Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A generation who isn't prepared to sacrifice?

I met a young man on the flight back from New York yesterday who just graduated from college and was visiting his girlfriend. He lamented about whether or not he could go up there. He had a good job down south where cost of living was lower...so he also had a nice car and apartment. He feared not being able to find a job around NYC that would allow him to live so comfortably and was not ready to move. I told him that one thing I learned from my grandparents and parents is that sacrifices must be made sometimes for your priorities. If this girl was a real priority, then he can make the sacrifices to make it work. Sure, he may live in a bug infested apartment where he can touch two opposite sides of the apartment at once, but he can live there. Its all about making those decisions to sacrifice for things that are important to you in life.

I read recently but cannot find the reference now that we are a generation unprepared for sacrifice. That our generation expected to live a lifestyle similar to that of our parents while we are in our mid-20s. Our parents may have had 20 years to make it there in life, but thanks to credit and debt we can make it there tomorrow. Its like, lets say that a person in my generation needs a new coat. He/She goes to Macy's and finds one she loves. Most of the people my age would buy it and worry about paying for it later. A couple may save and wait to buy the coat, freezing their butts off in the process. Fewer of us would do what our grandparents would have done...went to Walmart or the Thrift store and bought a coat and kept our money for things more important to us...for our priorities. Now, just because you don't spend anything on clothing (lots of people I know are proud of that) doesn't mean this axiom doesn't apply to other areas of your life.

When Heather went to be a stay-at-home mom, we knew we were going to have to make sacrifices. Heather had a very well paying job at Fidelity Investments and we just wouldn't have the wiggle room we once had. We played with our budget and at one point stated the non-obvious....if it doesn't work we will start cutting to make it work. This means cable. This may mean (gasp!) cell phone. This may even mean moving to a less expensive house. Finally, it may mean we save less. Cable, cell phone, and our house were on the block before savings. Our savings represented our future as well as our children's future, and that was more important than even our house. Our house is larger than either Heather or I grew up in, by over 1000 square feet. That means its more expensive to maintain and pay for utilities. We could buy an older smaller home if we needed to and live comfortably as we did when we were children.

But thats just it with our generation. We want to have as good or better than our parents had...only not put the 10-20 years in to create that wealth. My parents lived in dumps when they first had kids. They made sacrifices consistently to keep us afloat. Some of our friends parents also have done amazing things. The most impressive I think is Heather's college roommate's parents who raised 8 kids on a teachers salary in NC. He had to pull side work to make ends meet, but he did it and his wife was able to be a stay-at-home mom for all of those kids. As a generation, we are quick to idolize those who have a lot instead of those who have sacrificed a lot. I hope I am able to teach my kids to appreciate the latter more than the former.

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