My daughter is going off travelling next month. She’s taking in a few interesting places, which as a Dad, have got me worried. When she declared her itinerary, the conversation went something like:
“Sierra Leone? No chance: Ebola.”
“Columbia? Drug barons!”
“Argentina – No way!”
“Two reasons: The Hand of God & secondly the Falklands. They still hate us. Didn’t you watch Top Gear?”
Now, it would appear that I’m living in the past and that actually Buenos Aries is very cosmopolitan, but our character is very much framed by our experiences and my memories of the Falklands war is seminal in that it was the first time I realised the reality of conflict was not the same as portrayed in a John Wayne movie.
Dealing with advising a wide range of age groups on the subject of wealth and possessions, I do see that our age can determine our attitude to money. The elderly have lived through World Wars and this produced a scarcity of many items that we simply now take for granted. But this has given them a greater value of “things” and there’s a need for tangibility, such as having a passbook for their savings account. It’s real, physical and reassuring to be able to see how much they have. Their wealth is in their hand rather than in the ether. This understanding of value has come about through experiencing scarcity, and also having to have saved up for anything they needed to buy. Thus, although hard, the word austerity is not something new or daunting for them. They’ve always been a careful generation.
Similarly, many cultures revere the qualities of gold, as once again it is tangible, portable, and safe from being gambled away into a crisis by a greedy banker! However, younger generations have known nothing but relative wealth, immediate access through credit, and a confidence in handling their finances through their iPhone.
I still remember the first credit A Different Generation card I got in about 1983. It was the time of “soccer casuals” and the look was a diamond Pringle jumper over a Lyle & Scott roll-neck and Louis Jeans and, with no internet shopping, to look the part involved a shopping trip to London where, having flashed the credit card, four of us left the shop looking the dogs (I’m not going to complete that particular vernacular). Over the next few months I got paid in dribs and drabs down the pub that then bought the next few rounds and I ended up having to forfeit a present and a 21 st birthday party with my Dad paying £100 off my credit card bill! I simply did not have the means to pay it off. Yet again, an experience, which I found so negative, shaped my view and I’ve never gone a month without paying my card off in full.
I also only have one credit card so in the event of something unforeseen happening such as no work, or an illness, my liability is capped at an affordable amount. I’m from that transitional generation where some seem to have been able to embrace credit and live with it while others have remained wary.
However, as a nation we saw our debt to income ratio soar from 100% in 1999 to a staggering 160% in
2008. We are paying this off and this rate is coming down, but perhaps the experience of this level of credit pain (which is happening at individual, Corporate and Governmental levels) may produce a new generation who will revert to our elders’ view of debt, and revive the lost art of saving. Difficult to imagine whilst the only option for many who only want to better themselves is to take out a loan to cover the cost of university when they leave school