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Experience Matters!


Freakonomics author, Stephen Dubner, has an excellent podcast, coincidently named Freakomonics, that is quite enjoyable when I exercise.  A  recent podcast interviewed an economics professor from GWU in Washington.  She was a native of Italy, whose accent made it difficult for me to understand her.

She discussed how the economic behavior of different generations reflects the experience of each generation.  The older generation worked at one job most of their life, with job security, healthcare, and a reasonable pension.  Younger generations changed jobs frequently, experienced long periods without healthcare, were bombarded by financial drug-dealers offering addictive credit cards, and saddled with educational loans.  The older generation sees economic behavior in black & white terms of what’s right & wrong.  They don’t understand the economic behavior of younger generations, who likewise don’t understand the older generations.  They listen to each other but don’t understand.

I thought about the professor’s accent.  I knew she must be speaking English, but I swear I understood little.  The language-variable was just too great.  The difference between generations is not an age-variable but an experience-variable.  I did not grow up in Italy and struggle to understand the language.  Likewise, I did not reach adulthood in the boom-times of post WWII and struggle to understand the black & white thinking of the Greatest Generation.

It is not the job of a financial advisor to think in black & white terms of good & bad.  It is never appropriate to be morally judgmental of the younger generations.  Our job is to help each individual client understand him or herself!

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