Memo to youth and young and middle-aged workers

joyfulguyFebruary 25, 2006

There's another thread on this forum called, "Present Economic Climate".

One of the messages there, written by "steve o", who usually posts level-headed messages (in my opinion), near the end of the thread, written Feb. 3, bears some careful thought, it seems to me.

In these times, in my opinion it is important for working people to keep learning new things and upgrading skills in order to continue to be able to provide a useful service to society in case of "downsizing" - which to me means "getting fired".

As you know, the industrial and economic situation worldwide is changing rapidly, and the pace of change is increasing. As more complex manufacturing is built abroad, operated by low-wage people, our productive systems in many cases can't compete - shoes and shirts aren't made here any more, in any quantity. And many other parts of the industrial, financial, business and economic system are changing rapidly.

Further, many of what we thought only recently to be secure positions in our part of the world ...

... are disappearing like smoke.

Or being relocated offshore.

I am thankful to be retired, to be out of not only the rat-race, but the worry about having one's skill become obsolete, especially if it's one where it's difficult to transfer parts of it into a related field that is viable - well, at present, at least.

I think that you might find Steve's outlook interesting.

Have a happy weekend, everyone.

ole joyful

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Does Steve have any children? Other than relishing his good fortune, does he have either concerns or advice for today's college graduates or trade school graduates?

I always find it interesting to hear retired people rave about their good fortune at being out of this difficult economy, and give no thought to the struggles faced by our youth. I know several near-retirees in San Diego, whose grown children live at home or in their parent's rentals, since they cannot afford to buy a home here or pay the high rents ($1.25/sq ft inland). One guy has a master's degree in teaching, and waits tables at the Fish Market.

A good tip though, to keep one's skills updated.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 7:04PM
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I once found myself in the position of having the necessary skills, but not having the paper evidence --the diploma or the certificate-- to prove it. So even while I was in fact already doing the work on the job, I was not getting the pay that I could have until I finished the academic program to certify. And of course, I had to pay tuition for these classes which had nothing to teach me that I had not already learned. So there can certainly be futher expenses involved in learning and documenting one's learning. Gotta pay money to earn money, sometimes.

I know someone with two master's in separate fields who is now getting an associate's degree in yet a third field. I would not have expected it to become hard to find employment (or to create a business) in the first two fields. Yet, it has happened.

I'm encouraging my children who are teens to both learn a trade and to go to college. In some cases these trades and college studies can fit together quite nicley. One child plans to go to a state technical school where he will learn a trade related to energy production, then he will go to college for engineering. It is a delay in college education that is not often encouraged, but I think he has a good plan that will give him a bit more security...and that he will be happy with his choices.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 9:41PM
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Thanks for the kind words, joyful.

Does Steve have any children? Other than relishing his good fortune, does he have either concerns or advice for today's college graduates or trade school graduates?

No kids. What does that have to do with this discussion? I don't know where that "relishing his good fortune" bit comes from, either. I don't believe in luck or fate. I've worked for my success. I also know that a few decisions made differently would have changed my life greatly. But the same goes for everyone else. So far be it for me to try to lord it over anyone.

And, FWIW, I am a long way from retirement -- a few decades, in fact. I have a long time to go (maybe the rest of my life) on this rollercoaster.

Kids or not, I have plenty of concerns. I'm concerned that people are more worried about having "stuff" and getting more of it than they care about where it came from. That this dedication to "stuff" is stifling our ability to relate to the rest of the world -- the vast majority of which is not "agonizing" over the decision between a 40" and a 48" stove. That this is the "normal" we are showing our children.

I'm concerned that people teach their kids that violence is a bad way to resolve conflicts ("Don't hit!"), yet it supposedly is okay when it comes to dealing with other societies and countries. That people seem to have forgotten that our soldiers from conflicts past sacrificed to keep us free, and that we are now surrendering those hard-fought rights to "leaders" who think that eavesdropping on everyone all the time will net a few more "bad guys" (definition theirs) and letting the government stick its nose into some of the most private decisions individuals and families can make.

I'm concerned that our kids are entering a world in which the only constant is change -- their careers, their friendships, their committed relationships. It's sad and stressful to think that none of it is permanent. I'm concerned that our kids almost literally cannot think for themselves -- I'm talking basic life skills like adding up the cost of groceries if a calculator isn't around or not understanding that borrowing money you don't have is a lousy way to get ahead.

As far as advice, I'd just urge kids to think. For themselves. Just because things have "always been this way" does not mean that they should stay "this" way. Things -- items, events, happiness, dinner on the table -- do not just appear magically; is what is being received worth what was paid for it? Just because someone (Madison Avenue, the Vice President, a saleswoman) says something does not make it true.

And, at work, I would advise them to add value. My workgroup almost was outsourced to India last year, but management found we produced a higher-quality product at the same cost. We plain worked smarter. Learn something new, even for the sake of keeping the brain sharp. Many of the jobs I've had were the result of picking up some skill or knowledge that I, frankly, didn't think had any value at the time. And think seriously about doing work that cannot easily be done by a machine or by someone half a world away.

My apologies that this ran so long.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 1:46PM
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This is off topic, but I think may have some bearing.

I heard recently that the number of Viet Nam veterans who have committed suicide since their return has just passed the number who were killed during the war.

That's a statistic that, if true, I find troubling, indeed.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 2:06PM
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Steve-O, thanks for the addendum. Joy's post stated, "I am thankful to be retired". She didn't have quotation marks in her post, so I didn't realize she was done quoting you and writing of herself.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2006 at 8:00AM
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Though I referred to Steve's message, my intention was not so much to quote him, but to offer my own ideas and opinions pretty well throughout what I said.

So the reference to being retired was just more of my own observation about the issue.

Also, though I've said on occasion that I felt that many people expected (male) clergy to be sort of semi-female ...

... last time I checked, I wasn't (amn't).

Maybe I'd better check with my doc when I go (soon) for my medical.

o j

    Bookmark   February 27, 2006 at 6:16PM
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Hi everyone,

I'm surprised that this idea hasn't elicited more comment.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 5:15PM
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I will add that I, too, echo steve o's thoughts and concerns. I nodded in agreement with mattias, too.

I add the following observations about adding skills, maintaining skill levels, "education". I did not finish college. (I didn't particularly enjoy the program I was in, but was too afraid to say so because I WAS TO GRADUATE IN 4 YEARS! I succumbed to the numbing pressure of supporting myself and struggling to maintain the 4 year pace... I couldn't do it all). I found a trade I enjoyed and immersed myself in it. Over the years I've worked successfully and profitably in a variety of applications of my basic trade (sewing). I've worked tirelessly to add to my "bag of tricks", I've invested in quality equipment, and whenever I've had a chance to try some new angle, I've GRABBED IT. It took me a fairly long time to find outlets for creativity and intellectual acuity. And here's what I think: I'm SO sick of the 4 year college degree being the MINIMUM requirement to get through a door for an interview! I read what people write on these forums and I'm shocked at how poorly many write; they can't spell (we're not talking about typos), they have little grasp of grammar or punctuation, and they have a college degree? Huh?! I speak a foreign language pretty well, too. So I'm skeptical of the focus on college degrees; not resentful, just skeptical. Are they really that meaningful?

I'm another one with no kids. And I'm really sort of tired of having people tell me I don't "know how tough it is". On one hand, I don't! On the other hand, my careful soul-searching early in my life set me up for EARLIER SAVING and INVESTING. Now, when many of my peers with kids are struggling with college expenses, worrying about thin retirement savings, and STILL paying off a mortgage and cars I have retirement savings, a paid off home, and a relatively "easy" life. But it WASN'T easy to be blue collar in the late '70s, early '80s. I've had room-mates most of my adult life (even after marriage!), I've never owned a new car. I've never "lived large". Until now (and that's without cable TV).

My advice for young people? the same advice I received. Learn to discern between "need" and "want". Take care of "need" first, indulge "want" within reason. Save a portion of every paycheck you earn. Keep your expenses low, and don't expect to live like your parents when you're first starting out! Lose your sense of entitlement... until you do it will hold you prisoner for the rest of your life.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 6:19PM
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" ... don't expect to live like your parents when you're first starting out!"

"Amen!" to that statement.

Many parents say that they don't want their kids to have to experience the difficulties that they did.

But some difficulties test us, try us, help to make us stronger, if we're willing to learn from the experience, rather than crabbing about it.

Many young people today have no idea of the difficult times that their parents experienced during the early years of their marriage.

It seems to me that no generation before has known the good life that so many millions of middle class people in North America and much of Europe have known for the past couple of generations.

We've stolen from our kids - haven't maintained infrastructure in our cities, have run up huge government deficits and debts. That we aren't paying off.

Plus we've underfunded our contributory pension systems, not having the amounts that I pay in kept there to pay my pension, but have paid earlier (and current) pensions from not only the income from those various contributors, but from the contributions from those paying in in more recent years, as well.

When I take in people's money and pay 5% per month or something like that, paying most of that income from new money coming in, they call it a Ponzi scheme, and it's illegal.

Doesn't seem to be so when the government or major financial institutions, insurance cos., etc. do it.

I, too, lament the composition, grammar and spelling that I see here from people who are, supposedly, college grads.

We are in for deeper trouble in future, as well, for our current youth don't score nearly as well on exams as kids from less developed areas of the world.

The ones with whom they'll be competing when they become adults.

We've been living too high on the hog.

We've become too fat and soft.

Soft-headed, as well, I think.

Have a memorable weekend - in the good sense.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 4:41PM
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