A couple days back I finished Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Bad Jobs, NoBenefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers–And How to Fight Back by Anya Kamenetz and quite frankly I had to let the book sit a couple days before writing this review simply because my thoughts on it are somewhat hard to pin down. On one hand the book is well written and the authors Yale education in journalism comes through as she is very upfront in the fact that she is biased towards a liberal ideology, she does present examples to justify her thoughts, and if you actually read the bibliography you can tell she actually did research for the book; but on the other hand, some of the cases she presents don’t exactly make for the strongest examples and that might help to explain the reviews this book gets on Amazon.com.
Now, as a whole I am quite sympathetic towards the author and I agree that most of the problems that she presents are problems that do affect members of Generation Y; however, on the same token, there are some cases in her book where she should have avoided using the case as it hurts her argument (e.g. maxed out their credit cards being “tourists in their own town”) which is used as ammunition against the book in the various one star reviews out there. It also doesn’t help that she does seem to fall for trap that the plural of anecdote is not data and there are a number of places where she hurts her case by not providing a larger data set.
Now, that said, I do think that each of the issues that she presents are valid issues that need to be addressed and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to being a firm proponent of bringing back mandatory home economics classes for high school students to help avoid some of the very problems that she addresses. One of the big issues with Generation Y is that most people are largely financially illiterate (quick: if you have $1,000 on a credit card with 25% APR, how long and how much will you end up paying making only minimum payments?) and going back to my previous entry on why Generation Y Yuppies are unhappy, anyone that graduated from college during the recession had high chance of not getting a job fresh out of school which can impact them in the long run since most companies would rather hire the fresh graduates as opposed to the ones that graduated from school over one year ago.
All told, I would recommend reading the book if you get a chance since at a minimum is does enumerate the list of issues that affects Generation Y even if it does a very poor job in some cases of explaining why these are problems and defending the position. However, I do firmly agree with the advice she gives in the revised edition chapter “Looking Ahead”: pay off your debt, save money, and don’t spend more money than you make.