For some reason, I subscribe to Time magazine. In their January 24th issue, Time featured a cover story on twentysomethings (that's us) who apparently refuse to grow up. The article is here. My response, which will never get printed because it's way too long, is posted here.
In my 23 years, I have never read a “journalistic” article that missed the point as severely as your January 24th piece “Grow Up? Not So Fast.” Your writer, Lev Grossman, seems to believe that America’s twentysomethings are irresponsible for not finding good jobs and settling down. This comes from a member of the generation that outsourced or downsized all the well-paying jobs, replaced the union system with the Wal-Mart system, and turned the concept of job security into some quaint ephemeral ideal. Not to mention his is the generation that is more concerned with Social Security’s solvency than with the epidemic of youth poverty and that his is the generation that has caused college tuitions to skyrocket, burying us under mountains of student loans. And while Mr. Grossman alluded to the economic reasons for staying at home and not starting families, he still believes that irresponsibility is at the center of our actions.
The younger generation is, for the most part, left with low-paying jobs well into their twenties. Those of us with stable family backgrounds face the following decision: live at home for free and save up what money we can, or let our low salaries and high costs of living drive us into destitution. It seems to me that staying at home and saving up is the responsible choice. And we marry and have children later because we want to wait to start a family until we can afford it. How irresponsible of us.
But lest we still believe that the younger generations are “irresponsible,” let us take a look at the actions of the so-called “responsible” generations that preceded us:
- Under the leadership of presidents from the World War II generation and the Baby Boomer generation, our government has run up a national debt of $5 trillion and counting. Such spending habits have severely jeopardized our economic solvency. How responsible.
- Members of the World War II and Baby Boomer generations married early – and ended fifty percent of those marriages in divorce. How responsible.
- Older generations spend on frivolous luxury goods instead of saving; the national savings rate is currently the lowest it has been since the Depression, and the average credit card debt per family is $7,000. Apparently, older generations opted to buy that third shiny new SUV and pay for it later instead of saving some money for future expenses such as, say, helping their kids out after they leave college. To the Boomers, it’s more important to show up the neighbors than to be financially secure. How responsible.
Responsibility is living within your means. Responsibility is saving money for tomorrow’s possible disasters. Responsibility is buying a house when you find a steady job, no matter how long it takes. Responsibility is raising children once you can afford it. Responsibility is buying something when you have the money instead of using the credit card. Responsibility is planning for the future while enjoying the present. We know what responsibility is. If Boomers want to see what irresponsibility is, they need not look past their mirrors.