I've been thinking about what has changed since I was a kid, and especially what it would be like to be a 'millennial' these days. I must admit I still judge things by what was happening when I was a young adult, but boy, it was a different time back then. I was born almost a decade after the end of WWII, so I'm definitely a baby-boomer. When I was 3 years old, there were 21 people unemployed in NZ. A year later, there were 22 -- I often wonder who that one extra person was, and what happened to them...
When I left school early 1973, unemployment was still not a major issue, although finding employees was. I can remember walking through the Square and being accosted by bands of roving employment agents, and you could accidentally end up with a job before you got to the Four Avenues if you weren't careful... I wanted a nice cushy office job, so I applied to a local import/export company, and immediately got a job. However what they didn't tell me was that I was a 'back-up', just in case their first choice didn't last. So for six months I did practically nothing, mostly walking around town so the big-wigs didn't notice me standing about doing nothing, until I was basically an over-paid delivery boy.
So I quit and applied for an insurance office job. They (NZI) were definitely struggling to find people, they had only ever employed Boys High' oldboys before, so someone like me -- from the wrong side of the tracks, Aranui High -- seemed their only option. I was told this in the initial interview, so it didn't really bother me much when I became an object of curiosity...
Anyway, the economy soon packed up, in 1973 there were oil wars etc, in the 1980s the markets crashed, and by 1986 the insurance industry had changed enough to make clerical staff obsolete. So off to polytech to be retrained...
I won't get into politics here -- well, maybe just a little. So what went wrong with the buoyant post-war NZ economy? Well, a couple of things:
First, the world was very happy to give the banks and financiers all the power they wanted in a 'free' money economy, and we all know how that worked out. Secondly was the end of Rogernomics, going with a world-wide trend of letting the market decide everything -- a kind of anti-socialist backlash which led to rampant capitalism, responsible for a lot of the country's ills, including a huge increase in youth suicide.
So I for one can't really look at millennials and say they are 'privileged', I do think we wrecked a pretty good thing for them over the last 30 years.
Anyway, lately I've been having to learn how to forget the 'baby-boomer' way, and discover how to be frugal in a tough market. I do think that things are poised to become a lot tougher, so now is the time for people like me to figure out how to live on very little, as we get older, our health packs up, and the world economic powers get greedier and less accepting of the 'poor' -- who have become a new criminal class in some places, like the US.
Last week I had a real wake-up call, I've been living on almost zero income lately, while I finish NZCH, so I've done things like cash-in my flybuys for groceries, and live off my credit card. At the supermarket, my CC was declined, and I was fluffing around figuring out how to cover the cost using various other accounts, when a woman behind me reached over and tapped the terminal, and paid for my groceries.... I immediately broke down, the whole experience caught me by surprise, going from a normal old guy making ends meet to someone struggling. The woman who paid did say 'hey, just pay it forward when you can', which was so sweet it almost made up for the shock and dismay. On top of this, my son is paying my rent at the moment, it's a loan until I can start selling NZCH, but still something which I never thought would be my reality.
Anyway, there's a lot of talk lately about the state of the world, I'm happy to look no further than my own little family and community, who are surprisingly happy to look after me.
One problem I have with being frugal is that it is partly a moral issue -- apparently I should be buying cheap cage eggs, but I just can't bring myself to. So instead I do without eggs. Also I'm not quite ready for $1 bread, I have discovered $1.69 bread which is near enough, at least it smells and looks like proper bread.
Looking forward to getting back to a proper lifestyle, but good to know that if it doesn't happen, I can probably cope!