Regardless of your feelings regarding the merits or demerits of millennials and their younger counterparts, being a fledgling adult is harder in some ways than it used to be.
Two years ago the Pew Research Centre reported that for the first time in 130 years adults ages 18 to 34 were more likely to live with parents than with a romantic partner. For one thing, more young people are waiting later in life to get married, if they do at all. (Pew has previously projected that one in four young adults may never do so.) Second, the employment and wages of young men without college degrees have been falling for decades. At the same time, rent has increased 64 percent from 1960 to 2014, while household incomes have only increased by 18 percent.
Work is not fun
A conversation around my dinner table last night:
“Work is not fun. It’s just part of life,” my husband tells our 19-year-old son, who is working 10- to 12-hour days in a new construction job. He comes home sweaty, exhausted and resenting the fact that many of his peers are snapping photos of boating on the lake this summer while he toils in the hot sun, instead of basking in it.
My part: “Look at all the money you’re making. Having a fat bank account is what you can use to take your family on vacation someday, just like your dad and I have worked hard for all the great trips we’ve had.”
“So I can take two weeks off a year?” he asks incredulously, peeved that he just found out he has to work on Independence Day.
“Ever heard the saying ‘Make hay when the sun is shining?” my husband asks.
It’s true — often work does suck. But then again, it’s work — not play. If work was without discomfort, why would we need to be paid to do it? This is a fact of life which I want my children to understand. Regardless of your role, you have to be a big girl (or boy) and show up to do your best work, no matter how you’re feeling. And if you’re truly miserable with your job, take the initiative to change your situation, knowing that only you are responsible for your circumstances.
More young men are living at home (and playing video games)
When I was 19, I was incentivized to work because I wanted the freedom a car and an apartment provided. But how much more freedom do todays’ young people need? Many kids out of high school pretty much do what they want with their time, and often have inexpensive — but paid-for — vehicles. So why move out?
Ana Swanson, writing for The Washington Post, penned a fairly depressing piece with the headline “Why amazing video games could be causing a big problem for America.” In it, she discusses research which has found that a rising number of able-bodied young men without college degrees are purposefully unemployed or underemployed, preferring instead to live with parents and play video games for long stretches at a time, and they’re actually happier doing so. (The pervasive game Fortnite, for example, offers a superlative gaming experience that millions of young people find immersive because of its design and sense of community.)
The problem: they’re not gaining skills, education or experience which will help them be good workers in middle life. It’s a trend which can lead to all sorts of evils, Swanson writes, including lower income, depression and drug use.
Living at home doesn’t have to mean slacking
It’s not all doom and gloom. Beth Kobliner, personal finance commentator, journalist, and author of the New York Times best seller Get a Financial Life, says the 18 to 34 year-olds who live at home may be doing the right thing financially. But parents need to help them do it responsibly.
First, draw up an actual written contract your son or daughter must sign which delineates how much, if anything, they’ll pay in rent or household staples. She says this is a matter of principle, therefore it might make sense to start with a small amount and think through what will happen the contract isn’t followed, such as taking away car privileges.
Second, communicate which household chores they will be responsible for and hold them accountable for doing them. Don’t expect too much, though. The idea is that they will have a job outside of the home and you want them to be living independent lives.
Third, map out any debt they have accumulated and come up with a budget so they can work on paying it down. Once the debt is under control, saving in earnest should begin.
And finally, set a goal for a move-out date, tied to meeting a financial goal. “You need to agree on a deadline for that goal to be met,” she writes. “Because after a few years of this, you might be ready to move out.”
By Christina DesMarais
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