Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Generation Debt -- Some Thoughts on the book by Anya Kamentez

Today I wanted to recommend a book, specifically to those who are somewhere in the range of my twenty-something readers. The book is called Generation Debt, with it's highly positive and encouraging subtitle Why Now Is A Terrible Time To Be Young.

The book is written by Anya Kamenetz, a journalist who received her undergraduate degree from Yale in 2002.

Her book is far more of a journalistic expose than an economics or financial text. While it is filled with a variety of statistics, much of the pathos is carried through interviews that Anya has conducted with a variety of young people 18 to 30-somethings.

The book covers a lot of economics/political/social territory of some of the principal differences in our current age as opposed to previous generations, specifically addressing national youth issues like college loans, credit card debt, low wage and temporary employment, jobs without benefits, social security, medicare, caring for boomer parents in retirement, medical expenses, and changing family decisions based on financial security.

While some people are likely to find errors or differences in opinions about some of Kamenetz's conclusions, I think this is an important book and a worthwhile read. Kamenetz strives to be balanced, pushing for both government action and personal decision making, but it does have a more liberal political leaning.

Yet as I read this book and read the varies interviews and discussions I see a reality that is facing the world around me, and the newest generation entering the workforce.

It is certainly clear that the older generation have a strong lobbying and voting voice in Washington DC, and as I follow this current and upcoming election there really is a lack of true discussion of issues that effect the economy and future for the youngest working generation.

There is definitely room for some policy decisions to be made. Personally I'd love to see the government take some action and create some political moves in terms of availability of student loans and tuition prices. I would be interested in seeing more discussion about the move for businesses to hire temporary contract labor without benefits, and the rise to permatempts. I would be interested in credit card companies have greater restrictions to offering high credit limits to students without steady income. I would like to see businesses required to at least pay minimum wage rates to interns, as opposed to getting free labor that is not open to those without parents or credit cards backing the bill for students who can't afford the entry-cost into the labor market. And I would even be willing to see the retirement age increase sooner than later, if it meant a better social safety net and longevity to the social security system.

I might share some more personal thoughts on these issues, but to begin with, I recommend you get your hands on this book, it's a quick can even buy a used copy on amazon for a penny (click here to purchase). Also author Anya Kamenetz has her own blog called the Narrow Bridge which might be worth following as well.


nate said...

I put my order in. For .01, even with the shipping it's a good deal, and the subject matter, while different from what I usually read, resonates with a lot of my thoughts recently.

How do you find time to work, watch movies, read, and get ready for a baby? kudos to your time management!

Loren Eaton said...

Sounds like an interesting book, although I'm always skeptical about expanding government powers, particularly when it comes to managing the debt of others. (The government can't seem to stick to its own budget, after all.) Through thrift and willpower, my wife paid off the student loans related to two private-college degrees in about three years -- without resorting to credit-card debt.

crackers and cheese said...

Hmm, this does sound really interesting. I feel like I'm decently financially sound, but a lot of that has been helped by scholarships and parents. I do have a few peers in my graduate program who seem to have no problem swiping their credit cards whenever they want designer clothes or expensive meals, and this mentality concerns me for my generation.

On the topic of loans, I saw a Wall Street Journal article the other day about how many banks are limiting loans to community colleges and even some universities. While two-year community colleges are much lower cost than four-year ones, they are also attended by many lower income students who need loans to enable their education. If the government doesn't step in, I'm really afraid of what this could do for the accessibility of education.

Anonymous said...

I discovered a Wall Street diary clause the other day about how many trusts are determining loans to residential area colleges and even some universities.