Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Young People Don't Know

Young people today don't realize what has happened to the U.S. economy over the past 40 years. Their sense of what's "normal" is shaped by current reality, not the reality their parents grew up in. They don't know how things were; how prosperous America used to be.

When I think back on what my life was like in 1980, it horrifies me to see how badly the economic environment has deteriorated since then. Let me put try to put it in concrete terms.

The value of the dollar over time. In this graph, 2012 equals 1.
In 1900, a dollar was 29 times as powerful as in 2012.
Four years out of college, I was making $25,000 a year (in 1980). Which doesn't sound like a lot of money, right? Well, consider how I was living at the time. I had bought a nearly new (three years old) two-bedroom house on two acres of wooded land in North Carolina, for $30,000. I bought a new Chevy truck for $4100. I owned a 9-year-old Cessna 182, which I'd bought from a Delta pilot for $16,500. I was easily able to make the monthly payments on all these items. The combined payments came to a little over $600 a month.

Today, the new Chevy truck would cost $25,000. The average home price in the North Carolina town I lived in is now $300,000. A nine-year-old Cessna 182 can be had for $189,000. Basically, everything costs 6 to 10 times more now.

To live the same lifestyle today that I lived in 1980, four years out of college, would require an income of at least $200,000 in 2014 dollars. Few recent grads make anywhere near that amount.

Life was good in America in 1980. It was really easy to live really well on not much money.

What can I say?

Things have changed.

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