We Are Living Better Than Our Parents

We Are Living Better Than Our Parents

Contrary to all the negative news headlines our lives are better than they were forty years ago.
Join Senior Financial Advisors Rob McClelland and Mike Connon as they explore some fun facts they discovered in 24 charts that show we’re (mostly) living better than our parents. From healthier lifestyles to better cars it looks like we’re not doing too badly.

“Key Points”

Healthier Lifestyles
Access to Commodities

and more

Source: Timothy B Lee, Full Stack Economics 24 charts that show we’re (mostly) living better than our parents June 29, 2022



Rob (00:00):

Hello, this is Rob and Mike from The McClelland Financial Group of Assante Capital Management. And this is ThinkSmart with TMFG. Today on ThinkSmart with TMFG Mike and I are going to be discussing, we are living better than our parents did. Mike, I thought it was time for us to do a positive podcast on some of the good things that are happening. And I came across this interesting article. It was called 24 charts that show your living better than your parents. So I thought we should discuss a few of the findings in there.

Mike (00:39):

It was funny. I was in Ireland about a month ago and we got to tour the Irish Immigration Museum. And as we both talked about before travelling isn’t as easy it used to be. Right. You go through it, it takes long lines of the airports and delays and all the hassle of losing your luggage. And when I went to the Irish Immigration Museum, they were showing the ships that used to bring people from Ireland over to the US. And they were called coffin ships because 50% of people that left ended up in a coffin by the time they got to the destination. So that’s when I thought, yeah, maybe the travel isn’t that bad.

Rob (01:15):

Well, there you go. And not even going back to that age, but even in the last 30 years, things have changed dramatically. The problem is when you hear the radio or the television, or pick up a newspaper, all you hear is that things are getting worse and that the middle-class people can barely survive, that are younger generations through no fault of their own, have a lower standard of living than their parents. And what this data sort of says is that’s not really true. And so let’s explore just some of the data and some of the highlights of it. And let’s start with an easy one. Here’s what’s trending up. We are eating healthier.

Rob (01:59):

Now a lot of people are going to argue that, but if you just looked at the expansive change in fresh fruit in stores, there are not many stores you can go into in Canada where you can’t get fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, even compared to the 1980s, that has changed threefold into what you can get versus what you could get back then. They didn’t exist. The only time I had blueberries as a kid was during the summer when they’d be picked, that was it. And so that’s just fruit. Let’s go to vegetables. 1985, the four most popular vegetables were onions, tomatoes, and heads of lettuce. And we’re talking like the head.

Mike (02:47):


Rob (02:49):

And potatoes. And you’re a big fan of potatoes.

Mike (02:52):

That sounds like my diet. I don’t think I’ve changed.

Rob (02:54):

You may not have changed.

Mike (02:56):

The stuff is in the store though. I do know that.

Rob (02:58):

But today, right, you can get avocados, asparagus, broccoli, romaine lettuce year round, pretty much regardless of where you live in this country or in North America, for that matter. Some of the other things that have become cheaper hammers, ladders, tools, televisions. You could go out and buy a 60 inch TV for $1000 today.

Mike (03:24):

Do you know when I started first working, I leased a computer. I went because I couldn’t afford to buy a computer because there was still a few thousand dollars at that point. And this was something that has 1000th of power of my iPhone nowadays, but it was a 286 or where they were at that time. And I remember it was like $2,400. And I had to go to a leasing company. It took me two years to lease, monthly payments.

Rob (03:48):

Well, it’s interesting having done Zoom calls over the last year with a lot of clients, I’ve realized some of my clients have very old computers at home and I’m like, you could just go down to Best Buy and for six, $700 they could get you a great new computer with microphones and video cameras all built in twice, three times as fast as the one you’re working on today, trying to connect to a Zoom call. So that’s completely changed. Now, Mike, you’re a truck guy.

Mike (04:18):


Rob (04:18):

Always liked your trucks. What’s happened to automobiles?

Mike (04:23):

Oh, automobiles. The quality of automobiles has increased so much compared to where they used to be. You get so much more, I mean, obviously price have went up a bit with inflation, but what you get now compared, we just went to for boat ride. We’re just saying how we’ve been so spoiled because with cars, you never think about a car breaking down anymore. You either start your car. It always works. Do you remember back in the, I wasn’t driving the 80s, but remember everyone had a ordeal to start their car. You couldn’t hand your keys to someone start, you’d say you have to hit your gas twice and knock on the hood. Or there was always some type of starter regimen to get your card to work. Nowadays, everyone just walks. You don’t touch anything. You just press a button and it’s running.

Rob (05:05):

Well, it was interesting. Yeah. Ingrid, my wife is looking for a new car. And so we were looking at a Hyundai recently and I looked in the back and I said, well is there a spare tire? And he said, no, there is no spare tire anymore. The research shows that your chance of getting a flat tire in the first four years of ownership of a new car is next to nothing. So why take up all that space with an extra tire? It just takes up space. So now they’ve turned that space into storage space, much better. What other thing has changed with cars? In 1980 America suffered about 3.5 highway fatalities for every 100 million miles on the road. In 2014, so 34 years later, it was down to one fatality, not three and a half, but one fatality per 100 million miles. And that is dramatically, dramatically better. Now in 2021, it was a low higher at 1.33, but that’s still a lot better than three and a half.

Mike (06:18):

Man, we talked about that before. The old car is, you thought they were safer because they were big and heavy. They were a lot less safe.

Rob (06:23):

We always talk about food, clothing. So if we go back to 1960, the average American household would spend 28% of its income on just food and clothing. By 1990, so 30 years after that, it had dropped to 15%. What would you think it would be today? Food and clothing. Household income.

Mike (06:50):

Probably 10.

Rob (06:51):

Yeah. 11%.

Mike (06:52):


Rob (06:53):

So it’s almost a third of where it was 60 years ago. Dramatic change. Clothing, durables, home appliances, other long lasting consumer goods keep getting cheaper. Healthcare, education have tended to get a little more expensive over time. And food and rent are more in the middle, but things are relatively cheap. Certainly not in the grocery stores today, but if you’re buying goods, they’re dramatically cheaper. What else? Shelter. So shelter’s obviously an important thing. We’ve talked about housing on numerous podcasts, but once you account for some of the changes in housing and tax, transfer programs, people in the bottom part of the market have actually made big gains. They’re doing dramatically better than the world likes to think they’re doing. They’ve come closer to middle class.

Mike (07:58):

Remember when it used to be a luxury to have a dishwasher in someone’s home. You’d walk in and think, oh, they have a dishwasher. That was special. And people would go to laundry mats before. You’d see people with their coins to go to the laundry mat. I remember my mother having me go to laundry mat to do stuff. This was 40 years ago, but I remember her going to laundry mat to do laundry. It wasn’t as common having this stuff in your house.

Rob (08:19):

So let’s use an example, and this is a simple item, a dishwasher. So in 1980, if you looked in the Sears catalog, a dishwasher went for about $299, $300. If you went to Home Depot today, what would be the cheapest dishwasher you could find?

Mike (08:36):

Probably about $400.

Rob (08:38):

About $400.

Mike (08:38):


Rob (08:40):

And that’s 42 years.

Mike (08:42):


Rob (08:43):

That’s pretty good.

Mike (08:44):

Look at the difference in a house price between 1980 and now, it’s tenfold.

Rob (08:50):

Couple of other changes. Let’s go back to housing. 1990, only 20% of new single family homes had four or more bedrooms. Today, new houses being built, half of them have four or more bedrooms. Okay. So that’s changed a lot. Now are the houses bigger? The houses are bigger. They’ve got more bathrooms. They’ve got more bedrooms. Houses are bigger.

Mike (09:16):

Yeah. My house, we had four kids. We had one bathroom. I mean, there was war in the morning over who was going to get in the bathroom first. My dad would have first rights and we’d all fight for the second one.

Rob (09:25):

We get to healthcare. Fewer people are dying of heart disease. Fewer people are dying of cancer. Overall, your chance of dying of cancer at any given age is 19% lower than it was 30 years ago. And look at me, I’m still here nine years later. And my prognosis wasn’t very good when I was going through treatment. So those are some of the positives. One thing that has changed a lot is cost of university. There’s no way to make this sound good. The cost of going to university is up dramatically, especially now that you’re having to go for four years. Before you used to be able to go for three years. That’s a 33% increase right there, just that extra cost. And some kids today are stretching it out to five years. Not even, makes it a 66% increase.

Mike (10:19):

So it’s not actually, it’s probably not the cost of tuition because I don’t think that’s changed that much. Right. When I was in 1990, I think tuition was $1,700 a year, and that’s just out of my memory. The tuition might have doubled from that, the tuition portion. But as you said, I think the cost of living, the cost of housing, the additional year they put on a university, all adds up to increase those costs, too.

Rob (10:43):

Something that’s always in the news women, tremendous progress there. Go back to the early 70s, about 13% of young women had college degrees. Today, over 46% of women at that age have a college degree. It’s dramatically changed. And that’s for the better,

Mike (11:03):


Rob (11:04):

Even with the higher cost of education. What else has changed Mike?

Mike (11:09):

Well, I guess parenting today, parents spend a lot more on kids than they used to. Back in our youth the parents didn’t spend a lot on extracurricular activity. You were sort of in charge of yourself. It’s a lot more expensive for a parent to raise a kid in today’s environment than it was 30 or 40 years ago. We had stats that said back in 1985, the average mother spent eight and a half hours per week focused on childcare while the average father spent about three hours. Today’s mother spends about 13.7 hours and every father spends about 7.2 hours.

Rob (11:42):

So the fathers have more than doubled the amount of time they’re spending, still well below what the women are spending.

Mike (11:48):


Rob (11:48):

It’s still got a long way to go. It’s only about halfway there, but even women today are spending far more time with their children.

Mike (11:57):

And I tell you, when you spend time with your children, you’re spending money.

Rob (12:00):


Mike (12:00):

It goes with it, right?

Rob (12:03):

That is it. So we’re not saying this applies to everything and everyone, but there’s a lot of really good things going on in our world today. Things are constantly improving, but we’re barraged by bad news all the time. And it’s tough to see through that cloud of smoke and haze that’s always in front of you of all the bad news.

Mike (12:26):

Well, I guess there’s a lot of, what goes on is technology has taken a big expense that wasn’t there a long time ago, but all it does improve lifestyle. Like it’s a worthwhile expense when you look at, obviously we didn’t have cell phone bills or we didn’t have computer bills and costs to everything like that, internet. But when you look at the advancements we’ve had and how much more ability we have in life through that and the freedom that it’s provided, that’s a tremendous increase in lifestyle. Think of the phones. When you had to actually be home to take a phone call, you were stuck. If you got a call for a job and you were waiting for a call back, you had to sit in your house all day and wait for that call come in.

Rob (13:03):

And then you had answering machines,

Mike (13:05):


Rob (13:05):

That you could only use when you were there, right?

Mike (13:07):


Rob (13:07):

You couldn’t and today, most of the youth don’t use answering machines.

Mike (13:12):


Rob (13:13):

Because they’re always in constant contact with everyone they need to be in constant contact other than their parents. That brings us to the end of another week. Thank you for joining us. This is Rob and Mike with ThinkSmart from The McClelland Financial Group of Assante Capital Management, reminding you to live the life that makes you happy.

Assante Capital Management (13:52):

You’ve been listening to The McClelland Financial Group of Assante Capital Management Limited. Assante Capital Management Limited is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. Insurance products and services are provided through Assante Estate And Insurance Services Incorporated. This material is provided for general information and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources. However, no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the previous information. Please make sure to see a professional advisor for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Assante Estate Management Limited.

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