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Generation X Bragonomics

photo via lydiafairy.

Guest Blogger: The Shape of X
(b. 1972)
Location: Florida

Recently I spent a girls night out consisting of dinner and a chick flick with a friend. While feasting at the Olive Garden, we soon found ourselves divulging personal details as girlfriends are prone to do when the husbands aren’t around.

“You know, we had to sell one of our cars. I have to walk to work now.”
“Oh, well, we had to cash out a retirement account to pay off the credit card.”
“Yeah, we had to cash out a life insurance policy to pay the mortgage.”

In the midst of this conversation, what struck me as strange was not the secrets themselves, but rather the competitive attitude with which they were being divulged. It was as if we were trying to win the “My Life Sucks More Than Yours Does” title. Despite the dire straits many of my friends are currently in, we seem to actually take a strange delight in being forthcoming about how bad off we are.

Our parents and grandparents would never let on to their peers if they were having “money troubles” as my mom the Baby Boomer calls it. Their generations would scrape and scrimp, work second and third jobs, and find a way to NOT let their issues be known. They also weren’t going to take any handouts from anybody. They had a different sense of pride. To them, financial duress was failure in their role as head of a household or family. But not us Gen Xers! I don’t know if it’s a lack of pride, or a just stronger ability to roll with the punches, even when the punches are ruining our credit record.

But it’s not as if we’re miserable people. Many of us are happily married, some of us have kids, and we have stable and supportive families and friends. The difference between us and our parents is that most of our financial woes are attributed (okay, blamed) on everyone other than ourselves. Companies had mass layoffs, health issues brought stacks of medical bills, jobs were outsourced to India, a sinkhole swallowed the neighborhood. And while all of these are very real and valid contributing factors to our respective fiscal fiascos, I’d like to see a show of hands of how many of us don’t have some purchases or creative financing in our recent pasts that should have been delayed or foregone altogether. We’re not entirely blameless in our money woes.

When I was growing up, my parents would not buy a new car until they could pay cash for it. Many in our generation not only will never have the ability to do that, we don’t even consider trying to make that option a reality. Our advanced needs are bigger than our bank accounts. Financing options are boundless and so appealing. By the time we reached the age of real-life economic responsibility, past the age of piggy banks and allowances, credit cards were being thrown at us like candy and we gladly accepted them, terms be damned!

Nonetheless, Gen-Xers don’t feel the need to hang our heads in shame when we come to realize our money has gotten away from us. Instead we see it as yet another way to compete with our friends…even if in reality, the “winner” of this argument is the one who’s the worst off. Keeping up with the Joneses has become keeping down with the Joneses. Maybe we just have a strange way of empathizing. We were always taught it’s not nice to brag, so we take it to the opposite extreme and try to assure each other that we are far worse off than they are. Trust me; you don’t want to see my savings account.

While attacking midlife head-on, FLConfetti is pursuing a master’s degree in professional writing. She pays the bills as a medical transcriptionist and lives in Winter Park, Florida, with her husband. 1982 was her favorite year. Please visit FLConfetti’s blog, The Shape of X
Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. FLConfetti

    Thank you all for taking the time to comment, I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one seeing this phenomenon.

    Expanding on JenniferK’s and Lydia’s comments, I wrote a paper last semester comparing The Great Depression to the current recession and how the unemployed or underemployed are dealing with it, and one thing I highlighted was how our generation seems to think that scrimping for survival means switching to the cheap dog food…but not giving up going out to eat, not giving up shopping at the organic market, not giving up cable TV. I know people who’ve planted a vegetable garden with which to feed themselves, but then bought a new iPhone (with the grocery savings?). It pains me to see us simultaneously destroying our futures while still competing in so many ways, instead of just commiting to a content, manageable lifestyle.

  2. jenX

    @LORRIE – U R not kidding!

    @CGHILL – luv the quick wit, my fellow okie-bloggy.

    @HP – Thank you!

    @JENNIFER K – They article would have gone all over me. It really makes me wonder what gen X library usage is like. i wonder if it outpaces per capita boomer, y, etc. I’ll have to ask my liberry (ha!) friends.

    @LYDIA – I have never had a photographer leave a comment before! I’ve used quite a few of the photos available on Flickr for this blog. LMK if there is every nything I can help you with.

  3. Jennifer K

    This is a very interesting essay. My friends and I are always joking/bragging how broke we are. It’s almost a contest.

    However, I’d rather deal with GEN X bragonomics than deal with another Boomer bitching because he or she can’t go away to France for the summer. And please spare me all the Boomers who have all of a sudden discovered thriftiness. My friend Nora was telling me about a Sunday paper supplement that has a column telling how Boomers can save money (I guess other generations don’t matter). Some of their advice is so obvious that it belongs in the “duh” files. Bring your lunch to work rather than go out. Store brands are cheaper than name brands. Get your DVDs and books from the library. Gee, haven’t we X-ers been doing that for years?

  4. lydia

    Our generation never really felt the financial pinch like it is now. Living way beyond ones means has become so common. Credit cards are so easy to get now. That combined with the layoffs and people are finding themselves in quite the pickle. I volunteer at the local food bank and I see SO many new faces each week. It is true, our generation has some strange competitive nature to it, a few years ago it was “oh we just got a boat or an RV or a whatever” and rolled that debt into home loan refinances. Now it is “the economy is killing me, can’t afford groceries, etc.”
    appearances, wanting to fit in, people still wanting to look cool.

    Thanks for featuring my photo!

  5. CGHill

    I’ve always sought to drag the Joneses down to my level.

  6. HP

    Great thoughts.

    Love your blog!

  7. Lorrie Veasey

    You hit the nail so on the head.

    Now explain to me why this self depracating trend can’t work it’s way on over to the subject of weight? Cuz I’d love to have a girl’s night out where we are all like “My thighs are fatter than your thighs…” That’s the type of one upmanship that i could win.


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