(noun, etymology Dutch from ‘boedel’: estate, possession, inheritance, stock.). 1. Crowd, pack, lot, as in ‘the whole boodle.’ 2. a. Counterfeit money b. Money acquired or spent illegally or improperly, particularly when used in bribery for political purposes. 3. Slang for money in general.

The Great Depression Generation Had Some Things Right

Posted on: Sep. 14, 2010  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: General

Discussing choices around what to do with money is the main focus of my occupation.  In most cases, my perspective on what choices are available compared to that of the person I am speaking with often times doesn’t jibe.

This holds especially true for those in what we might call the World War II generation.  When speaking to this generation, I have to address the mother of all financial white elephants–the Great Depression.  Living through this period transformed everyone’s thinking when it came to money.  Any loss to ones principal brings that generation right back to the soup line. And, given recent events, this is truer than ever.

I didn’t cut my teeth on the Great Depression or World War II.  I grew up with Television and the Vietnam War. As a young man, I had very little understanding for the World War II generation. This generation seemed not only ready to jump out of a window when financial distress threatened to bring it all crashing down but seemed to be the pillars of racial intolerance, gender inequality, and using war to solve the unsolvable.

As I get older, I tend to question the stories of my youth and to realize there is more to a story or, at least, other sides to it.  While individuals raised during the Depression may be worried about what will happen to their money, they are also much more trusting of others and much less prone to cynicism.

The Great Depression not only gave this generation a common enemy, so did World War II.  The country as a nation came together for the common good as never before in work for war efforts, in rationing of scarce resources, and in saving money in the form of war bonds.  Consequently, a generation got built on social involvement.

This generation was more civic-minded, volunteered more, joined all types of groups, kept up with current events, and believed in the vote.  Due to the war industry, union strength and prevalence, other factors of the day, and tax rates for all Americans, the advancement of the many and the greatest leveling in economic history put more of the “good life” in everyone’s reach.  More and more, ice boxes were replaced by refrigerators and radios were replaced by televisions.  Things that used to be done by hand could now be done by affordable machine.

Social interaction provided wide and deep economic benefits as well.  In 1939, thirty-one percent of the wealth was held by the top one-percent of adults.  By 1945, the figure of wealth held by the top one-percent had dropped to twenty-three percent.  Yet at the start of the new Millennium, around fifty percent of corporate stock alone is owned by the top one-percent.

What gives? One reason group participation and civic-minded behavior has waned over the years is that this World War II generation is aging and dying off. Along with that, their values are being replaced.  In a 1975 Roper study, an equal amount of persons felt the “good life” was defined either by having a lot of money or a job that helped the welfare of society.  In 1996, those that felt the good life was defined by having a lot of money had doubled, while the “common good-ers” had dwindled. But maybe, just maybe, if that same poll were taken today, we’d embrace the wisdom of our elders, who knew that happiness meant social involvement and meaningful life purpose, not just a certain net worth.

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