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PCLN, EXPE, SIX: Jim Cramer's Views By Jim Cramer | Apr 11, 2016 | 01:00 AM EDT

What happens if the Great Recession really did change things in a dramatic way? What if we went from a nation of spenders to a nation of savers? Or, have stagnant wages kept us from spending as we once did? Or, is it generational, a whole new cohort of young people who don't want, or can't spend on what they once did?

There's a whole generation of portfolio and hedge fund managers who came out relatively unscathed from the Great Recession. They were making tons of money before, and they are still doing it now. You may think it is unfair, but the top people at the big banks made fortunes -- I almost wrote made out like bandits, but then again, bandits tend to get caught, and none of these people did. Many of those came through to the other side, resumed their lives once they were sure their paychecks were solid, or they caught on quickly at other firms.

But they are now so divorced from the rest of this country, that they seem mystified, mind-boggled by so much of what's going on. They are armchair generals, far removed from the front of consumer spending, so they can't see a thing through the fog of wealth. That mystification keeps creating opportunities, which most of the old pros thought would have gone away by now.

First, let's deal with the wage stagnation and the costs that younger people have to bear. The demand for a prestigious private school university education still outstrips supply, and while a classic state school arguably provides an equal or even superior education on a department by department basis, the $250,000 in student loans create a backdrop that doesn't lend itself to bold consumer spending.

Health care may be more universal than ever, but because of the paucity of outfits willing to provide care, deductibles have risen for many small businesses, solo proprietors and those with jobs that don't provide health care protection. One look at the real estate investment trusts connected with apartment complexes tells you that we are still retreating from being a nation of owners with not enough home units being built, while renter apartments become the mainstay option beyond living at home with your parents or in-laws.

I expect that to change, gradually, but the fact that it hasn't has eluded many of an investor. Part and parcel with the student debt is an aversion to take down any other kind of debt, a residue that would create a mirage of savings that really amounts to a lack of spending power.

It's within that backdrop that we can work backward through a micro filter to figure out what these people are spending their left-over money on.

First, and most obvious, this unknown generation -- except to themselves -- likes to spend on experiences, not things. They are chary when they do. These are AirBnB folks, hence why that company remains my favorite unicorn. They are Priceline (PCLN - Get Report) and Expedia (EXPE - Get Report) people, too. They simply refuse to "throw away" their money on their physical surroundings. They like to travel, but not lavishly. Hence the scarcity of new hotels, except where there's a dire need. They love theme parks. That's a big reason why Six Flags (SIX - Get Report) and Cedar Fair (FUN - Get Report) are such huge winners. It's causing chronic undervaluation of Disney (DIS - Get Report) and Comcast's (CMCSA) theme parks, which seem almost ancillary to the analyst community, but are cash bovines for their companies.

Second, they shop for bargains. They do it on Growth Seeker portfolio name Amazon (AMZN) , but if they go to brick or mortar, there's some sharp class differences. The sales numbers are staggering at Dollar General (DG) and Dollar Tree (DLTR) . It makes sense. There's actual value there. When it comes to home goods and apparel, that's Ross Stores (ROST) and TJX (TJX) , the latter being the double-barreled juggernaut of Home Goods and TJ Maxx.

It's like this generation has totally figured out not to pay too much for clothes. They just hold the line...


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