Debt as a Source of Young People’s Self Esteem – Dude, you are So Doomed

I blame it on the fact that in the West we have no rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. It used to be setting up an independent household in digs in your early 20s, but that’s not as common as it used to be for a whole bunch of reasons. Doing that tended to enforce thrift, and the electricity/gas meters of the day were quaint old things that took real 50p pieces so credit wasn’t an option, it was cash or no power.

However, the cathedrals of consumerism instigated by Edward Bernays have pushed the desirability of iFads and associated ephemeral tat so hard that the relationship between a lot of people and their Stuff is akin to that between and addict and his poison of choice. According to this study it seems that

[…] the more credit card and college loan debt held by young adults aged 18 to 27, the higher their self-esteem and the more they felt like they were in control of their lives.  The effect was strongest among those in the lowest economic class.

Well, colour me a grizzled old fossil, but something has gone very badly wrong here. It doesn’t apply to all young adults in my observation, so either it’s really tough out there in the United States, but yes, I can see where these sociologists are coming from. And it ain’t gonna get better, because these young folk get to find out later on

“By age 28, they may be realizing that they overestimated how much money they were going to earn in their jobs.  When they took out the loans, they may have thought they would pay off their debts easily, and it is turning out that it is not as easy as they had hoped,”

Yup. That’s the kicker with debt, you get to find out it’s not half as easy to pay back as it was to take out, welcome to the magic of compound interest, this time working against you. Particularly if you’ve left the debt to fester for a few years and particularly in an environment when middle class jobs are hollowing out.  Bankruptcy and IVAs are the only way some of these guys are going to be able to sock it to The Man. At least in America, where that study was done, you can walk away from a mortgage in negative equity… In a final statement of the bleedin’ obvious

“We found that the positive effects may wear off over time, but they still have to pay the bills.  The question is whether they will be able to.  There needs to be additional research to answer this question.”

Don’tcha love sociology. I can save you the trouble of that additional research, Rachel. Most of them won’t be able to. How do I know that? I did my own research, it didn’t cost me anything and it was done in an afternoon. Allow me to introduce me to The Money Shop, a common sight in Britain’s High Streets. In the States you have Mister Money doing the same job.

A Money Shop

Both of these are symptoms that the falcon can no longer hear the falconer, and the centre is losing its grip… The strapline of the research title gives it away – What, Me Worry? Young Adults get Self-Esteem Boost from Debt. They’re hardly going to dump something that boosts their self-esteem, are they? However, let’s not just blame the young’uns here. They at least have the excuse that they are new to the game. If you’re over 30 and carrying on like these young adults, then what’s your excuse for believing it’ll be all right on the night?