A Gen-Zer is Upset

The young woman is tired of her generation being called lazy because they—she in particular—are working 40-hour weeks, “barely getting by,” and don’t want to do that for the rest of their lives. They have other things they want to do. She then insisted that today’s economy is not the one in which prior generations started out, and Gen-Zers starting out have it hard today compared to earlier generations when we were starting out.

She has a beef in some respects.


Here is what was available to this Boomer when I was just starting out.

The house I grew up in was all of 1232 square feet, compared with today’s median size of 2500 square feet. That house didn’t have central air conditioning. We were some years into it before we got a window air conditioner for our living room. Such basics as a thermostat for the furnace was a manually set mercury-based affair, not today’s programmable with its variety of part-of-day or -night or vacation settings.

We didn’t spend $250 and more per month on cable TV—it didn’t exist.

We didn’t spend $50-$100 per month on an Internet connection—there was no Internet.

We didn’t spend $80-$120 per month on cell phone service—it didn’t exist.

We didn’t drop $800 on a new cell phone—they not only didn’t exist, the phone company gave us our landline instrument as part of their POTS service. (Don’t know what that is? Welcome to my starting out world. Go look it up, if it doesn’t interfere too badly with modern priorities.)

We didn’t hire Uber or Lyft or Door-Dash or anything of that ilk—that ilk didn’t exist. We drove ourselves, or went shanks mare. And doggy to go bags were our takeout.

We didn’t have much in the way of shipping costs, other than moving our household, or the occasional order from a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog—there was no such thing as eTail.

We couldn’t even order our books online. We used the local library, or we drove (or did that shanks mare thing) down to the local bookstores. Of course, the library or the bookstore could special order a book we wanted. By sending a letter or making a POTS call. And we could go pick up the book at the library or bookstore when it arrived.

We spent nothing on programs for our personal computers or laptops or aps for our cell phones—that kind of software programming didn’t exist, and neither did the personal computers or laptops, or cell phones to run them on. Spreadsheets? Those were paper-printed grids on which we used pencil or pen. Word processors? Manual typewriters, or pencil/pen and paper. We did have actual (hand-cranked) adding machines, though, so it wasn’t all pencil and paper.

If we wanted to talk to our neighbors, we visited them or they us. If the ones we wanted to talk with lived far away, we wrote postcards and letters. International mail was something else, with its folding envelopes on which we wrote our letters, and then folded them to become the international mail envelope to save the weight of an additional sheet of paper. Or we called long distance (haven’t heard of that? Welcome to another aspect of the modern world, which isn’t what I started out with) on our landline POTS service. International calls were both especially expensive and faint of voice on both ends. There was no concept of electronic social media.

The list goes on and on.

If Gen-Zers want to start out with costs similar to those earlier starting-out generations, they need to learn to live without all of today’s technology.

Further, regarding today:

When I finally walked out the door in retirement from my skilled professional job, I still was working 50-60 hour weeks. That schedule wasn’t universal, but it was quite common throughout those earlier start-outers’ careers. We had families to support and kids’ college to plan for. Family mattered, not personal wants. Indeed, family was central to our personal wants, and gladly so. We weren’t centered exclusively, or even primarily, on our selves.

The mom-and-pop HVAC folks who deal with my current house’s heating and air conditioning (central, mind you, today) not only work those 60-hour weeks, they work holidays, too, including Christmas. It’s the same for the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, road builders, all the trades.

One last fillip. This particular Boomer did have a somewhat easier time handling my starting out costs. I’d enlisted in the USAF, getting commissioned through my college’s ROTC. With that military career as my first, I was given structure, a place to live, and a grocery store that was a bit cheaper than the local economy grocery stores. The young woman, and others of her cohort, might think about enlisting in one or another branch of our military, whether as enlisted or as an officer. They’d be helping out their nation’s security, and they’d learn what work truly is and how rewarding it can be.

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