My wife and son and I visited my sister and brother-in-law yesterday. They sold the home they built in 1954 and have lived in ever since and are moving to an apartment in the home of their daughter, my niece. Around the lunch table, we got to chatting about the difference in outlook regarding financial matters since that time. It was a fascinating discussion.
My sister came to Canada in 1949 at age eighteen. She was married a year or two later. In 1952, she and her husband built a new home. By 1954, they only owed $2,000 on that home, sold it for $10,000, and built another larger and nicer home for the $8,000 they now had. Since that time, they have never had a mortgage. Imagine that. Every penny that they would have spent on mortgage payments over the years they were able to save or invest instead. As you might imagine, they have done very well.
They are not alone. Immigrants to our lands of opportunity (Canada and the United States) typically worked very hard, saved every spare penny, invested in a home, and prospered. They didn't want or need twenty or twenty-five or thirty year mortgage amortizations. They wanted to pay their homes off as quickly as possible. They worked, they saved, they did without. Sacrifice pays off. Delayed gratification and a strong work ethic was what made these people prosper. It sure wasn't cushy, well-paid jobs. Most immigrants came with nothing, couldn't speak English, had little education, but made better lives for themselves and their children. They took the jobs no-one else wanted. There was no whining, no complaining, and certainly no "I want my fair share" at someone else's expense.
Today, there is no delayed gratification. We want everything now. In order to get it now, whatever 'it' happens to be, we borrow. As a consequence, we pay more than what the 'it' we want is worth. We finance cars, vacations, furniture, toys and gadgets, everything. And then we pay and pay and pay and wonder why we never get anywhere. We could learn a lot from the waves of immigrants who came, saw and conquered. They didn't come to live in distinct societies and expect to be accommodated while they scorned everything around them, expecting to live at the taxpayers expense. They learned English, they adopted the ways of their new homeland, they acclimatized. We, their children, owe them everything.
I'm sure someone out there is thinking that if he or she could get a house for eight or ten thousand dollars, they could succeed and prosper too. At the time in question, my father made 90 cents an hour, working a back-breaking labour in a union shop. My brother-in-law made a few cents more. Many others made much less. It didn't matter. Everyone prospered. There was no more opportunity then than there is now. In fact is was very hard for these people to get jobs because they couldn't understand the simplest instructions, at least at first.
Many of these immigrants, like my sister and her husband, have retired. Newer generations of immigrants are now taking their place in Canada and the United States. I wonder how they are going to fare?
I guess we'll have to wait fifty or more years to get that answer. I plan on hanging around to find out. At age 111 or so, I certainly will have seen it all.