Younger Generation Sees Smaller Paychecks

It's official. For the first time since maybe the Great Depression, a generation is making less than our parents.

People 54 and younger have seen their incomes decline since 2000, leaving the age group the poorest it's been since the 1970s, according to a report by USA Today. And it's not fresh-faced college grads facing the worst of the pay hurdle. Surprisingly, the hardest hit seem to be folks in their late 20s, early 30s, and 40s - people who have a little to a lot of experience under their belts.

Older workers are actually seeing an increase in earnings, but not because they've somehow managed to escape the effects of the recession. Instead, it's assumed that hard times are forcing older generations to put a hold on retirement. So they continue working into their golden years, and push us younger folks out of the workplace while they're at it.

Combine all this with the latest unemployment rates and you get a pretty depressing picture. But there are two sides to every story.

For instance, women seem to be faring better than men financially - while men aged 25-34 have seen median income decline by 11.7 percent since 2000, women in the same group saw only a 2.9 percent loss. Women have even managed to (somewhat) narrow the gender pay gap between 2000 and 2008, from making 25% less than men to 23% less. It's not much, but at least it's progress.

But there's even more good news - and this applies to workers of all ages. Despite what headlines lead you to believe, you still have some control over your income. While you can't exactly set your salary, you can make decisions about how to spend it.

If you want to maximize your pay, spend it where it has potential to do the most good - on debt. If you're making minimum payments on your credit card, for example, you're probably not covering much more than interest, meaning your balance - and therefore your interest and minimum payments - will continue growing. Reserving just a tiny amount of each paycheck for paying off some of that principal can save you thousands of dollars in the future by reducing that interest.

Have you been avoiding your debts because you worry you can't afford to pay them? Struggling to make ends meet isn't an excuse to eliminate debt - it's a reason. Bankruptcy can help you achieve financial freedom even when money is tight by protecting you from creditors while you work out an affordable and realistic way to pay down debt. To find your best bankruptcy plan, sign up for a free, no obligation personal debt analysis with one of our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers. So you can start keeping more of your hard-earned money, no matter how old you are.

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