Sharing the economic realities of our generations

Mike Willinger, a senior consultant with John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif., had an interesting piece in the company's newsletter a few weeks ago that I have been hoping to share.

Share is an important word, because Willinger is an acknowledged sharer.

He said his firm uses the word to describe people born in the 1980s, who are between the ages of 26 and 35.

Sharers share certain characteristics, but as I went down Willinger's list, I found that some of them could apply to me.

"We share our likes and location on social media." I do too much of that on Facebook, although I am getting better, realizing that this stuff often comes back to haunt you. I posted a photo of a recent vacation, for example, and the kid who lived next door when I was a teenager said, "Don't you ever work?" and "Show a picture of your workplace."

Since this job requires me to be on the road most of the week, I thought a photo of the front seat of my car or of the conductor on the Manayunk-Norristown line would do the trick.

"We share rides on Uber or vacation rentals on Airbnb." I have never ridden Uber - please see photos of the front seat of my car, the SEPTA conductor, or the bottoms of my shoes.

Airbnb, however, has made travel abroad much less expensive.

"We believe our education is not paying off yet due to a poor economy and high student debt." That's how I felt in the early 1970s, with no savings, a $93-a-month student loan payment, a $122 monthly car payment (needed for work), car insurance (under-25 male driver), and a job that paid $143 gross a week.

The economy was much better then, but newsprint-price increases and the threat of layoffs to compensate were a real threat to the just-hired.

"While the Great Recession made us more educated, practical, and thrifty, we are less likely to commit, especially when it comes to home purchases." In those days, you got married, lived in an apartment, saved as much as you could for a down payment, and then tried to buy a house by the time the first child arrived.

"Many of us share a home with our parents and are delaying marriage and children, thus delaying household formation and homeownership by 5+/- years."

I lived with my parents and paid them $25 a week for the privilege. After the independence that college brought, I saved every penny I could for my first apartment, even if it meant having to share it with four other people.

When I did get my own place, I would sign over a week's paycheck for the rent.

"I can't believe you make so little," the landlord said, shaking his head. He lowered the rent by $10.

"We are close to our parents. This is in part due to the advent of the birth control pill, which was approved in 1960 and resulted in a sharp drop in the number of children per household."

My parents were both gone by the time I reached 30, and I often look at photographs to remember what they looked like.

The more things change, the more they remain the same; and while there are major differences between my generation - I am racing toward age 66 - and those before and after, the similarities can be striking.

The one I always point out is that my entire freshman year at college in 1968-69 cost $2,800.

That was exactly what we paid for a year of preschool for my older son in 1985.

aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472@alheavens

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