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Economic Crisis Isn’t New To Gen X

As we enter the second year of the U.S. financial economic crisis that started in August 2007 with the sub-prime lending meltdown, the impact on the economy and the average American has been devastating.

As we enter the second year of the U.S. financial economic crisis that started in August 2007 with the sub-prime lending meltdown, the impact on the economy and the average American has been devastating.I’ve been asked how younger generations will fare in this economic hail storm, and I assure you that Generation X is resilient. We’ve been on the short end of the stick more times than we can count.On a personal level, Xers were the first generation of latchkey children and divorce, with 40% of marriages ending in divorce during our childhoods.Professionally, the 1970s introduced 30 years of massive layoffs in corporate America. Xers observed the dot-com bust and we graduated from college during a time of high unemployment rates and took just about any job we could manage to find. We’ve never known job security and we trust few of our nation’s leaders, since we’ve seen a series of them — from President Richard Nixon and Reverend Jim Baker to the Enron CEO lie and fail to deliver on their promises.And here we are in 2008- knee-deep in debt and house mortgages. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that mortgage defaults wouldn’t harm the U.S. economy, but is predicting that by the end of 2008 over 2.8 million U.S. households will either be in foreclosure, be forced to give their house over to their lender, and move out or sell their home for an amount lower than their actual mortgage balance.This is par for the course when you’re an Xer. Are we cynical because of it? Perhaps.But I think it’s more likely that Xers have adopted a ‘can-do’ attitude realizing that thus far, the woes the world has doled out hasn’t prevented us from achieving success or happiness. We have learned to do what we have to do to make it in this world, and there’s really nothing that shocks us anymore.So when I read the article, Lessons Learned from the U.S. Financial Crisis, I couldn’t help but think it was an article geared towards Boomers and Ys. Among his list of lessons (and my Xer responses):

  1. Only buy a house you can afford. (For Xers, the future has always been uncertain, which is why we’d much rather go into debt than live within our means. At least we’d go bankrupt or die knowing we lived in a nice big house.)

  2. There is no such thing as a guaranteed retirement. (We’ve known this all along. That’s why we’ve refused to be married to our jobs, introduced work-life balance, and pursued work that made us happy. We’ll probably be working well past retirement age to pay off all our debt anyway.)

  3. Be wary of 401K plans. (Obviously! We’re wary of anything that isn’t here and now. In an Xers world, retirement funds and social security is the equivalent of Monopoly money.)

  4. There’s no such thing as a “safe secure job.” (We’ve never known job security. We live in constant fear of being laid off, downsized, or merged.)

  5. You MUST have a Plan B. (I think it’s safe to say our whole lives have been on a Plan B. From broken households to a bumpy economy, we know better than any other generation how to make the best of a situation and ride out the economic hail storm.)

Undoubtedly, the financial crisis is a serious concern. But Generation X has been raised rolling with the punches. So don’t be surprised when you find us standing strong as opposed to shaking in our boots. We are resilient, we have both time and experience on our side (unlike the Boomers and Ys respectively), and we will rise to this challenge just as we’ve risen to all the others.


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