In the fall of 2007, when the U.S. economy first seemed in peril, I began answering reader queries here on the Business Desk. I still do so occasionally, but this page has expanded to include posts from eminent economists, "far-flung correspondents," and a variety of voices that have intriguing and/or useful things to say about economics, broadly defined. Please feel encouraged to respond to any and all of them.
Question: What are the top three bits of economic insight that Millennials should take note of as we face the world post-college during this period of economic recession?
Paul Solman: 1. Internalize the basic message of economics: Decision-making is the process of weighing costs against benefits -- all costs (including psychological ones) and all benefits, including those that accrue to others but matter to us.
2. Understand and practice what I call The Golden Rule of Work: Do unto others in exchange for what they might be willing to do unto you. That is, Americans who are successful sell their fellow Americans what they can't buy cheaper from someone somewhere else. Actually, that's true of everyone, everywhere in the world. So that's what millennials need to realize and then do: Sell some good or, more likely, service that can't be supplied more cheaply by others or by machines, no matter where they may be located.
3. Realize that contentment in life comes from learning how to manage your expectations. And then adjust accordingly. I once discussed this with a cab driver who had made just such an adjustment. For years, he'd gone to Vegas, lost, and felt rotten afterwards. Then, one day, he realized that EVERYONE loses at Vegas. So the next time he went, he EXPECTED to lose. He reported having enjoyed every trip since.