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A few days ago, my wife and I dined out. It was a quiet celebration. We ordered well but we ordered judiciously. We were conditioned for years in the “waste not, want not” school of thinking.That’s not to say, we didn’t enjoy the meal. Of course we did, but we didn’t over order and we ate everything that we had ordered.

Contrast this with another scene at a food court we went to recently at one of Bangalore’s many malls. A young couple were sitting and talking together in a table nearby. They later walked over and got their food. At a glance it was clear to us that either this couple had huge appetites which belied their slender builds, or they had vastly over ordered. When we got up to go, some time later, they too got up by co-incidence. We were horrified to see the amount of food left half-eaten on the table.

I told my wife, “That could easily be dinner for a small family.” The couple were chatting animatedly as they left, oblivious to what was in our minds, and I am sure in the minds of the housekeeping staff who came to clean and mop the tables.

Today, I read an article in the Economic Times which says Generation Y is paying more tax than they strictly need to in India. This means they are not utilizing the legal provisions which could enable them to save more by paying less taxes. They may not be aware, or worse still, may not even care.

This set me thinking. Why do some in our Generation Y have such a cavalier, “spend today as if there is no tomorrow” kind of attitude when it comes to money? I speak of the urbanized employed youth in a city like Bangalore. Of course one can’t generalize. What I say may apply to a fair number of people but certainly not to all.

I feel that their attitude towards money is far different from those in my generation (and I am in my 60s), possibly due to the following reasons:-

  • They have never had to scrimp and save: Unlike those of my generation which largely lived in perpetual scarcity, today’s Generation Y has more choice than ever before. They live in a far more consumer-friendly society and their relative affluence and the  easy availability of goods and services has perhaps taught them that anything can be bought, for a price. The concept of saving, in itself, could be alien to many of them.
  • They have never known what they are legally entitled to: This article I mentioned suggests that they are not aware of what they are entitled to. They may not care to find out the rules and regulations in this regard as the thought of saving doesn’t come easily to them.
  • They have never felt the need to push the purchasing power of their rupee to the maximum: It’s only now that many are realizing that the Great Indian Economy is not doing as well as one would have expected it to, up until a few years ago. Consequently, many live for the present and spend as if there is no tomorrow. They could afford to do so till now.

But what of the future? It looks like our growth rate has slowed down considerably. The gains of past years have been whittled away, and the future looks rather uncertain compounded by the political uncertainties with a General Election looming next year.

I hope our Generation Y, the generation of the future, wakes up to the harsh realities that surround us. I do not want to seem unduly pessimistic, but they have the power to shape our future, not drift with the tide. I do hope what I have written above is applicable to a few, and not most, of our Generation Y.