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April 08, 2011


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I think it really depends on how one defines "better off". If you only define it in terms of how much money and stuff you have, then, no I'm not better off.

However, I have a less stressful job than my dad did and I don't work nearly as he did, either. I'm sigle with no kids, unlike my parents (obviously). And I've never aspired to the "American Dream" of having a big house to fill with lots of stuff I don't really want or need. I have an ok, job, money in the bank and in a retirement plan. I have more free time and have pretty much been able to live my life as I see fit. That is something that was less available to my parents generation since conformity to rigid norms was more common for their generation. So in the ways that are important to ME, yes I am better off than my parents.

About the same really, in terms of total career earnings and also cash / liquid assets on hand! Only thing is Dad is 67 and I am 37...

He is a MND type and so am I!


My dad currently makes about six times I do (2.5 times more than my husband and me combined), but I'm pretty sure we are even or have even more net worth than my parents do. They have a mortgage, 2 car loans, a motorcycle loan, and less money in the bank than us. I'm also pretty sure we have more retirement savings. And we also have no debt. My parents could both be retired now on my dad's salary if they weren't so wasteful with the giant house, the luxury cars, etc. I plan to be retired at my parents' age, whereas I think my dad is going to work until he dies (my mom became a SAHM when I was born and hasn't worked since).

I think I will eventually be better off than my parents. Hubby is in med school, I finished dental school recently.

I don't know. I'm going to guess about the same. We've had some setbacks of our own but I think we have a plan for everything. We hope to have the house paid off in 10 years, and it took my parents 20 years. But they had 6 kids, and we only have 2.

We find ourselves in a place where my husband will need to go back to school, or self-learn a new career, in order to find meaningful work. But my mom had to do the same thing.

I guess it seems like there are a lot of set-backs that we've run into, but my parents went through a lot of the same stuff, and they are doing great now. And make a lot more money than I do. Although, equivalent-wise, I probably make more than my dad did at this point in his career. But we are also saddled with an underwater property in a different state that we rent out.

So I'm going to say the same.

But if you compare to my husband's family, we are leaps and bounds above them. My husband and his brothers were the first generation in his family to go to college, and make the leap from working-class to middle-class. I grew up middle-class, ranging between lower and upper depending on the economy.

At 27 I make a very good living, and I'm not even close.

My parents are multi-millionaires, own their own very successful and growing business, and have 2 years in their emergency fund!

I'll venture that I make 1/7th or even 1/10th, and growing smaller by the day, of what they make and I will never catch up.

Yes. The first year I made more money annually than my mother, I was 16. And my income has only gone up, while at times she doesn’t have one and also has zero retirement savings, pocket change in the bank.

With my dad/sm, it depends on what you define as "better off". They might have slightly more in retirement savings (after all, they’re 25 years older than I, but didn’t start saving until maybe 10 years ago), but are essentially living paycheck to paycheck with take home pay and have a mortgage to pay that stretches them very thin. I have disposable income to pay off debts, travel and no mortgage debt. And a college degree. And my household income w/ bf is higher than theirs.

By the time they were my current age (50), my parents paid off their mortgage early, owning a large home on a one acre lot. My dad had a BS in pharmacy, and my mom stayed home. We took long cross country vacations when I was young. We also bought a new car every 2 years or so, including big Cadillacs. In contrast, I own a modest townhouse, and owe approximately 50K more on the mortgage than the townhouse is currently worth. I have a PhD in electrical engineering, working in the defense industry, and my wife also works as a teacher. We cannot afford the long vacations across country like I did growing up. And I don't think my retirement savings (with inflation adjustments) will exceed the retirement savings my parents had. So the answer is no, I am not better off financially than my parents. Part of the reason was I went through a divorce, whereas my parents did not. Thankfully, my current wife is on the same page financially with me and we are on the path to building ourselves up.

I'm far better off, but I'm not a single parent raising two children and working 3 jobs just to pay rent.

It's hard for me to say. My parents are retired and have good annuity payments, Social Security, savings and no debt. We have no debt and have seven figures (just) barely in investments and savings (mostly retirement vehicles). But it's hard to get any return on savings type accounts, we do not qualify for any pensions, the government has major debt and I don't know what the future will bring regarding Social Security, Medicare, taxes, etc. My siblings are all over the place. Some have substantial earnings and savings while others are paycheck to paycheck or unemployed.

My MIL is retired and her expenses exceed her income (Social Security and a small pension) and she has meager savings (luckily no debt). The rest of the in-laws are all over the palce as well. Some have amassed considerable funds while some are more spenders.

Depends on what time period you're talking about. My DH and I are much, much better off than our parents were in their 30s, probably about 2.5-3x more in terms of inflation adjusted income/retirement savings. Our parents, esp. mine have a larger net worth now that they're retired, but they don't have nearly the income and are 30+ years older. So yes, we're better off than our parents were at our age and, God willing, will continue to be so.

I'm definately much better off. First, my parents both died fairly young (53 and 63. I'm 63 and much healthier. I own my own home, which my parents never did. I make more $ than my parents together ever did, and I'll have a healthy pension, IRA's, savings, no debt, including a paid up mortgage when I retire in a few years. I'm a college and grad school graduate, so I have a profession, that if I chose, can continue in some form after retirement. Yes, I'd say that I'm better off than my parents, and alot of other folks for that matter....

Yes, I am much better off than either my parents or my in-laws. Not that my parents are in a hole or anything, but they had to live very frugally to be in the spot where they are now. My in-laws on the other hand, have lived beyond their means for years and now it has finally caught up with them. I have more in retirement savings (in my 30's) then my in laws who are in their 60's. I have often wondered if some the of children of the baby boomers are in a worse spot because of their lack of planning and discipline. May sound harsh, but I have seen far too many squander away long term stability for temporary satisfaction. I am not as hopeful that I will have the stock market returns that they enjoyed during their lifetimes.

We aren't currently doing better than our parents, but obviously an age gap there. I have no idea how we would compare adjusted for ages. We are both 25, with one child, and my husband has the potential for a very well paying career when he gets out of the military. I have a feeling we will eventually end up better than my parents (individually) and about equal with his parents.

I would guess that we are better off than my brother and sister in law (married) who are about 5 years older than us, but that's just a guess from comments they make without knowing solids numbers.

I would say I am better off financially than my parents were at my age (I am 43) but then they raised 3 children on one salary while I am single. They bought their first house when my dad was 42-43 and paid it off in six years - my house will be paid off in about 6-7 years but it'll have taken me 16 years to pay off...still age wise we're the same for the mortgage being paid off.

Where they surpass me is that my dad retired at 51 with an excellent pension and I don't have a pension. I put money into my RRSP's (Canadian version of 401K) but whether that will grow to support a comfortable retirement is dependent on the markets: I'm doing my part so fingers crossed. I do know that there is no way I will be able to retire at 51 - maybe 60 but probably not until 65. Huge difference! Then again, once I win the lottery I'll be way ahead...oh wait, I don't buy lottery tickets - dang! Guess I'd better keep saving.

Despite the fact I've always lived frugally, spend less than I earn, and work hard, I'm far worse off than my parents. At my age, my parents were already in their second house, made a pretty good salary, had two cars, no debt (other than the mortgage), and a kid (me). They're even better off now.

In contrast, I have almost nothing at this middle-aged stage in my feasible career, I am back in college, do not own a car, never had a house, have no significant other/husband/boyfriend/whatever or family of my own, etc.

On the plus side, I have no debt whatsoever, and I do have a bit saved up, both in an IRA and in emergency funds. It isn't much, but I've always saved whatever I could. It's frustrating though, to have lived my whole life trying to save and spend less than I earn, and STILL have near-nothing, due to a poor career choice. Now, whenever I see someone wanting to get into art or graphic design as a career, I warn them not to and cite myself as an example.

There's no comparison!
My father was born in 1908 and worked very hard his whole life but the working class in his generation in England were taught the 3 R's and then started work at an early age. He was fortunate that he became a fireman and always had work and a nice retirement pension. They had two children but were never able to buy a home and when my father died there was enough to cover his final expenses and that was it. Many men in my father's generation never even learned to drive and never owned a car.

In my generation almost all of the children had a far better education than their parents and home ownership started becoming the norm and the quality of life improved dramatically. I was able to go one step further than my contemporaries by emigrating to Canada, 2 years later to America, and my wife and I have lived the American Dream to its fullest. I feel so very fortunate and grateful that I had great parents that passed on solid values to me and that were great role models.

Hard to say--Dad is retired and seems to be doing OK financially on his own (he bought into a really nice full-service retirement community about 10 years ago), but I know nothing specific about his finances either now or anytime earlier. He doesn't live flashy: he mostly still buys and repairs and drives used cars, and he's capable of driving across town to save a nickle on a cup of coffee, but he bought some land & built a vacation home on it about 30 years ago, and he's taken a number of international travel vacations since he retired.

When I was growing up our family lived a very lower-middle class lifestyle and it's possible we were actually quite poor. We basically never spent money on anything--most of our clothes were hand me downs or home-made, everything was canned, our vacations were mostly just driving places and camping in the woods, and the only steak we ever saw was venison from the deer that my Dad would occasionally shoot. We were 4 kids, and my mom didn't work. There was no any family money--my grandparents were immigrants who lived in shacks and subsistence farmed until they died--really poor. Dad went to college on the GI bill & went on to get an MBA in the 1950's when such an education was rare. He worked as a businessman after that, and he gave me lots of good financial advice when I was in my 20's (he made me start in IRA in 1983! Thanks, Dad!). I know he must have been a saver because he put 3 children thru college and he has enough money to be comfortable now.

Am I better off than my Dad was at my age? I think possibly so but maybe not. I'm pretty sure I have more disposable income than he did, but his old house & land were worth a lot more than what my home is worth. Fortunately, he sold his place a few years ago before the real estate bubble burst--I expect that helped a lot to fund his retirement. I know I'm better off than one of my siblings, but I'm on probably on par with my other 2 siblings.

Like FMF, I'm considered a high earner and am very careful with expenses. Out of debt, two houses, older cars, one motorcycle, four kids in college, etc.

My parents have a killer pension and Social Security, and only my father worked and he retired at 54 from a 20 year career working for a suburb of Dallas. Yes, municipal government.

I will never have their financial security, even though I should be a multi-millionaire at 54, and our finances (debts, physical assets, etc) will otherwise look similar.

So while my wife and I are doing great, we will never have their level of imputed worth, and there is no way to get there under the rules current workers live by. While I suppose I could have more possessions than my parents, I have no need or desire, so it really comes down to the financial security and I can't buy that without pouring millions into an annuity.

most definitely am. i also realize that i am much lazier, and that i work much smarter rather than harder. a lot of that has to do with the automation we have at our disposal today.

I am better off than my parents at this stage of life although they were and are doing fine.


I am very interested in the following statement you made:

"The rest of my family? They have varying success at applying any sort of financial principles to their lives"

This is something I am always trying to figure out as to what makes someone a success financially while others tend to fail or just meander along. It's especially interesting to me in families and siblings. Is it genetics, is it environment, is up bringing, is it life circumstances, is it randomness?

So I would be interested in your perspective as to why you believe you have developed the proper discipline while other family members seem not to have. Would you say those tendencies were apparent while you were kids (i.e. some kids tend to be savers and others spenders)? Did your parents exhibit it and you picked it up while your siblings did not? Did you discover it all on your own in a completely separate path from family and they never did discover it? If that occurred do you think a similar set of circumstances would have changed your siblings as well or do they seem to just be wired differently?


@BD - agreed. I'm not sure where my husband would be if we weren't married with my income to support us. He has a few free-lance jobs, but unless he gets into programing there is nothing out there. He is trying to get his DBA certifications right now, and hoping that the combination of database & graphic design might open up some jobs...

Whether or not you are better off than your parents doesn't matter.

It's the wrong question. And being better off than your other family members, or neighbors, or others also is immaterial. It's not that you shouldn't know...It's that you shouldn't care.

The correct question to ask is what are you doing to ensure that your kids will be better off than you.

Substantially worse than my parents.

I attribute that primarily to two factors:

1. I had twice as many kids as my parents (4 as opposed to 2)

2. The unbelievably skyrocketing cost of higher education. My wife and I decided a long time ago that we would and could cut back on many things but that both of us were fiercely dedicated to the notion of our children getting quality educations without being left with a crushing burden of debt.

Apex --

It's hard to tell exactly why, but here are the factors I think influenced "me" vs. "them":

1. Most of my relatives grew up in upper middle class situations and expected to have that lifestyle handed to them when they graduated college. They spent accordingly. I grew up in a lower middle class family most of my life and knew I had to work for any wealth I would get (and was determined to do so.)

2. Most of my relatives are highly educated, but in fields where pay is "ok" at best. And they didn't work to grow their careers much either. I graduated in business and have worked hard to make the most of my career.

3. I married a frugal woman -- even more frugal than I am (I know, that's hard to believe.) But she's great at keeping spending low while I'm good at making income as high as possible.

4. Early in our marriage, we took a class on how to manage your money based on biblical principles. We've applied those principles and it's worked out well for us (my relatives did not do this.) We also coached others in their finances and saw the messes caused mostly by over-spending, and we didn't want that to happen to us.

5. I'm a fairly disciplined and goal-oriented person compared to most people and I've always wanted to be financially secure. I think most of my relatives don't have discipline financially and simply expect wealth to "happen" for them with little work on their parts.

My father grew up on a farm without electricity, phone and running water. He raised us in a working class neighborhood with those things he didn't have but nothing compared to today's standards. My wife and I were the first in our family to go to college and the first to get graduate degrees. This brought us out of the working class and into the middle class. I make 10x in income compared to my father which has provided us more opportunity to travel and have more things and thus better off. The one drawback is that I've got more stress than him.

On the other hand I worry for my children. The reckless spending of our government has resulted in weakening of the dollar and inflation (which will only get worse - we've just seen the tip of the iceberg). This coupled with the degradation of healthcare due to efforts to socialize it will only lead to higher costs and lower quality care. When you throw globalization into the mix I don't think the quality of life will be very good for the next generations. Maybe we'll get out of this mess though and things will improve...

Interesting question. My parents are in a different country so that makes it a little difficult to compare. At the face value, yes I am much better off than they are. But they have pensions and had employer sponsored home loans(you take home loans from your employer, most people work for just one company throughout their lives, so this works out well). Even though I have a comfortable life, most of my possessions are materialistic. They were more hard working and happier than I am. If we are talking about wealth, I am much better off than they are. But overall I am going to say, they were better off @ 30 than we are now. We are working on improving ourselves, so hopefully we will catch up soon.

I can say without a doubt that I am better off than my parents. They have six (yes, that's right six) messy divorces between them and each one has obliterated their wealth further and further. My mom's house is currently in foreclosure while my father lives in a tiny apartment, desperately hanging on to the $50,000 that he has to show for 35 years of working.

Meanwhile, my husband and I own a small, practical home, I can afford to stay home with our kids and we fully fund our retirement accounts each year, as well as staying out of consumer debt and saving for our children's college educations. By the time my parents were my age, 27, they were already through their first divorce and foreclosure and working on their second marriages.

Just goes to show that it IS possible to learn from your parents mistakes!

From an income perspective, I'm much better off than my parents, as I earn 2-3 times what they do. But, I have 5 kids ages 4-14 and have weddings and college to look forward to for them.

Yes, I am much better off than my parents. I am 51 and my networth is about 3 times as much. But... mine is a bit of a special case: when we came to the US from the former Soviet Union we had nothing, but my parents were already in their 40s - my mother was 43, and my father 48. They also spoke virtually no English, and while my father found a job quickly - it was a blue color job, first layout man in a factory than quality control inspector, and he was an engineer in Russia. My mother who was also an engineer couldn't find any job for 2 years, but when she found it, it was as draftsmen. She eventually managed to get engineering work, but my parents have never made as much money as I did. Given that, considering that they saved enough for modest retirement and could buy a co-op for cash is pretty good. My parents have always been frugal to the point of stinginess. I am less so, yet saved more money - simply because of more time and higher salary.

Just to add - if I were to consider not only the period of time we lived in the US, but also our respective childhoods, I think I've always been better off then my parents. My parents survived the Second World War, and they experienced hunger in their childhood, something I have never had to experience. After the age of 4, I've lived in a small apartment (3 small rooms and tiny kitchen) with my parents and maternal grandparents, but my parents had spent their youth in a single room in a "communal" apartment - an apartment they shared with other families.

When my mother was a teen, her parents' salary would run out about a week before the end of the month, and they spent the last few days eating bread and onions. I've never had to experience that. With my mother, father and grandfather's work, they were also able to afford to buy good food at the farmer's market where there were more and better things on sale then in stores but for higher price. They've always bought best things they could afford for me. Within reason - my parents were never shy of explaining to me how much time it takes my mother to earn enough to buy some doll I fancied or to tell me if some pair of shoes is too expensive.

I'm doing better than my parents were at my age financially. I'm doing better primarily due to my having gone to college and my father having worked a blue collar construction job. If my dad had my job he'd have been far better off then and now.

If you look at today and compare my dad's finances to mine then he is ahead of me in net worth by quite a ways. But he's had over 30 years more than me to accumulate. I'm making a higher income than him but he doesn't spend much at all.

My wife's parents are not doing as well. My father in law makes a good income but spends it all. My mother in law decided to retire before she had any money to retire with and has lived on debt.

Go back another generation. My grampa was poor or low income. My wife's grandpa has been a millionaire since the 50's.

Comparing you standard of living to someone who has a 20-30 year head start isn't very useful. The only reasonable way to make an apples to apples comparison of who is "better off" is to compare your current standard of living to your parents' standard of living at your current age. In doing so, you would see that, in almost all instances, standards of living has not only risen, but skyrocketed.

As a portion of their incomes, Americans currently spend less on food and clothing than they ever have in history.

Figure 1 on page 6 of the Pew Economic Mobility Project below shows that inflation adjusted incomes have increased for ALL income levels.

Yes, even this generation's poor are better off than the poor of the last generation. A simple illustration of home appliance ownership for those in poverty tells a great deal:

Washing machine
1985: 16%
2005: 37%

1985: 56%
2005: 64%

1985: 35%
2005: 57%

Similar statistics can be found for air conditioner, TVs, cars, etc.

Whether adjusted for inflation or measured in hours of time worked in order to purchase, virtually everything we buy today is cheaper than it was 20-30 years ago. And this doesn't account for the fact that products today are far superior to those of the past. A good example: based on a study done by CNW Research back in 2007, only 2.2% of car buyers considered reverse lights essential in 1985, compared to 76.8% in 2007. Even more extreme differences resulted for questions about air conditioners, stereos, power windows, etc. Unfortunately, it didn't list airbags (probably because they didn't exist in 1985). So today, consumers expect (and get) a lot more for their money.

People like to point out that a family could live off of a one-person income 40-50 years ago. I would argue that if you chose to live today like someone did in the 1960s, it could easily be done.

I like Troy's approach above. Don't worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Worry about doing what you can to make your life and, more importantly, your children's lives better.

@ uclalien: How would poor people own a washer or dryer? Or any large appliance for that matter? I am under the poverty line, and I've NEVER owned a washer/dryer/dishwasher. Where would I put them? I've never had a house of my own.

I've lived in rented apartments, and they usually come with a dishwasher, refrigerator and microwave, but I certainly don't 'own' them - they are just included in the apartment rent. For laundry, you go to the laundry room and plunk your quarters into the machines to run them.

Other things I don't own: TV, stereo, iPhone, Car. Can't afford 'em. I don't own any appliances at all... no coffee machine, no toaster, no microwave. Hell, I don't even own a bed any more! D:
I only own my computer because it's linked to my freelancing, and it makes me money, so I *need* it.
So not all poor people are living with all these things.

I never said that every person in poverty was living like kings and queens, only that today's poor are, in general, relatively better off than the poor of a generation ago. That's a fact that is based on empirical data. Looking at one person's situation tells us little about general economic trends. These trends show that Americans have made significant economic gains in recent decades and generations.

With regard to your question about poor people owning large appliance, the answer is credit/debt. Credit has been made widely available to all income classes over recent decades. (Yes, credit is more widely available to some income classes, but that isn't the point.) And while some people will say debt is bad, that isn't always the case. Debt used to finance things that have long-term economic benefits is worth it in many cases.

For instance, my parents used debt to purchase a washer and dryer when I was young. This ended up saving a ton of money for our family of 6. Then, a little over a decade ago, my parents financed the purchase a laundromat, which has catapulted my parents to a financial situation that would have likely been unattainable otherwise (allowing them to purchase a house and start another business).

I don't envy your situation. Growing up, my family was under the poverty line (although my parents did an exceptional job of never letting us feel like we were poor). But my parents worked hard and dug their way out of it. I sincerely hope you can do the same.

Much. I'm better educated (Ph.D. vs high-school diploma & 11th-grade drop-out). I was lucky enough to come along at at time when women were allowed to work at something other than teaching or taking dictation. I married a corporate lawyer. Can't complain.

Ucalien, I agree in general that our standard of living is better. And previous generations spent a lot more of their income on food and clothing than we do today. On the other hand today we spend more on housing, education and healthcare and real incomes are down on average. I think younger people today may be living better but they are not really better off financially as a whole.

Comparing now to now, I'm definitely worse off than my parents. My dad just retired last year with the means to do so comfortably (my mom's pretty much been a SAHM since I was born). He worked at a bank for 30 years making pretty good money and both of my parents were conscious of limiting spending. I haven't been working for even 6 years yet, though I am making a decent (and growing) salary. Combined with my wife, we make more than they did at our age, but our mortgage and student loans take a big bite that my parents didn't need to worry about. If we can get to their level in 30 years, I'll be happy.

Good points, but they aren't entirely correct.

Real incomes have dropped slightly since the real estate bubble burst (which would be expected in any recession) and have only increased marginally since the late 1990s. But between 1980 and 2009, the US Census Bureau reports that real median personal income increased by 32.7%, real median per capita income increased by 37.5%, and real median household income increased by 13.4%. Note that this household income can be a bit deceptive considering the fact that households have been shrinking over the decades. This means that not only has household income increased, but that income is being divided between fewer family members. But in all cases and for all income levels, real income has risen significantly from a generation ago.

I also have to disagree with your statement regarding housing prices. First of all, mortgage interest rates averaged about 12% during the 1980s and topped out near 17%. On a 30-year, $150k mortgage, you’d pay the following amount in interest over the life of the loan:
2011 (@5%): $139,883
1980s (@12%): $405,451

Secondly, comparing a 1980s home to one built recently isn’t an apples to apples comparison. According to Census Bureau, the average home size in the U.S. was 2,135 square feet in 2009, up from 1,595 square feet in 1980. That’s a 34% increase! Plus, homes today tend to come with much better amenities than they did back then. And by most measures, home prices are currently 10-20% above their historic average.

Not really a correction per se, just me venting:
Yes, education costs are rising, but that’s because We the People continue to ignore the fact that forking over heaps of money has done little or nothing to fix the problems in our education system. Most of the data I’ve seen shows that the primary driver for recent cost increases is administration (or bureaucracy). Pensions and benefits are also out of control, but that's a whole other can of worms. All of these problems are directly correlated to the fact that the education system is a monopoly. And not just any monopoly, a monopoly with the full taxing power of local, state, and federal governments.

In terms of net worth, I've done better than my parents at the same point in time in our lives. In terms of annual income, I have not done better than my parents, yet, I have managed to accumulate just 5x what I make currently in retirement assets and savings, not including equity in our home.

I'm 76 and my wife is 78 so naturally both sets of parents, back in England, are deceased.
Even though we both enjoyed far more enjoyable, exciting, and fulfilling lives than our parents, as well as far more comfortable retirements, and have created monetary wealth orders of magnitude greater than either parents there is an even more important benefit that is not being discussed, and that is "Healthcare".

We now live in a world where we are far, far, better informed about ways to eat healthy, to stay healthy, and what not to do in order to achieve the healthiest and longest life possible. Pharmaceutical drugs and diagnostic and surgical procedures have also made giant strides since the end of WWII.

My wife came from a family of heavy smokers, her mother died of TB when she was 7 and her father died of emphysema when he was 54, her sister 6 years her junior, also a heavy smoker, just died of lung cancer after being bedridden for a long time.

My parents were non smokers. My father lived a long & healthy life and died in his sleep. My mother was a victim of the British National Health Service which in its early days rationed healthcare so severely that it could take many, many, months before you could see a specialist, and then, in the days before MRIs and Cat Scans it took ages to get an accurate diagnosis. They finally performed surgery and found several huge kidney stones which were removed but it had been left far too long and her life was shortened because of it.

In today's world, money can make a huge difference in the quality of the healthcare that you can receive. I have already had two cataract surgeries, and after lens implants my vision is better than it was as a child. My wife instead of having to suffer from severe arthritis, like my grandmother, now has two artificial hip joints that have made a world of difference to the quality of her life. Future generations will benefit even more as the result of new drugs and new diagnostic and surgical techniques. There are also hundreds of nutritional supplements on the market these days that didn't exist 50 years ago. The standards of hygiene and sanitation have also greatly improved from the old days, and devices such as reverse osmosis units can ensure the highest quality of drinking water.

I think my parents had their house paid for by my age. They may have made about what my wife and I make but things were cheaper then. I think they built their house for 25k. My dad had a pension too which my mom continues to draw on even though he has been gone for years.

My father makes much more money than me and has a lot more wealth than me. Of course, he's 66 years old, I'm 36, so it's not really a fair comparison. It's a bit like comparing Aaron Rodgers's career to Joe Montana's. An incomplete comparison at this moment in time. Relative to where he was at 36, I think I'm at least in the ballpark. I think I make a good bit more money than he did. Then again, inflation would eat up most if not all of that difference. Plus I spent a ton more on my house than he did (for a house that's not much nicer - I suppose that's also inflation). And I have 3 kids, he only had 2. As a man, I'm also now expected to help out around the house - do the dishes, clean, change diapers, etc. I bet you can count the number of diapers my old man changed on one hand. There are much greater domestic expectations / requirements of husbands today than when my father was my age. It still shows when we visit or when they visit. My mom is shocked that I step up to help with the dishes.

This all depends on what you consider being better off and what one values. Financially and materially my wife and I are probably doing much better than my parents. However, I was older when I met my wife and traveled a lot so we only had two kids while my parents managed to raise nine children. It is obviously impossible to calculate the value of a large, loving family. I have no idea how much financial difficulty my parents endured, but no one ever went hungry in our house.

I am not at all financially better off that my parents at the same age but I would venture to guess that I'm better off in many other ways than they were.

When they were the age I am now, they were living in a middle class neighborhood with 2 teenage children. My dad worked full time and my mom worked part time and we had a few luxuries ... a swimming pool in our back yard (although we lived in a 1700 sq foot 4 bedroom house, which is unheard of today), my dad got his private pilot's license and we owned a small plane, etc. My dad made good money and my mom's income was the bonus/play money.

OTOH,they were also miserably unhappy in their marriage, both of them were raging alcoholics, and when my dad got particularly smashed and angry about something he'd smacked my mom or I around at the least provocation. (But we were such a perfect upper middle class family and my dad was such a well liked guy that no one believed it when I told them.)

So I'm not nearly as financially well off as they were, but I'm a helluva lot happier - especially than my mom was. I would say largely because I never felt like I had to stay in a miserable abusive marriage because I couldn't support myself and my children. I also never felt pressure to have children like my mom did, which contributed to her being in the situation she was in.

Because societal pressures are different, I am in a much better place, even if I'm not as financially stable as they were.

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