This Memorial Day I will be out in the desert riding dirt bikes. This weekend always brings the last trip of the riding season. There won’t be any parades or TV specials for me. I will give thanks and express my gratitude to our veterans in my own quiet way, as I ride by Fort Irwin, CA. I ride a motorcycle because it makes me feel free and I enjoy that freedom because of the sacrifices of others.
Why they were the Greatest
Veterans of World War II have been referred to as “America’s Greatest Generation”. They were raised during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. They created a boom in American affluence, harnessed atomic energy and put a man on the moon.
They didn’t ask what their country could do for them; they did what they could do for their country. Musicians, teachers, business owners, movie stars and professional athletes all put their lives on hold to serve the country. Women contributed in equal measure, working in the factories while their men were away at war. They didn’t complain about their misfortune of being born in this terrible time in history; they thrived because of it. They didn’t covet the wealth of others, because they had seen the devastation fascism and communism had brought upon their subjects.
Much like our Founding Fathers and the soldiers of the American Revolution, the Greatest Generation put our country and our future ahead of themselves. They served loyally, sacrificed selflessly and fought courageously.
What they Taught us about Money
The personal savings rate in the 1950s and 1960s was consistently between 7-9%. In the 1970s it topped 11%. Currently, it’s stands at 2.7%
The Greatest Generation saved some money for the future and for the inevitable hard times ahead. They were conservative investors, often keeping their money in the bank, instead of the stock market. They spent cash and shunned debt and credit. They saved up for most large purchases and paid off their houses long before retirement. They squandered little and wasted even less.
Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age and only 60% of them can afford to retire. Many still have mortgages, car payments and credit cards to pay off. Many will have to work until they die. They could have taken a lesson from the Greatest Generation on how to secure their futures.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that every generation contributes to the future in one way or another. Will your generation contribute to hope and prosperity? Or, will they contribute to poverty and deficits? Only time will tell.
“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”
Elmer Davis – U.S. Office of War Information