Sounds pretty gloomy. This situation isn't anyone's "fault" but I have to wonder what effect that boomer parents have had in all this. As a generation they've experienced some huge shifts in the financial landscape, and that has to play a part.
Don't despair though. I do think there are many folks out there who aren't sticking their head in the sand, but meeting and beating that level of debt head on (cheers to our younger PF bloggers decimating debt!). The article's final page has several suggestions for grabbing hold of the financial reins including creating a budget, setting financial goals, saving for retirement and other helpful basics.
One of the things that I think is hard for people is to understand the long term financial impact of justifying what can amount to overspending on their children. What parent wants to deny their child? Parents want their kids to have "everything" but without an understanding of long term goals and needs, spending in the present can get out of hand. The article suggests:
It's important for people to not feel powerless. Whether it's from paying off your debt to changing public policy. Another suggestion in the article is for young adults to get involved in the political landscape to address some of these problems. Tamara Draut, author of Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead points out why this is critical:
Put your future over your children’s present. Many young families are lavishing more money on their kids when they should be thinking long-term first, said Manning. “They justify the money they spend on their youngsters, such as buying an expensive house in a good school district as worth it for their future, but in reality they would be better served if there was enough money to send them to college.”
“We’re the first Americans to start our lives with five-figure debt and start our careers in an Darwinian new economy. Congress has decimated college financial aid and let the minimum wage fall to historic lows. If we continue to tune out and check out of the political process, our future will be all but stolen from us.”
If you've been keeping up with personal finance lately, there wasn't much that was new in this article, but it's a good hard look at the combined effect that certain trends are having on our youth and our shared future. It's not just that youth are all spendy spendy with the credit card (though that may be part of the problem, but it's certainly NOT just our youth...is it?) so let's just stop blaming and make sure this doesn't come crashing down on all our heads (too gloomy?)
I think the key is to make yourself aware and educate yourself on your situation and don't slip into denial and then...just START. Do any one of those things on the list just to get going. Starting is the best thing you can choose to do.