Friday, March 6, 2009

Blinded by the light

Okay, so if you’re anything like most of young people who run with my posse, you’re feeling very wronged by this recession. Sure, you late Generation Yers-early Generation Zers may have scored some pretty sweet Christmas (or Hannukah/Kwanza!) presents during the 1990s when your parents were packing their pockets with Clinton era profit. I, for one, was the proud owner of the Molly, Samantha, Kirsten, and Felicity American Girl dolls. Although truth be told, etiquette went out the window at most of those tea parties. What with Molly hurling epithets about Kirsten’s Swedish upbringing. Alas, we were from different worlds.

But I digress. Young people are peeved because, relatively new to the workforce, we didn’t even get a chance to fuck up the economy before it fucked us. Not only is it difficult to land a job, especially for those without resumes padded by years of professional experience, but with Baby Boomer retirement savings devastated by the economic climate, we can’t even hit up our parents for money.

But listen, guys: forget everything that Counting Crows taught you. Stop wallowing. Let me tell you a few reasons I think this recession could be a boon for the young:

-We’re already poor. Meaning, few of us have valuable assets. I’m not saying it’s easy to scrap together the means to fix the fan belts on our ’83 Toyota Celicas, but most early-ish 20-somethings don’t own homes, have mortgages, etc., so stringing by on less isn’t a huge hit to our lifestyles.

-If you’re a young person in a big city, like say me in New York, your cost/quality of living might actually improve. Richard Florida writes of Atlantic Monthly proposes the inflated income of Wall Street finance workers drove up the real estate market. With the hegemony of investment bankers having run its course, perhaps our rents will even go down.

-If you can land a job, it’s gonna be fun. Recessions actually generate demand in the creative economy (I also read this in the Atlantic, fyi). Since recessions are times of adversity, the jobs that grow out of them require innovation and problem solving. They’re created to combat the very economic crisis they’re born from. Young people are so idealistic and naïve and full of hope, we’re ripe for crafting sweeping theories for change! Plus, to have a job where you actually get to use your brain early in your career is a gift in itself.

-We can start saving now. People lost money because stocks plummeted. But that means they’re selling for cheap. Investment made now won’t lead to quick profits but putting money into an index fund, which you wouldn’t dip into anyway until long after the government has wiped away this recession (right?), could lead to some worthwhile spending change for the future. According to my brother, buy Vanguard.

What better time in your life to be poor than the time in your life when you’re already poor? I know I can only see this through the prism of my own blessed experience. I have a job. I’m not stuck with obscene student loans. But perhaps I’m revisiting what Condi said in a far less stupid context: perhaps this recession is like the Chinese character for crisis, one of both danger AND opportunity.

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