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Today’s Kids

June 19, 2006

Filed under: life,money — Terry Wohlers @ 07:32

Are today’s kids different from the way we were decades ago or is it just me? My impression is that they expect so much for doing so little. Also, they have difficulty understanding the concept of saving money. When I was a kid, my parents encouraged me to get a job at a young age, so I delivered the daily newspaper. This required me to open a bank account, collect and deposit money, and learn the basics of accounting. I learned how to count back change, which few young people can do today because a machine does it for them. Before age 15, I had two paper routes, worked at one of three restaurants in town, assisted a bee keeper for a summer, worked for local farmers, and helped remodel and build many new homes and other structures.

If I’m right about today’s kids, why are they the way they are? I posed the question to a friend this past winter and he and I concluded the following: Much of the adult population (i.e., baby boomers) grew up in small towns or in rural areas in less developed agricultural states such as Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Ohio, and Minnesota. They didn’t live in cities such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Their parents were middle class with humble beginnings. Many were farmers or somehow tied to a farming community. Few had a lot of money, so most were frugal. Going out for dinner or visiting a shopping mall was infrequent and plane travel was even more rare. Doing research meant going to a library.

Today, kids are exposed to so much. Shopping sprees, dining, movie theaters, and other forms of entertainment are routine for many. Three-car garages filled with cars and toys and high-speed Internet are commonplace in neighborhoods. Many of our kids have only experienced well developed transportation, communications, and retail infrastructures. They lack an appreciation for saving their nickels and dimes so that they may one day afford a car or pay for college tuition. 

Some of us may be a part of the last generation to live in a time when the art of saving and frugal spending was so deeply integrated into our daily lives. Many of today’s kids are a part of a new generation—the first ever—to not live at a time when lives were basic, people had little money to spend, and there was much less to do and buy. This, in my humble opinion, is why kids are so different from the way we were.