Gen Useless: stop sponging and scrub up for work

Since the debt boom started in 1974, we have moved from ''I want, I save'' to ''I want, I get'', and if there's $1000 of equity left in the house, our kids get an iPad.

No being bent over in shin-high water cutting cress for eight weeks in the summer holidays earning £5 an hour. No cleaning toilets for Racal Decca in Reading and being told not to talk to the ''real'' employees. No turning up at the Manpower offices at 6am pretending to be 18 when you're 16½ in the hope of snagging a job labouring on a building site. No spending eight hours a day for four weeks of the holidays breathing in breeze-block dust while demolishing warehouses with a hand-held jackhammer.

No riding a 1974 Honda C50 step-through moped for your first two years at university (which makes having sex just that little bit harder). No buying your first car yourself at 19 - a fifth-hand 2CV6 for £450 - and having to use the handbrake to slow down because you can't afford to fix it. No making home brew because beer is ridiculously expensive at 28p a pint.

No budgeting on £11 a week, which means you can only have beans with your pie and chips three days a week. No camping in your car on holiday because you can't afford accommodation. No buying the Haynes workshop manual and lifting the engine out of your 1976 Volkswagen Golf with your dad so you can weld the rusty chassis, only to have it catch fire and destroy its uninsured self because you haven't replaced a frayed petrol line. No catching the Magic Bus to Greece because flying is for rich people.

No, none of that for our kids. And we considered ourselves well off. We were lucky.

The legacy of all this is that there are people who didn't grow up in the debt boom and there are people who did, and although there are obviously many people who grew up in the debt boom without sponging off the equity in their parents' house; without having their parents pay their phone bill; without taking the cost of the internet for granted; without moving out and paying rent; without paying for their first car; without complaining that their free car is beneath them; without earning their own money; without getting everything without effort; without disrespecting older people; and without being arrogant, there are clearly many that did and are.

That's fine, but those recent generations have created a bit of an issue for my kids because when they present themselves for employment to someone who did cut cress for eight weeks in their summer holiday, that person sees my kids as having ''F'wit'' tattooed across their forehead and as being card-carrying members of ''Generation Useless''.

With that sort of branding, clearly my kids are going to have to work that little bit harder to get a job, and while I am inspired by their fast-developing adult qualities (at times), no one who cut cress for a living is going to give Gen U the benefit of the doubt - and I can't do much to change that.

But what I can do is explain to them that the debt boom is over; that we're going back to ''I want, I save''; that the best investment you can make is being grateful for a job, being willing to learn, and replacing your financial and material impatience with realistic long-term investment in your business, that of your employer, and your career.

You see, we're going full circle and anyone who thinks iPads will continue to pop out of their parents' arses can expect a rude wake-up call.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. His views do not necessarily reflect those of Patersons.

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