Life lessons

karate-kidMr. Miyagi: “Man who catch fly with chopsticks accomplish anything.”
Daniel: “Ever catch one?”
Mr. Miyagi: “Not yet.”

The Karate Kid is a classic movie, vintage 1984. Old Mr. Miyagi promises to teach karate to young Daniel-san. But during the first few days, Mr. Miyagi has Daniel busy sanding his decks, washing and waxing his cars, and painting his house and fence.

Along the way, Daniel (played by actor Ralph Macchio) does learn karate and a few life lessons as well.

Back in 1984, I was a twenty-something and well established on my chosen career path. Now, as both Ralph Macchio and I zip through our fifties, I know that I sometimes think, “Oh, to be young again!”

However, I quickly catch myself and respond, “Um, no thanks!”

Being young ain’t what it used to be. For example, do millions of twenty-somethings really want to live with their parents? Do recent college graduates really want to be working as a barista at Starbucks? Life is more complicated for today’s young adults. Unlike some previous generations, young adults today often have no “clear path”; many are “muddling through” to find their way. Unemployment, underemployment and heavy student loan debt are only a few of their challenges.

However, there is hope.

The U.S. economy appears to be picking up steam after a sluggish first quarter. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.9 percent in May, the largest gain since August 2009, according to the Commerce Department.

“The labor market is tight, wages and incomes are rising solidly, so we should expect consumers to help lead the economy forward,” stated Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors, in a recent Reuters article.

With the unemployment rate shrinking from 7.6 percent two years ago to 5.5 percent currently, accelerating economic growth should lead to more jobs and, eventually, much-needed wage growth, which should help currently underemployed young adults and recent college graduates. With improved financial outlooks, they will leave the nest, boosting demand for housing.

“At some point, these twenty- and thirty-somethings are going to start climbing back out of the basement,” noted Jordan Weissmann, senior business and economics correspondent at Slate magazine. “And when they do, it will be a boost to the economy. Right now, the U.S. household formation rate … is incredibly low. When it speeds up, you’ll see more demand for housing, and the things that come along with it, like appliances, furniture, televisions and so forth.”

Good news for the millennial generation? Let’s hope so. But as we know, life’s a journey, every mile counts in reaching your final destination.

Daniel: “You’re supposed to teach and I’m supposed to learn! For four days I’ve been bustin’ my ass, and I haven’t learned a goddam thing!”
Mr. Miyagi: “You learn plenty.”

Not a subscriber to IREI Insights blog? Sign up to receive alerts on new blog posts.


LarryFinalwebv2Larry Gray is editorial director of Institutional Real Estate, Inc.