America’s Wealth Gap Widens

I read something in this morning’s newspaper that stunned me.

The article was talking about how wide the “wealth gap” has grown between the young and the old in this country.

Households headed by a person aged 65-plus, for example, are worth 47 times more than those headed by a person under the age of 35.

The article went on to say older households are increasing in assets, while younger people are racking up more debt — chiefly via student loans and housing. It said young people are returning to school for advanced degrees in hopes the current poor job market will turn around; in addition, many young people are struggling to pay mortgages on homes that have shrunk in value from when they bought them during the housing boom.

On the whole, this makes me angry.

I truly sympathize with young people who want their share of the American Dream. Fine houses, big cars, furniture, annual vacations.

And I’m sure that many can’t find suitable employment. Jobs aren’t being created in many industries right now; some jobs have gone overseas, and many companies have enacted hiring freezes as they wait out an uncertain political arena.

But who told these young people that they’re supposed to have RIGHT NOW what the older generation has worked a lifetime for? Who told them their salaries should be in the six figures, right out of college? Who told them to live paycheck to paycheck? Who told them everything should be “even”?

Many oldsters scrimped and saved their entire lives. They “made do” with old clothes, old appliances, old furniture. They didn’t take vacations (unless, like my parents, it was a quick trip to visit relatives). They stayed in one home rather than constantly “trading up” to fancier neighborhoods.

And they invested wisely. Real estate, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, their own businesses.

I see both sides of this issue. My son’s in college, so I can’t help but worry about what kind of future he will face; my mother is of “the greatest generation,” so she must remain vigilant and careful with her savings. While son has youth and time on his side, mom can’t return to the workforce.

The last thing young people need is a bunch of old folks occupying space in the employment lines!

Every generation hopes the one behind it will do better — be better educated, amass more money, be healthier and happier. But all that takes time.

Young people must curb some of their impatience. Instead of envying Grandma for her savings, perhaps they should bust their bottoms to emulate her wisdom.

What do you think?