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Welcome The New Depression-Era Generation! The End of Stuff. (with thanks to George Carlin)

My parents were both the children of immigrants, grew up poor, worked hard, survived the depression, a plague, a World War, and ended up living the upper-middle-class American dream.  Since they emerged from poverty and a ravaged world, they had incredible appreciation for how their lives turned out.  And since they knew how bad things could get, they were conservative with their money, knew the value of having cash in the bank and as little debt as possible, and lived their lives with a great sense of fiscal responsibility and patriotism.  These are hallmarks of the Depression-era generation.

Fast forward a few generations and we have a society with an entirely new attitude. Much of America has been raised with some level of affluence – whether or not their parents could really afford it.  The idea of security through savings was replaced with a bizarre concept of debt financing and a sense of entitlement. Over the last thirty years we ripped up our farms and replaced them with massive big box retailers where we could go to buy all kinds of “stuff”.  And our desire to own lots and lots of stuff necessitated an entirely new approach to manufacturing.  We closed down our American factories and eliminated an entire class of workers, and shipped production overseas, where our stuff could be made for less – because we no longer wanted to own a few good things, instead we needed closet loads of cheap stuff.  Our homes were not large enough to hold all our stuff, so we bought larger homes we could not afford.

And now the bill for all this stuff has actually come due, and since we cannot afford the tab our lifestyles are being repossessed. Give back the houses, the cars; all the stuff we can’t pay for.  The people that make all this stuff are also suffering.  They geared up to provide for our consumptive lifestyles; they provided the silly and cheap financing that kept us hooked on buying stuff; and now like crack dealers that have lost their customers they must find a new way to stay afloat. 

Kicking our “stuff addiction” is difficult, and everyone is in pain right now.  But my guess is that we will emerge from the other side clean and healthy.  Hopefully we will have a new Depression-Era generation, financially smarter, leaner, and more focused than the stuff-addicted group.  We will value the good stuff as opposed to more stuff.  We won’t spend more than we make. We will invest in our infrastructure as opposed to complicated Ponzi schemes run by Weasels trying to consume the most stuff.  We will buy houses to live in as opposed to buying them as real estate investments.  The little things that are actually really big things will suddenly become our focus.  Is our food supply safe?  Do we have enough water and clean air to live? Do we provide opportunity for everyone? As a society do we live within the world community as opposed to trying to dominate it so we can get more stuff?

And if the new Depression-Era generation is as smart and resolute as the last one, we will create a better place with less stuff, but the stuff we do have will be really incredible.

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4 Responses to Welcome The New Depression-Era Generation! The End of Stuff. (with thanks to George Carlin)

  1. don says:

    tim……….this is a great piece…..how true, everyone should have a spending to” savings ”ratio that is realistic……………………..don

  2. Elena says:

    Luckily, I was a raised to believe that “debt” isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a mostly a necessity for two major items… your house and your car (and preferably not the car). I really listened to my Mom & Dad and can appreciate those values they instilled in us. I strive to carve those same values into the minds of my own children.

    This is a great article Tim…it’s true and I enjoyed it immensely.


  3. Robert says:

    Nice article Tim. Someone once said that as long as you owe money to anyone, you have no savings, it’s a bit extreme but true.

    I would be amiss in not mentioning a hope that this new economy will create less “Big Box” stores and more local businesses. I smile when I think of the possibilities of what today’s global market can provide the individual business instead of the large corporation.

    Now all we have to do is purge this nasty recession and we’ll do fine.


  4. Josh Frickle says:

    Not to mention, the more debt you have the less choices you can make profesionaly. As a young profesional, I like the satisfaction that if an opportunity knocked in a higher-priced city I would be able to take it without any financial hesitation. High debt is slavery and can neg. effect your aspirations.

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