Thursday, January 26, 2012
The Next Generation
Nothing will focus your attention on the future like having children. Especially when they've hit their twenties, and you see them making their way about the world. As a parent you hope that you've given them every possible opportunity to prepare for the future, and you hope that you've given them a decent enough world to build on. Over the past few years, however, I've come had my doubts about both.
When each girl was born we took out a Florida Prepaid account for both. My wife and I had decided that we would give them good education at a Florida state school. I worked through college and my wife had taken out loans; based on those experiences we wanted to give our children the opportunity to just go to school and graduate without any financial burdens. We hoped that the girls would do well academically through K-12 on up to college and beyond. Fortunately for all concerned, that's pretty much the way it all turned out.
When my youngest daughter graduated Spring 2011 after four years at FSU, on paper her future looked bright. She'd graduated magna cum-laude and with honors. She had a major in art and a minor in art history. In addition to all her course work she'd also held down a number of on-campus positions, some that paid, and some that were voluntary, but all in an attempt to build up an initial resume that would look good to recruiters and companies looking for entry level employees, either in Tallahassee or elsewhere. But that was on paper. Reality was a whole lot darker.
It turned out that while we were busy raising our kids and paying into Florida Prepaid, the economy grew over-heated, then burst with the Internet bubble, and finally entered the Great Recession (nee Depression) of the mid-2000s with the even larger real estate bubble collapse. By the time my youngest daughter was ready to graduate (and even before that) there were no job offers, no entry level positions anywhere. The best that FSU could do at the time was to offer a job fair with nothing but unpaid internships. FSU provided no help what-so-ever except to make sure she took her assigned classes to graduate and to collect her fees. And there were lots of additional fees above and beyond Florida Prepaid.
She's working right now, but not at what she had hoped to do. It's hourly, which means she has no insurance. And the number of hours worked at the various jobs is low enough that if she gets laid off, Florida's revamped unemployment system won't give her any benefits. Telling her to work hard in school and make exemplary grades and she'd have a shot at a decent job rings pretty hollow right now. I certainly never went through this, but then I came of age during the mid-1970s, nearly forty years ago. My experiences and advice are absolutely worthless for navigating through this particularly bad economic period.
All I can do at this point in time is to do what all parents should do for their kids, and that's give them whatever support possible to help them get launched. She's bright and hard working, and she has zero school loan debt to worry about. That lack of debt offers her tremendous flexibility at this point in her young life. But she doesn't see it that way; she's grown tired of the system and the continuous run around, and I can certainly understand that. So I have to be careful of the advice I give her (if I can even give her any useful advice).
About the best thing I can do is be the ultimate backstop for her. Just because she's "grown up" doesn't mean I've been relieved of my responsibilities as a parent. I'll have those responsibilities until the day I give my last breath. Until that day I will see both girls succeed, and go beyond where I've gone in my life. Right now, it's just tough to envision.