As parents, we always want the best for our kids. Almost every parent thinks this way irrespective of their background. But how far into the future can we see and make a good enough prediction for our children? After all, our predictions will be based on our experiences which is basically something that happened in the past. How much does the past experience help in predicting the future outcomes? Every generation has a disconnect with the next generation in terms of how they see the world and how they perceive the future. That is very strange given that we all share the same world. How is it possible for the next generation to see the world differently from us?
Well, it is because that is how our experience of the past have shaped us. Children on the other hand live in the future. They don’t have a past, or at least the past they have experienced was all about learning to walk, talk and get a general understanding of the world. They don’t know anything about finding a job, paying taxes, saving for a future or the risks of smoking and drinking etc. They have yet to learn a lot while we have already experienced a lot and cannot think the future to be any more different from the past in spite of reading about the latest developments. This disconnect might make us impose certain views on them that do not apply to their future.
Sorry if I lost you with all that abstract talk about past and future. Lets take some concrete examples. Take the case of education. In my great grand parent’s generation (3 generations ago), the view of the parents was that schools were not a necessity. Children are expected to go there to learn something, but they could not see a future where education would be of some help to them. Sending girl child to school was unheard of. Most kids learned their parent’s trade or learned a new skill by working with other people and practically doing things. Not by sitting in a class and reading books.
Then came my grand parent’s generation (2 generations ago). By this time parents knew the importance of school. They understood from their past experience that general knowledge and basic math skills are required for their kids if they don’t want to be on the losing end of a many things including financial transactions.
For example, if they are involved in a trade and if someone offered an option of money now or more money in the future, then which offer is better? On the other end of the spectrum, if they did not understand the risks of taking a loan, they might end up losing all their money paying compound interests on loans. But beyond that, this generation did not have any more past experience to see how education can help in more scenarios.
My parents generation (one generation ago) have a different set of problems to face. They already understand the importance of education at the 2nd generation level, and in addition from their experience they feel the need for an english education. They have seen how not knowing good english has been a limiting factor in their progress. As a result, we, like most other kids around our time went to schools where english is the primary means of communication. The minimum level of education expected by this generation was completing a professional degree. That helped us immensely to make a lot of progress in life.
What seems to be the problem then? Well, every generation thought that if their parents could have seen a little farther into the future, they would have done even better. For example, my grand parents felt it would have been better if the girl children were sent to school. My parents felt that they could have done better if they had english education. I feel that I could have done better if I did not have to go through the rigmarole of school and just learned what I needed. But the future that far is unknowable to them because all they can lean on when predicting future is their past.
You might have seen or heard similar stories when it came to jobs. In the past when there were only government and PSU jobs, people could not imagine private jobs and the risk associated with them like having no pension, or losing a job etc. Government jobs on the other hand were safe. A man with a government job could easily find a bride.
In later generations people would take up private jobs and make a lot of money. They were not worried about pension. If they have skill, good at their job, and can put in a lot of hard work, the upside potential is unlimited. Yet, that generation cannot understand the millennial’s short attention span. Millennials are not worried about pension or scared of a job loss. Their worry is their passion or potential. They are not stuck to one company. They move from one job to another based on the passion or potential they see in the next job.
The newer generations don’t even see job as a way of making money. They want to be entrepreneurs or work in startups. They don’t see earning money as a goal, they see opportunity, passion, potential and are confident that they will figure out their life when it comes to money. My generation cannot understand this recklessness. But that is how it has been for every generation as each generation felt that the next generation is taking too much risk or being reckless. As times changed, so too has the work culture.
My generation already understands that there will be no pension for us and unlike how we are taking care of our parents, we cannot expect our children to take care of us in the future either financially or otherwise. So we plan for our retirement and try to be as healthy as possible. Did my parents teach this strategy? No. Every generation has a way of figuring out things without the judgement of the previous generation. Am I worried about my kid’s wealth creation strategy then? Absolutely not. She will figure it out.
Like every generation before, we are a worried lot. Worried about our children’s future. We cannot understand today’s youth’s spending habits. They seem to be living in the moment. Working when they like and taking break when they want. We feel they are living a poor life and not saving for a rainy day. But may be they have a different story to tell in the future which we will never understand because we are the relics of the past.
Today’s generation believe that we worked too hard for too long and did not get to enjoy life the way one should have. While we like to believe that we are savers and building assets. What we are really doing is saving until we are too old to even enjoy all that we have saved up. Whether it is better to enjoy today and take the risk in future, or whether it is better to save today with the expectation that some risk will come in the future is debatable, and depends on generation to generation and from person to person and their backgrounds. All I can say is that we cannot impose our views on our next generation.