The young and the restless

July 2018 | Justin Hooper

One of the most common comments I hear from parents and grandparents is that it’s so much harder for their children and grandchildren today. But is it more difficult for this generation than it was in “our day”?

“Their degrees are so much harder these days. They have so much more competition for jobs. There are so many distractions. Property prices are so much higher.”

Really?

If you go back 40 years ago there were fewer jobs, there was no internet and more violence in the world. We had to hand write letters and post them, and it would take a week or two to arrive at their destination. We sent memos internally, letters externally and the big innovation was fax. Cars were unsafe and would regularly break down. More people drove when drunk and we didn’t use seatbelts. My first car was a 15-year-old Renault T12. We scavenged secondhand furniture, crockery and cutlery from our parents.

It’s no more difficult these days. Students are more educated, but have more access to information. Knowing things is easy. Jobs are plentiful and varied. New industries are being created daily. We communicate extensively. It’s not good or bad, just different.

Young people these days desire more than we did – that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just is. They are also the first generation to teach the previous generations. Older people often feel slow and ignorant next to the young. Suddenly, “wisdom” is less valued.  As a result, young adults are more confident, outspoken and verbalise their views. They are not prepared to put up with second-best, or wait. They are less likely to delay gratification — they can’t see why it is necessary.

I don’t know whether this is good or bad. In some respects, I admire their impatience and lack of concern for the future. (I know I have always worried too much about the future).

At the same time, our generation is a lot wealthier than our parents were at the same age. And we feel like we want to be better parents.

The combination of these factors could potentially lead to the opposite of what is intended. When either adult children ask for help or parents/grandparents offer it, it is driven by a desire for “happiness”. But, by financially enabling the younger generation, we may remove their ability to survive and even thrive, and therefore their confidence. We may be encouraging impatience and feeding the desire for instant gratification.

In a study conducted by Tom Stanley and Bill Danko, two groups of young people were analysed. One group received a large capital sum as young adults and the other didn’t. You would have thought that this would have made them a lot wealthier later in life – but that wasn’t the case. And most people will know exactly why.   In another study, groups of children were tested. Marshmallows were put in front of them while they sat in a room on their own, with the instruction that leaving the marshmallow alone would result in more. Those that were able to delay, were more successful as adults.

Giving young adults large sums of capital can actually impair their ability to both survive and thrive financially, and then impact their levels of confidence and self-esteem.

Parents want their children to be happy, and its natural to want to help. The challenge is finding the most appropriate way to provide short-term help which has long-term benefits. Involve us whenever you can, and we may be able to provide some innovative solutions.