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Left Coast / right Coast: Watching the next generation grow

Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Scott Brown.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Scott Brown.

By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.

Over the years counting grandparents, parents, ourselves, our children and now our grandchildren (some of my friends have great grandchildren), you have as many as six generations of any one family.

When I think back to my grandparents and the life they had in the early part of the 20th century, our parents' lives during and after World War II, our generation's lives during the turbulent 60’s, our children who live into the 21st century, and our grandchildren – born in the 21st century, there is a tremendous difference in how each generation lived.

Many of our grandparents came to the United States from Europe or elsewhere. They learned a second language (English), integrated themselves into American culture, society and values. They worked hard, often at what would be considered blue-collar jobs. Their family and their children (our parent’s generation) might have one car, certainly not two. The home I grew up in in Brooklyn, had a very small one car garage directly under our front porch. It was barely large enough for a compact car.

In fact, my parents lived with my mother’s parents until I was about five years old. It was only then that my parents could afford to move into their own home. Often our parents’ generation did not attend college. One of my parents took a few courses at Brooklyn College, strictly a commuter school.

My generation, if part of the growing middle class, typically went to college. I was fortunate enough to complete both an undergraduate and two graduate degrees. All of our children earned a bachelor’s degree.

Some of our parents’ generation started the migration to the suburbs. In the New York City area, there was Levittown, the first suburban development outside a major city. Levitt and Sons went on to build these communities across the United States.

You want to take a trip into the past? One of my uncles purchased a brand new Levittown Cape Cod home in Nassau County in the 50’s. Purchase price: $10,000! The second story was unfinished, and it included a detached one-car garage in the back yard, which was an additional $2,500 – making the home price a total of $10,000 rather than the $7,500 base price. So it was really a two bedroom, one bath, single story home with an unfinished attic. Many of these homeowners added two dormers and two additional bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.

In our generation’s case, many of us purchased an existing home. The grander the better. Our own purchase was a 110 year old brick colonial with a slate roof in the Boston suburbs. It had a two-car garage in the back yard with a second story for storage. We lived in that home for 30 years. Many of our generation purchased a home large enough such that one didn’t need to buy a larger home once the family (children) arrived.

Our children often purchased a “starter” home, with financial assistance from our generation.

All of our own children own either a home or a condo. The irony is that none of them could afford to purchase that home today. Prices have simply gone up so much that what was a “starter home” is now a very large investment.

Regarding advanced education, many private schools cost over $60,000 per year. That is not affordable when funding it out of parent’s current cash flow. Result, many students graduate with a couple hundred thousand dollars of student debt. Student loan debt in America is well over $1 trillion. It is expected that many of these loans will never be repaid. For a graduate degree, add another $100,000 to $200,000. Law and Medical School – add another $300,000 to $400,000.

However, the good news is that there have never been so many opportunities for young people in the United States. Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. Small companies generate an overwhelmingly large percentage of new jobs.

Today, approximately one third of new start up jobs are in computer programming. As many of you are aware, we are entering the age of the Internet of things. Everything will have an IP address, be connected on the Internet, and therefore will need a computer program to function. Look in the future for an even greater percentage of new jobs in this area.

While I miss the fairly naivety of earlier times, there is still not a better place to be than in the United States. The large number of people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally is certainly proof of that.

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