Ah, the good old days! (whenever that was)... Life was so good, so easy, everything was so affordable! Heard that one before? Are you the one who said it? It’s OK, it’s just between us.
Let’s dream a little. Let’s say you can go back in time and live anywhere in the world and any period in history. Where & when would that be? Medieval times in Europe are tempting. So much fun. Especially if you were the king, or a duke, right? Well, think again. There is only one king at-a-time, and only so many dukes, who are dukes only so long, at the king’s pleasure. The regrettable alternative would be to be born a pauper or fighting the 100-year war in the king’s army. No, forget that.
Prehistoric times were exciting –very exciting. Challenging. But at least you would be free. You could do whatever you wanted, as long as you lived. Not that long. You would be pretty old at age 30. Talk about the fun of being a Millennial. Besides, living in a grotto is hardly appealing. Too many bears’ or wolves’ ancestors to share your space with. And I heard they were not the sharing type. Going outside to take a swim or go hunting was not terribly safe either.
You could choose to be on an island, lost in the Pacific, without clear water, gas, electricity and… social media. Unbearable. Or be a man in a man’s world, anywhere, anytime. But if you were born a woman? Gee, I did not think of that one either. When you start thinking about rich or poor, powerful or powerless, old or young, man or woman, you really complicate the wish. It is turning into a bad dream.
Come to think of it, yesterday was not always better than today, no matter how sweet it did sound. Last month, at the Inman Luxury Connect I wrote about in this column a month ago, someone put some very official stats on the screen, comparing life in the 50’s (remember those happy booming years?) to life today. Captivating comparison that is worth mentioning here, in case you are old enough to feel nostalgic about the good-old days which are not that old.
· In 1950, an average American home had 983 sq. ft. and counted 3.5 residents. Today, an average home has 2,349 sq. ft. and 2.5 residents
· In 1950, 10% of Americans owned a TV. Today, 95% have at least one (I wonder whether the other 5% have electricity)
· In 1950, 60% owned landline phones. Today, 90% own cell phones
· In 1950, 0% had air conditioning. 90% of us do today
· In 1950, 0% had computers. It is 75% today (nobody has ever heard of those who don’t…)
· In 1950, the average annual earnings of an American (inflation-adjusted) was $11.000. It is now $44,000
· In 1950, the high school graduation rate was 41%, to be compared to 88% now
· In 1950, the college graduation rate was 8%. Today, it is 31%
· In 1950, life expectancy was 68 y. It is 78% now
· In 1950, 50% of seniors lived in poverty. The percentage shrunk to 9%.
I can go on & on with the price of a gallon of milk, or a gallon of gas, or the price of an average house… but you see the point. Would you rather have lived in the past, live in the present… or take your chance on the future? Depends, I know. Depends who you are, where you are, what you do and what you fancy most. How do you define progress, comfort, happiness?
The fact is, as noted at the Inman Luxury Connect, every generation faces its share of challenges. I don’t know what will be said of the 21st century when we are done with it, but it is somewhat humorous to reflect on what a very wise man said about the past century:
“In the 20th century, the United States endured 2 world wars, the Depression, a dozen or so recessions & financial panics, oil shocks, a flu epidemic, and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet, the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497”. Warren Buffett.