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Generation Debt

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  217 ratings  ·  53 reviews
An emerging spokesperson for a new generation passionately and persuasively addresses the grim state of young people today-and tells us how we can, and must, save our future.

The nature of youth is to question. So when twenty-four-year-old Anya Kamenetz started out as a journalist, she began asking hard questions about her generation for which no one seemed to have good a
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 2nd 2006 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published 2006)
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H R Koelling
I eagerly devoured this book as soon as my local library ordered it for me. I am constantly contemplating the fate of my generation and I wanted some insight into why I felt we live the way we do. The author verified many of the fears I had harbored about our opportunities and the greed that drives our preceding generation.

We're not out of the woods yet, but at least I know there's other people out there to commiserate with. This is not another Gen X screed about poor us; oh boo hoo. It painsta
This was really poorly written. The author does a lot of complaining with very little suggested solutions, and honestly, doesn't argue her case very well. It's definitely an important issue, but I just wanted to slap her to make her stop whining.
Anyone my age will benefit from reading this book, which frames many of the economic and overall lifestyle choices we make in terms of policy issues that have come to define post-globalization America. Manufacturing jobs are for the most part gone or else steadily disappearing overseas. In their place we have an abundance of mostly non-unionized service industry jobs, which for the most part see a high turnover rate and very little long term security (unless you're willing to go for management, ...more
Jul 18, 2010 Rick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
Fascinating look into the situation behind college and young adult debts - credit cards, changes to the way we pay for college. I'm past this now, but damn did it bring back some bad memories. Paying for college is a ridiculous proposition these days.

I admire deeply Anya's call to activism and admire her for writing a book to encourage people to do just that. There were also a few interesting passages about just how EASY it would be to fix many of these problems, and I find myself wondering wha
Rebecca T Marsh
I think this is a must read. To me, Kamenetz's big assumption is that education is a social good for society, so society should invest in its students and not overburden them with debt, when they seek education. However, I am not sure that the primary beneficiary of education is society instead of the individual. It's seems to me that most people seek a job/degree that will make them the most money that they can make comfortably with some enjoyment, so the primary beneficiary is the student. But ...more
Anya Kamenetz is a young twenty-something freelance journalist who has got an axe to grind with the older generation.

She argues that young Americans are being grounded by low wages, high taxes and sky-high housing prices - thanks to a financially irresponsible baby-boomer generation. The gist behind her logic is that our parents have been living beyond their means and now the current generation of adults will have to foot the bill for their gross imprudence.

This may sound like a classic deflecti
The author has done a great job describing the struggles of today's 20- and 30-year olds trying to find meaning in life, career path, and get a grip of the world of personal finance. The author places most of the blame on the older generations, almost excusing the young people's passive attitude and childish outlook on life. Instead of building on the momentum and sounding a call to wake up and smell the coffee, she calls for more government regulation, student activism on campuses, and the olde ...more
The best part of this book is the author's illustration of how common it is for 20, 30, and even 40-somethings to have to take "crap jobs" these days, with the hollowing out of the workforce: jobs that have no benefits, barely offer full time hours (or offer more than full time hours but don't pay overtime), no opportunities for advancement, no educational opportunities/chance to expand one's skill set, and/or contract work where you're called self-employed but really aren't, since you can't det ...more
Apr 04, 2007 Vanessa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teenagers, twenty-somethings, and their parents
Shelves: 2007
I read this book on the recommendation of a professor, and got sucked in. The author graduated from an Ivy league school thinking she was prepared for a profitable career in journalism, only to find out that there was no work for her, and become a freelance author. She was making little money and falling into debt, and noticed that all of the other young people around her were finding themselves slaves to their debt as well. The book explores the financial situations of both college grads and pe ...more
Apr 16, 2008 Christiane rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone in college or in debt
Shelves: life-skills
It's amazing to me how the new American Dream includes being in debt for something. I teach at the college level and the only constant I have found with all my students is most of them are in debt or will be soon. Although I hope my students finish their bachelor degree, the ideas presented in this text made me reconsider that. It is more important for them to develop a marketable skill, through vocational education, than to transfer to a university. It also made me reconsider my own view toward ...more
Revealing look at the struggles of GenX.

p95 our new reality is postindustrial, nonunion, service-oriented, highly competitive, highly flexible, and technology dependent. Wages overall have been declining for almost 3 decades, with lower-wage workers falling far behind and higher-wage workers barely standing still. Bernhardt summarized these trends as “stagnation and polarization”.

p151 What is really happening: A massive redistribution from young and future Americans to currently living adults.
Jul 26, 2007 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all young people struggling to get by financially
A well-researched and well-written account of all the changes in our society that are working against young people and negatively affecting our chances of buying homes, becoming financially stable, saving enough for retirement, etc. This was actually rather depressing, overall, but I think it's extremely important to know what we're up against.

I was particularly interested in the catch-22 of the marriage question. It is financially difficult for most people of our generation to even think about
Tim H
The author did a lot of leg work and gathered stories from many many young people encountering the problems of this generation. The market for "for profit" student loans and college textbooks is too big and powerful to see themselves end. They survive by bleeding educational hopefuls until the rest of their life is tied up in paying interest on something sometimes as much as a house. Read this book. It will be rehashing a bit of what you may already know but it does give further insight into the ...more
A MUST READ. Although the book is directed at those 30 and younger, it should be required reading for all children and their parents. Clear, cogent and readable, it highlights the plight of our youth who mortgage their futures to go college and then face limited options. It's about bad decision-making, corrupt politics, and a world askew. One paraphrase- the author put $3,600 in an IRA at age 25. If she continues to save the same amount for the next 15 years and earns 8% a year, she will have in ...more
Nonfiction 9

This book had some valid points, but I felt like she deliberately picked the worst candidates to interview and that this generation DOES feel entitled. I think that most people could pull themselves out of the desperate situations they find themselves in, but lack the motivation, the knowledge, or just don't care enough to do that. There were many topics that could have easily turned into a whine session, but I think she was a very good writer and avoided that. It was an interesting
This book was pretty bad. I'm a chemical engineering grad student and have little sympathy or empathy for those quoted in this book.
The author makes a good case that our generation is in severe amounts of debt but much of the blame is on a lack of individual irresponsibility.
Some of the quotes made me even more desensitized to the "victim's" plight:

"Nita barely manages the monthly minimum payments on $10,000 of credit card debt, mostly run up in one summer two years ago of 'being a tourist in my
Quite the depressing read! Things sure are different than they were when I was college age! I was able to squeak by with no student loans or credit cards. That didn't mean that my degree got me a good job, though.. That is what the author is saying about today's world. The jobs that are available are mostly mcjobs, part-time with low pay and no benefits. Most of them are not permanent, nor do they offer a fast-track to the corner office! Those in the corner office sometimes can't afford to retir ...more
The basic theme of the book is that lower-wage no-benefit jobs, credit card debt, and changes in federal education financing combine to severely cripple the economic advancement of people who graduate college in the 21st century. Cool premise, but I found the content to be too anecdotal and the tone to be too self-entitled. I'm also somewhat skeptical of her equal treatment of the job market, student loans and credit card debt as contributors to financial ruin. Also, I met Anya Kamenetz when she ...more
Informative but not the best of non-fiction I've read.

The short breaks within each chapter (maybe one every 2 pages) really feel like they break up the flow of the book itself. Just when a discussion point is really being fleshed out there's a break and a new point is brought up. Somehow I felt that the book never quite flowed from one point to the next but was in a hurry to make as many points as possible.

The writing is solid and very readable. I just never felt that the arguments quite had eno
Josh Meares
Not worth reading all the way through. An excellent example of the entitlement trap. It asks deep philosophical questions like "Where did all the good jobs with benefits go?" and such provocative claims as the "impossibility of making a living wage".

Want a job? Start a business.
And as for living wage, ummm, the average income for the global middle class, when adjusted for purchasing power parity, is $6000/year. So shut the hell up about how tough life is on $10/hour. Or else the hundreds of mill
It is not that I didn't like what I read -- rather it came across, at times, as speaking for a generation of self-involved brats. If our future was sold, is name calling the way to get it back? As I said, it's not that I don't agree with the message and given that I live in Pittsburgh I can curse at the olds with the best of 'em. I wish she had written a little more logical argument, and a bit less cast iron skillet to the head.

I thought Strapped, which I read concurrently with Generation Debt,
Generation Debt is a necessary read for every member of Gen X/Y (and helpful for older generations trying to figure us out). Anya Kamenetz lays out the major economic changes that have occurred since the Boomers came of age and what that means for the generations now entering the job market. It upset me and angered me by turns, but the best part was that the author offered suggestions for how to get out from under - both individual and group action.

Arguably this is the most important book I've r
I think somebody has finally spoken a truth that few have attempted to speak of. It's happening: many young people today will not do so well as their parents. Many have mortaged their future, heavily burdened by student loans before landing their first "real" job. I'm about a year or two older than the generation she writes about, but I relate, and moreover, I feel fortunate that I'm not a young person from this generation.
It's nice to know other people are experiencing the same difficulties I am. Although, as I read the book, I felt more like an outsider because my debt is significantly higher than almost all of the people Anya talked about in the book. Still, interesting and helpful--I learned about some websites and organizations that I can be a part of to hopefully make change. :)
It's likely that my profession causes me to be unimpressed by this book. The author is most thorough in firing up the reader, but she leaves little suggestion as to how to deal with the problem. This may be an unfair criticism, as she is a journalist, not a financial guru. I contacted her by email and she was most gracious, but again, her job is to report not to fix.
The most notable aspect of this book is that it was written before the market crash. What was very obvious then is simply undeniable now. The book is laden with individual stories. It would serve well as a research source (view endnotes). The book covers all points in life and touches on policy and historical trends.
Read the first two chapters, and you'll probably be all set -- although the concept is an interesting one: there is no doubt that for young people today, the costs of starting out on your own (school, car, home, finding that first job) are significantly more expensive, proportionally, than ever before.
Well written, by a well educated journalist, and I really felt her pain. But I didn't agree with her analysis or her conclusions. She locks into the presumption that it is all the fault of the greedy corporations, and that more & bigger enlightened gov't is the solution. So a bit too simple for me.
An interesting read, though I would be curious to read a revised version with more current statistics. This one contains references to a housing bubble that has not yet burst and other economic issues that have since come to a head -- it would be interesting to see a more current impact.
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Anya Kamenetz is a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. The Village Voice nominated her for a Pulitzer Prize for contributions to the feature series Generation Debt, which became a book in 2006. She has written for the New York Times, appeared on CNN and National Public Radio, and been featured as a Yahoo Finance Expert. A frequent speaker nationwide, Kamenetz blogs at, The Huff ...more
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