Lifestyle

Talking ’bout my generation debt

While everyone was looking the other way, that proverbial elephant in the room had morphed into a dinosaur – and promptly keeled over. Still answering to the name of Social Security, it is one of the main issues 26-year-old, Pulitzer-Prize nominee Anya Kamenetz will be examining Tuesday, Oct. 3 on Main Campus. Kamenetz will visit… Read more »

While everyone was looking the other way, that proverbial elephant in the room had morphed into a dinosaur – and promptly keeled over.

Still answering to the name of Social Security, it is one of the main issues 26-year-old, Pulitzer-Prize nominee Anya Kamenetz will be examining Tuesday, Oct. 3 on Main Campus.

Kamenetz will visit The Underground at 7:30 p.m. to discuss her debut book, “Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to be Young,” a seminal look at the economic challenges that face youths today and tomorrow.

Daughter of prominent writers Rodger Kamenetz and Moira Crone, the Yale University graduate illuminates the financial pitfalls that await young people, mixing cringe-inducing statistics with even scarier real-life stories to produce a sketch of our forlorn future.

“[The job landscape] is fraught with uncertainty. It’s sad that young people are changing jobs so quickly,” she said, noting that the average person has held nearly 10 jobs between the ages of 18 and 36.

“Jobs are likely to not come with benefits. That’s something I know about.”Kamenetz, a freelance writer and frequent contributor to “The New York Times,” “Salon” and “The Washington Post,” initially got her start as an intern for “The Village Voice,” where an assignment later inspired a regular, “Generation Debt” column.

She used the opportunity to rail against the spending habits of the old and the “race to get more and more degrees,” while likening the unpaid internship to a “slave labor institution.”

This generation, she said, is the “first generation not doing better than the generation before” and she spreads the blame on thick. With the swelling of the national debt, “[the preceding generation is] taking money out of young people’s pockets,” she said.

She balances her pessimistic forecast with unbridled pride of her generation.

“This is one of the most ambitious generations,” she said.

“Opportunities are open to minorities, females, and immigrants, [but] our generation is not facing reality … of financial debt.”

Although considered out-of-touch to her detractors for accepting her grandparents’ all-expense trip to Yale, Kamenetz said there must be something behind her message “if it rings true to people.”

Social Security is not as much of a concern
to Kamenetz as it is a whispered relic that should be approached cautiously – and pragmatically.

“I do believe Social Security should exist, but I’m going to pretend like it doesn’t and save my money,” she said.

Kamenetz shatters the tired half-full-, half-empty-glass ideology with substantial advice.

“Knowledge is going to be the thing that’s going to tip your glass,” she said. “They are going to be building and planning for a real future. Knowledge will determine your lot in life essentially.

“The New Orleans resident had spent three months reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, paralleling her first-week absence with “having a relative on life support you couldn’t visit.”

Kamenetz said her first book tour has been taxing, but conversations with students and non-students have made the journey enjoyable.

Along with memories, Kamenetz said she takes the tunes of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Stadium Arcadium,” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Howl” and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” on the road with her.

Steve Wood can be reached at jacksonb@temple.edu.

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