend predates the Great Recession. Younger Americans are facing stagnant pay — the median income, when adjusted for inflation, has declined since its 1999 peak — as well as a housing collapse and soaring student loan debt. . . .
Strong and sustained job and wage growth would cure many of the ills facing younger workers, experts said. But their delayed or diminished wealth accumulation might still have a lasting impact on their finances. . . .
The Urban Institute study is one of many to show something of a perfect storm of economic trends battering younger workers. One is the collapse of the housing bubble. Young people who bought homes as prices started to decline in 2006 are often underwater on their mortgages today. But now that prices have fallen sharply and interest rates are remarkably low, many other young adults are locked out of the market because credit standards are tougher.
A second major trend is the rise of student loan debt, which has continued to grow through the recession, sometimes saddling students with burdens that extend into six figures and might take decades to pay down. . . .
Finally, and perhaps most important, younger workers have faced a brutal job market in the last half-decade. The unemployment rate is 7.8 percent for workers between the ages of 25 and 34; it hovered over 10 percent for more than a year during the recession and early stages of the recovery. For workers between the ages of 45 and 54, the unemployment rate is 5.5 percent, and it peaked at 8 percent in 2010. . . .
Wages, adjusted for inflation, have stagnated for a broad swath of workers for over a decade. For millions of workers, wages have actually declined through the recession and the sluggish recovery."
The fundamentals of how to play the 'real' game don't change, but the circumstances sometimes do.
And for younger people today, the circumstances surrounding the rules of play are different than they were for past generations.
Accordingly, failing early to follow the simple game plan of living within our means, both as individuals and as a society, has brought us to the financial debacle that we're experiencing today.
And too many of us are ignoring another fundamental rule as well. The cold hard truth is that relying on government officials and government programs to solve our problems will only make our problems bigger ones.
OPM never works. MOM always works.
Productivity gains are the key to general prosperity, and the public sector never has been, isn't now and never will be a productive segment of our society.
There's simply no incentive or profit motive for people in the public sector to adopt and 'practice' the habit of continuous improvement.
Because of government's monopolistic stature, the public sector's growth results in a great waste of our country's resources and talent that otherwise could be put to productive use in the private sector.
Unfortunately, far too many of We the People apparently haven't yet figured that out.
But sooner or later we will, if only because we must.
And that's because if we don't, future generations of Americans will be worse off than today's.
And we won't stand for that.
That's my take.