The younger generation have an easy life

Sarah Coles
Younger generation better off
Younger generation better off

Young people don't realise how lucky they are, and instead of assuming their parents and grandparents had a far easier time of things - they ought to appreciate what they have. These are the findings of a poll on AOL Money.

See also: Baby Boomers are spending the kids' inheritance

See also: 1980s children half as wealthy as 70s counterparts

Last week we revealed that 58% of young people think their parents and grandparents had life much easier than they do. Young people cited the fact that earlier generations had a much easier job of getting onto the housing ladder, and if they went to university they didn't have to pay hefty fees. Their grandparents were even likely to have received a government grant to study.

AOL readers, however, had an entirely different perspective. We asked readers to rate when younger people had an easier life, and overwhelmingly the most common answer was that today's youngsters are best off - 47%. This was followed by the 18% who thought that life was easier for young people in the 1960s, 17% who thought it was easiest in the 1970s, 13% who thought it was easiest in the 1980s and 5% who thought it was easiest in the 1990s.

Some of the comments indicated just why readers were not convinced that earlier generations had an easy life. One pointed out: "Yes we could afford houses, mortgages at 15% interest in the 70's but only because we practiced restraint. No holidays, second hand black and white TV, second hand furniture, not eating out, no takeaways, no phone, old bangers for cars, no central heating. Shopping was not a pastime."

Another said: "I really don't know what's going on in our schools today but teachers are certainly not educating our children. How about History are they aware that we fought two World Wars to defend our country, the country where they were born and brought up, are they aware of the huge sacrifices that were made by their parents, grandparents and great grandparents."

Why the disagreement?

The answer to who had an easier life very much depends on the perspective of those you ask. Most commonly, people are more aware of the negative aspects of their own experience, and the positive aspects of the experiences of other generations.

Those who were young in earlier generations could definitely afford housing more easily. If they were one of the minority who went to university they were more able to cover the cost of that too - especially where they had help from the government. It's easy for young people - whose lives are dominated by student debt and expensive rent - to think the grass is greener on the other side.

However, previous generations didn't have the consumer lifestyles that have become the norm since the boom of easy credit in the 1970s. Likewise, before globalisation, high street shopping was so much more expensive that there was no such thing as fast fashion or upgrades. Meanwhile flights were high end expensive luxuries, so overseas holidays were the exception to the norm. And the technology we have come to take for granted was just a glint in a computer geek's eye.

So while young people back then could sensibly afford to invest in housing, they couldn't afford the holidays, consumer goods and technology they see young people enjoying now.

As one reader pointed out: "Life has never been particularly easy in any of the decades I have been alive, only different, and while there isn't a real working time machine to let each of us live history as it happened, we just have to make the damned best of where we are all are here and now."