Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Generation Gap

Recently, my mother and I were gossiping about discussing the financial plight of some of my family members. Several twenty-somethings in my family have filed Chapter 13 at least once; a cousin who is older than I am has filed several times. The general philosophy in my family is a young person who files has time to "survive" the hit to their credit. Uh...what?

We bought our first house when I was 26. Had I filed bankruptcy at that time, we would have been totally screwed, but under the "Bama Family Plan" (we're Alabama folks, y'all) I should have thrown caution - and my credit score - to the wind because I was...young? I spent a grip of money at Ann Taylor this month. Oh! I'll file bankruptcy. Who needs to own their own house anyway. That's so mature and sh*t. When I pointed out that ruining one's credit is not the path to financial riches, my mother just shrugged: They're not thinking about owning a house right now. I didn't buy my first house until I was 40.

Which is why I bought at 26. I remember the countless moves, the ghetto apartments, the landlords who pestered mom for the rent money, the stabbing pangs of house envy whenever I visited friends' homes, and I did not want my children to ever experience that. Oh, they still have house envy but it's not envy for their own bathroom (which they have) but rather envy for a home movie theater (which our friends have). That sort of envy is understandable - the movie theater - and adjoining dessert bar - is really nice.

But, did you ever see the commercial with the African-American mom, dad, and two kids? They're in their new house for the first time since closing and the boys immediately run into the backyard and go crazy. Mom just stands there at the window gazing out into the yard prompting dad to ask what's wrong? Mom just smiles and says: It's my first backyard, too. That commercial resonates with me because until we bought that first house, I had never had a backyard. I never had a place to kick the ball around or hunt for bugs or just lay in the grass. My play space was a cement 2x8 area contained by metal bars otherwise known as a balcony.

So for my mother to say to me that buying a house is not a priority for a twenty-something baffles me. It certainly was a high priority for me, but maybe it's because I had three children in my twenties and I really yearned for a place of our own - a solid home base suitable for child rearing. If I were childless, maybe my priorities may have been different. I would have bought a fancy car or toured Europe instead. Then again, maybe home ownership truly is not a priority for some.

I don't have all the answers but I don't think youth ought to be considered a positive factor when it comes to bankruptcy. If anything, being young and bankrupt - before one has even had the chance to start a career or get a financial foothold - is terribly limiting.

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