Frustrated at age 30
Bob Wood is 30. But if you listened to him, you'd think he was 60 and washed-up. "I graduated college at a great time. It was 1996. I started as an analyst for Accenture, worked as a health-care IT consultant for two other firms, and then became chief technology officer at Claimshop.com, a medical claims processor." By 2001, Bob was making $80,000 a year plus bonus, driving an expensive European sports car, and optimistic about his future. But Bob Wood has become a statistic. He's one of 40 million Americans born between 1966 and 1975 whose peak earnings may be behind them. Bob now makes $44,000 as a technology analyst at a hospital and is trying to adjust to the fact that the go-go years of the late-1990s are history.
Like many of his generation, Bob is mired in debt. He owes $23,000 on his college loans and has run up more than $4,500 on his credit cards. He faces a world very different from the one his father found when he graduated college in the early 1960s.
"The rules have changed. And we Generations Xers are getting hit hard. We had to go to college to get a decent job. But the majority of us graduated with high student debt. The good news was, when we graduated, the job market was great. I got a $5,000 hiring bonus on my first job! The competition by employers for good people drove salaries up. When I was 28, I was making more money than my dad, who had been with the same company for over 20 years. But my dad has job security. And he has a nice retirement plan that will pay him a guaranteed pension when he turns 58. Now look at me. I don't know if I'll ever make $80 thou again. If I do, it'll be in 20 or more years. I have no job security. I'm paying $350 a month on my college loans. I'm paying another $250 a month on my credit card account. I've got 30 more payments on my BMW. And my girlfriend says it's time for us to settle down and get married. It would be nice to own a house, but how can I commit myself to a 30-year mortgage...