B61 -- I completely sympathize with what you're saying. My son just got laid off, and another of my kids is struggling mightily. I'm very sad about the trials the younger generation is going through, and sadder still about what my grandkids are living through.
While I appreciate all the advice that's being given, I don't think the situation these days is the same as when we were younger. The evidence is all out there staring at us -- having unregulated markets only helps the big bankers with millions to play with and also rewards them with a ridiculously low tax rate. I'm sorry, but I think the more one rakes in, the more one should contribute to the common weal.
I've been reading a great deal about the financial crisis and just watched a Frontline movie about how the big guys -- Alan Greenspan, especially -- wouldn't listen to a woman named Brooksley Born, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who tried during the '90s to regulate the derivatives market that finally caused the crisis of 2008 (and there was a smaller one in 1998). Back in the '70s, we didn't have this problem. It has been growing since the '80s, and really mushroomed in the '90s, and it's still lurking out there. We should all be demanding regulation! There are 5 Wall Street lobbyists for every single Congressperson, and the Congresspeople tend to think that the lobbyists are "experts" so they cave in to them.
Now we know, though, that even the bankers who were selling derivatives didn't fully understand them. And even the grand wizard himself, Alan Greenspan, said that his entire life philosophy based on Ayn Rand's teachings of "let the market regulate itself", admitted that he'd been wrong all his life. A sad thing for him to say, but good that he admitted it.
I too have struggled, lived with nothing, scraped by, and now live fairly comfortably. But I have to say, the world was simpler back in the 70s. The deck wasn't stacked against the average person the way it is now. There were still small, local banks, and friendly neighborhood local stores that hadn't yet been bought out by multinational corporations with headquarters in Hong Kong or Frankfurt or wherever, so you knew that the money you spent would circulate in the neighborhood. There were still locally owned radio and TV stations, whose owners lived in the communities. There were still local farms growing local food that wasn't raised in salmonella-producing conditions. We're all guilty of allowing ourselves to be bullied by these greedy wolves who are destroying our children's chance at decent lives.
I think we're on a page that hasn't been written before and are finding our way. There are no precedents for what's going on right now.
I don't plan to retire for quite some time (I enjoy my job too much anyway) and stand ready to help my children in any reasonable way.