Stories from Strapped: Conclusion

Are you glad the Stories from Strapped series is finally coming to an end? In the last five weeks, we read some stories in the book Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead by Tamara Draut.

Those real-life anecdotes are supposed to support the author’s case for why America’s 18-to-34 generation can’t get ahead. As you probably figured out by now, I’m not impressed by the stories. Example after example, I see big gaps between expectations and economic means.

In addition to the stories, Ms. Draut also cited many statistics. You can read them on the book’s official Web site. When she cited Suze Orman as “one of America’s leading personal finance experts,” I laughed. Suze Orman is no personal finance expert. She’s a personal finance entertainer.

The basic premises of economics are scarcity and choice. Scarcity means you can’t have everything you want and therefore you have to make a choice. I also have a number of things I want, but it doesn’t mean that I will get them, because I have to weigh them against other priorities.

The “rich” have always done better — they live in better houses; they drive better cars; their kids go to private schools and private colleges. I don’t have a problem with that. I make my own choices with what I have. I disagree with Ms. Draut when she says the 18-to-34 generation can’t get ahead. They can get ahead, if they make common sense decisions in education, career, and their daily living. Many of them did just that. The stories from readers serbeer, Ted, and finance girl are perfect examples.

Does it feel good when you can’t have everything you want? Of course not. Is it the government’s or the society’s fault you have to choose? Hardly. Maybe the Baby Boomer generation had an easier time, when United States didn’t have to compete with the developing countries as much as we do now. Time has changed. The globalization genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going back in.

Instead of teaching our young adults how to succeed in the global competition, Ms. Draut reinforces the entitlement mentality. She said that “their biggest character flaw is that they expect too little from our society.” Oh great, let’s all sit back and wait for the government to provide for us from cradle to grave. She wrote about the government as if it were an abstract entity that produces these nice benefits out of thin air.

The issues of college education, paycheck, debt, housing, and child care are legit. We can decide as a society what’s the best way to produce the services and how to pay for them. But we should make those choices clear. If the young adult generation as a whole were to receive free or subsidized college education, housing, and child care, that means another generation would have to pay for them. Should it be their parents the Baby Boomers, or their grandparents the retirees? Everybody expects more from the society, as long as they don’t have to pay for it. We know it can’t work that way.

Final verdict for the book: 1 star, harmful more than helpful. Getting hung up on entitlement and developing a victim mentality will not help our younger generation get ahead.

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Comments

  1. Pin yo says

    The premise of that book based on what I read here is quite lame. I am 34 years old and I am doing quite well, thank you. There are already enough people with victim mentality, we don’t need any more.

  2. Kristin says

    This growing sense of entitlement seems proportional to our ever growing and expanding government. It’s worth repeating:

    ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.’ Thomas Jefferson

  3. Andy says

    Agree with your comments. We need more positive and proactive books on personal finance. We make choices and we need to take responsibility for those.

  4. Grace says

    I think I expect the government to keep us safe – i.e. non-corrupt police force, well-paved streets, great education system, perhaps even good health benefits. But I don’t think personal choices in lifestyle – i.e. buying unnecessary thing, living beyond one’s means, etc. – should be fixed by tax dollars. Do your part, do it with effort and you should be fine. Of course there are tough times the we can’t help to avoid, such as layoffs, sickness, etc. but even then, what’s wrong with working for minimum wage, if that’s what it takes to survive? Enough of trying to keep up with the Joneses.

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