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Did Gen-Xers have it harder?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis February 17, 2014 08:43 AM

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Millennials are hardly the first generation to graduate into a job-killing economy and a miserable housing market.

Gen-Xers entered the work world in the early 1990s when the term "downsizing" gained currency, followed by the even more idiotic "rightsizing."

Much was made of the plight of Gen-Xers stuck without work or in dead-end jobs, living at home or with a gazillion roommates - the movie "Reality Bites" offers us some laughs while capturing the funk of those times.

I counted myself lucky to be making a semi-poverty wage, working 60 to 70 hours a week as a reporter for a struggling daily up in the Merrimack Valley after I graduated in 1991.

Nationally, the recession was a fairly mild one. But in New England at least, the real estate market was a mess and the local economy in a severe recession, with a once red hot condo market having gone belly up, taking with it some of the region's top banks.

I recently posted a note from "Amy," a frustrated Millennial PhD student in Cambridge who is struggling, like so many in her generation, with a grim job market, spiraling rents and landlords demanding letters of reference and other nonsense.

But Amy's comments triggered a bit of a blow back from Gen-Xers arguing she should stop complaining and buckle down. (In Amy's defense, it certainly seem like she is doing just that, but her comments apparently weren't read that way by some.)

No one doubts that a PhD program or being a student in general isn't hard work. But, what I saw and experienced in the early 90's with GenX is that we complained and had lost hope but we worked our a--'s off and managed. We now own homes and many didn't purchase until our 30s when we married.

OK, I have my own views on this, but I am going to stay out of this one, at least for today.

Read on and then fire away if you feel so inclined on the comment board.

Here's MichGrBos' full commentary:

GenX here. Went to school full time (sorry, state school). Worked at least 30 hours per week on top of that and then full time on summer and breaks. Did this with a son from infancy to 6 and a father making minimum wage. Didn't take a dime of non-education assistance (welfare, foodstamps, etc). Commuted in. Graduated without a loan. Leveraged scholarships as much as possible. Studies were STEM and now making a good living, better than most. Friends of mine, while not with kids at the time, also worked through school or were in the military. Also studied STEM subjects and doing well. Not one of us with a PhD, but all blessed with a good life after much hard work. It is not to say that tuitions haven't risen and you can get an education without a loan. But, if you stay in school from undergrad to graduate school without any work experience either in between programs or to support yourself (even if flipping burgers), life will be hard. I also know PhDs that aren't making that much regardless of the major; it is not always the degree but the work ethic or experience.
No one doubts that a PhD program or being a student in general isn't hard work. But, what I saw and experienced in the early 90's with GenX is that we complained and had lost hope but we worked our a--'s off and managed. We now own homes and many didn't purchase until our 30s when we married.
But, this blog is just stirring the pot. The reality is, Millennials will own homes. They will start buying. Under 30 is what I refer to as the "wining" years. I did it, our parents did it, now our kids are doing it. It's the cycle of life. I think the issue is that Millennials have had a good life until, better than other generations, and this economy is a much harsher awakening.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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