The numbers are shocking. The average college graduate enters the workforce with an $18,560 debt. A low paying entry level job does not improve matters – the cost of new clothes, apartment, a car, for example, deepens the indebtedness. This vicious cycle most affects the 18-34 demographic, what Carmen Wong Ulrich refers to as “Generation Debt.” Very few card-carrying members of this generation appear to have the awareness of how deep their problem is and how to remedy the situation. Ulrich’s book is written with this generation in its radar sights. Much of the book is written as a cautionary tale, presumably to shock the indebted young person to take action. Ulrich offers a roadmap to help get out of this morass, and that alone is worth the price of the book.
As the young college graduate enters the workforce, he/she faces several choices, each of which may have important implications for that person’s well-being. These decisions relate to finding a place to stay, acquiring the essentials to look professional on the job, and most importantly, the acquisition and use of credit cards. Holding nothing back, Ulrich succinctly analyzes the financial implications of these choices.
The key to getting out of the debt trap, according to the author, is to develop a financial plan. The plan helps track inflows and outflows of cash and is aimed at paying off debt and saving for the future. Ulrich’s writing should appeal to her audience for it speaks their tongue. Thus, listed under “Needs” in her master plan are things that every young person would aspire to – iPod, dining out, etc.
Written in a staccato style that realizes the fairly short attention of the typical reader, Ulrich makes her points clearly and often. The fear-invoking statistics are counterbalanced by rationally thought out steps to confront the problems. Each chapter contains web sites that allow for further exploration of specific topics as well as to help crunch various numbers. The book should be a good graduation gift – it both startles and challenges the young person. Above all, it offers a model for the person’s financial life.