A young person starting out at this sketchy period in American history is very fortunate. I'll get a healthy share of opposing arguments for making this claim, but that won't get me to budge from feeling that if you are young right now, in 2009, you could have the problems of my generation licked. That's why I've begun my public talks to students, not with good humor, but with hope. My high school and college talks go something like this-
Great news! You boys and girls are not in debt. Well, maybe some of you are, but I'd say that if you are in debt you have, maybe, a couple hundred down on your late '90s model pick-up truck. That's nothing. Pay it off now. Do not gather any more debt.
You say you have college loans? All right, handle 'em, and don't start racking up credit card and other bills for things you don't need.
You don't need to have a cool apartment first time out-you can rent one with a few roommates and split it three ways; one in the bed, one on the couch, one on the futon.
I moved to New York City when I was age 29; I slept for two years on an air mattress in a hallway that led to the bathroom. My two roommates would hop over me on their way to shower in the morning. My share of the rent was $300 a month, a pittance. It wasn't my favorite living situation, but I look back now at the monetary savings, and overall experience, as an integral part of my career journey. Remember: the journey, not the destination, is the real thing.
You don't need a fancy late model car. If you know what to look for, you can get a solid and safe older used car for a couple thousand bucks; it will last you a few years if you take care of it.
There you go, the two biggest ticket items we have-living arrangement and personal transportation-kept well within your budget. It's easy to do. So, just do it.
Pass through the gate slowly. Don't get in debt at age 22. Relax. You can do it. Don't follow the leader, don't listen to the debt-ridden generation that got us into the current mess. Believe me, debt is not a requirement for living a fruitful life.
Boys and girls, you are in the cat bird seat right now; to cash in on your valuable position, you need only open your eyes and learn from how foolishly many of the folks from the past generation have lived; going about buying every gol darn thing they didn't need; marrying every gol darn person they didn't need to marry.
Say this with me, teenagers: Lawyer fees suck. What is it now? Only 50 percent (or less) of all marriages end up making it. A Shaquille O'Neal free throw has a better chance.
Here you are, ages 12 through 30, in a perfect position to make a fantastic life for yourself. You have, at this time in history, clear evidence of how not to live life-thanks to my generation.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you shouldn't get married; I'm saying you best reckon yourself a solid choice of whom you hitch up with, and once you do, both of you had best be wise with the family income.
Don't buy the house with the pool, decks, and sunroom that the real-estate agent says adds "only $40k" to your goal price (which spread over 30 years is a "mere" few dollars more per month). Buy the modest house you can afford. The pool, decks, and sunroom are luxuries-they aren't entitlements. You should work to earn them first, then buy them later as rewards of your success.
Eat as much as you need to live, not as much as you want.
The best lesson learned from your Ma and Pa's generation can be gleaned from a mathematically based fundamental, that is: to burn 2,500 calories a day you must eat 2,500 calories a day. Not one more calorie, or one less, unless you like tampering with you personal success.
Proper nutrition is immensely important and affects every aspect of your life. It's hard to believe that a great portion of our population doesn't give it a second-heck-even a first thought. Seeing my generation unhealthy and gooned on pills and other drugs should put you young folks wise to taking care.
Some would say you're in the catbird seat because of all the deals at this point in time. I say, beware of deals. Do not seek them out; they are the things that got us into this mess.
Boys and girls of our latest and next greatest generation: You are in the position to thrive and succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com