All grown up now, but here she is playing in the trees behind Granny & Gramps’ house.
DH = Dear Husband
DD1 = Dear first daughter, and I’ve boasted about her pretty shamelessly a number of times. When I approached her about writing a guest post for me, she asked, “What would you like me to write about?” I encouraged her to say whatever came to mind in relation to her experience with personal finances – from childhood to the present. Some of what she has written is not easy for me to read. I was actually tempted to edit – but I haven’t. With some regret for the past, but with much more pride for the young woman who has emerged from it, I give you DD1.
Early influences: Financial anxiety
With Prudence and DH for parents, I was bound to be aware of money as a danger from a very young age. Early on, I figured out that finances in our household were tangled with anxiety, unhappiness, argument, and guilt. Granted, my developmental acuity peaked at the worst of times for my family – when DH went through his employment struggles and Prudence returned most resentfully to work full time. I think it will make Prudence blush to remember one time when I had a high fever from the chicken pox, and was cocooned in blankets on the living room couch, flat ginger ale by my side. As my temperature rose, I drifted into a troubled sleep, only to wake in a terrified delirium and start yelling out loud…about mortgages. This was at the wizened old age of eleven.
Impressions of parents’ journey out of debt
The rigor with which my parents are attacking their debt seems both crazy and admirable to me. The public forum of this blog, which helps to keep them accountable and allows them to share their experiences, I both fear and respect. When Prudence asked me to write a guest post, I wasn’t sure what I’d write, but was actually happy to contribute to something that’s been so positive in her life in recent years.
Personal finances of a young adult
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you already know a bit about me, and can probably skip the next paragraph. If not, I will paint myself in a nutshell. I am Prudence’s DD1, and have just entered the second half of my twenties. I’ve gone to school, moved across the country, and found a good job in a tough industry. My financial profile is simple but more or less positive. I own almost nothing, with my most extravagant possessions being (several) leather purses (I love them). The largest things that actually belong to me are two skis. These I purchased used. On the flipside, I owe nothing at all – not in student loans, not in credit card debt, not in car payments, not in a mortgage. I save, but maybe not as aggressively as someone like Prudence would advocate. I spend often and happily on things like travel, food, local craft beers, concerts, books, athletic adventures, and the aforementioned purses. I’m aware that I come from a situation of enormous privilege. Born in a safe and prosperous country, I’ve never lacked for water, shelter, education, and opportunity. At the same time, I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished (against modest odds), including staying out of debt.
Reflections upon generations of personal finance: From the Depression to Gen Y
Recently, my wonderful grandmother wrote a guest post outlining her perspective on debt as a child of the Depression. Like many women of her generation, she stayed at home, raised many children (they all turned out great, Granny!), and managed a frugal domestic economy. The house that she and my grandfather owned for decades was a magical place to me. It had a terrifying laundry chute that led to the dungeon-like basement, which smelled keenly of old books. It had toys that were different from the ones at home, and therefore exciting every time I visited. It had tulips in the front and, in the backyard, raspberry bushes, with fruit that could be crushed to make fake blood for the plays we cousins put on. It was a magical home, but not an expensive or extravagant one.
My parents matured into the eighties, a decade that produced Madonna, disproportionate numbers of luxury cars, and tastelessly large clothing logos. (And also yours truly, I should add). Given their era, maybe it’s not surprising that my parents owned a larger home, ate at more restaurants, and took on more debt than their parents before them.
Now I, from my little perch in Generation Y, wonder how the financial path that my peers and I take will compare with those of earlier eons. While I can’t speak for my age cohort as a whole, I can make a few predictions for my professional urban demographic of 20-somethings. I suspect that we’ll move away from home ownership, or at least delay it much later than generations that preceded us. Scared off by the glutted market and our parents’ headaches, we’ll rent, or build micro-houses, or share property with other families. We’ll stay similarly shy of car ownership, with fuel prices being what they are and with our budding concern for climate change. We’ll spend, though, and probably a lot more than our grandparents did. But our weaknesses will be technology (which we’ll chase as it accelerates more quickly to each next level), dining out (which provides our social milieu and allows us to work longer hours), and world traveling (which seems ever more possible and desirable in this globalized world).
In short, we probably can’t do better than watch our parents, learn from their mistakes and from the choices they make to fix them. We’ll make our own mistakes too, of course, but at least they’ll be original.
Comments are welcome!