Photo by: Stopdown

Maclean’s latest cover story, “Living On Less” takes an optimistic stance on the troubled economy. The writers Colin Campbell and Jason Kirby suggest that a frugal life could very well be a healthier and happier life—especially for Generation Y.

For a younger generation, a shift of this kind may prove more painless. In fact, their values and attitudes toward money, work and the environment may be helping to drive the change. Eric Meerkamper is a partner at the youth research marketing firm Decode in Toronto. More than having a house and a nice car, he argues, young people value having balance in their lives. “They still want more but not in [terms of] accumulating things necessarily,” he says. Money is important, yes, but work is seen more as “an enabler to living a full life,” he says. Smead, the author of Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, believes people in their 20s, have come to realize they won’t have the same standard of living as their parents, resulting in lower expectations. In short, he says, “they’ve got a more realistic view of the world economically.”

I found Meerkamper’s interesting since I’ve read more negative views of my generation. Those of us in our 20s are often described as materialistic, confident and although tech-savvy, we’re awfully ignorant of the world around us.

Earlier this month, The Guardian asked “The generation facing its first recession. How will they cope?” Writer Tracy McVeigh described 18 to 27-year-olds as “dream consumers” and writes:

The average Generation Y-er does not know the difference between a credit card and a debit card, according to a Bank of Scotland survey, and, while two thirds know the price of an Apple iPod Mini (£179), three quarters have no idea what a pint of milk costs. One in eight thinks that ‘in the red’ means being embarrassed. They each have 800 illegally downloaded songs, and one in 20 spends more than £100 a month on mobile phone bills. Many never read newspapers and two thirds do not vote.

If the credit crunch becomes a full-scale recession, no one will get a bigger shock to their aspirations than this pampered, techno-savvy generation.

Obviously, there are exceptions to every blanket statement. I think that despite some debts, most of my friends fit under Meerkamper’s description. We’re also folks who do our own grocery shopping, follow current events and we all voted in this month’s federal election. Unlike the young people interviewed for McVeigh’s article, we’ve all graduated from university and are employed full-time. We also have different views on money than we did five years ago. I like to think it’s just that we’re older and wiser, but is McVeigh right and we are the exception?

What do you think? Based on the 20-somethings in your life, do you think we’ve got a more realistic view of the world economy or are we about to get the biggest financial shock of our lives?

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