the american delusion

i haven’t had much to say in a while–a side effect of being MIA i guess!  but there’s something i’ve been turning over in my mind, which, for lack of a better forum, i thought i might as well ponder out loud here.

the subject is changing economic paradigms in the 21st century, and the fallout on our lives.  i know, snore, right?!  so snore along with me for a bit…

i’m thinking the old so-called american dream will die out in this generation or the next.  one of the cornerstones of the ‘dream’ is home ownership.  in the old paradigm, a generation or two ago, you got a secure job for life, or close to it, saved up, bought a house in the suburbs, qualified for mortgages and loans based on the asset, eventually paid off the mortgage (and all your other debts, theoretically), retired and died there.  maybe you even left the house to the kids.  possibly you upgraded to a bigger, better home, but basically you stayed put.

this is no longer a possibility for most people.  if you can even afford college, and graduate, you are already in debt for life at the outset.  then you can’t find a decent (or any) job.  maybe temp or part-time/seasonal jobs, and you must be available at all times and able to move all over the country or world, unless you can work remotely, from home.  even if you could save for a home, it wouldn’t be practical to settle in one place, or realistic to assume you have any job security.  a house would be more of a liability in every sense, even if its assessed value doesn’t continue to drop.

the new abnormal, as they say, is for the kids to move back in with their parents, if they ever left in the first place, in order to afford to live.  that is, if their parents even have a house.  meanwhile, the parents are living longer, aging in place, but no longer able to function on their own.  if they sell their house while they still can, they’ll take a financial hit, but at least they’ll have more money to survive on and pay the enormous cost of slowly dying in our system.  so much for the theory of living happily ever after in your own home, and  leaving it to the kids.

current economic models show that in order to even approximate the standard of living previous generations expected, you’d have to start by age 25, with a stable, secure, increasing income and investments, with no breaks or economic downturns, pay off all your debts, and not stop to breathe or basically start a family, for a lifetime, in order to retire in any reasonable shape or form.  in other words, it’s just not going to happen in this century.  or possibly centuries to come.

you can’t even compare recent generations.  it’s like apples and rutabagas.  the current generation is not lazy, entitled, irresponsible, or  whatever else oldsters like to imagine to explain it away.  we live in a whole different reality.  the concepts of home-ownership, immobility, job security, paying off debt, retirement, etc., are becoming inaccessible phantoms, not realistic objectives.  if you can even acquire a home, it becomes your one remaining bargaining chip when you downsize to afford to live out your remaining years.  more people are just skipping the whole conundrum and renting.  job insecurity and mobility pretty much necessitate it.

well, that’s it in a nutshell, if you’re still with me…or not.  yep, that’s the kind of scintillating stuff i dwell on, here in the vortex, temporarily under the disintegrating roof of my dead and dying parents, with nowhere else to go on the horizon.  go figure.