College Ain’t What It Used To Be

Posted on: Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Posted in: Spendology, Blog | Leave a comment

DSC_0054You can’t toss a diploma anymore without hitting some media story about the plight of millennials. They can’t find decent jobs. They’re up to their mortar boards in debt. They’re moving back in with their parents in record numbers—40%. That’s 21.6 million millennials (18 to 31) shacking up with Mom and/or Dad.

According to one recent story, in fact, any stigma about returning to the empty nest has now faded away like a forgotten frat party. The great recession humbled many people’s aspirations, of course. But it’s also true that this generation has been particularly cozy with their parents—and many parents welcome them back with open arms and minds.

Some staggering statistics

Living at home is only the beginning. Consider a few more stats:

  • 20% of Americans have student loans. (Countrywide Financial)
  • 55% say their education loans are affecting decisions such as getting married, buying a house, and/or saving for retirement. (Countrywide Financial)
  • 17% of millennials in their 20s with at least some college education claim to be “totally independent” now, compared to 23% in 2011. (PNC Wealth Management)
  • 58% of 20-29 year olds with some college rate themselves behind where they expected to be in terms of financial success. (PNC Wealth Management)

Beyond the numbers, though, the trend hits close to home. In my circle of friends and families, I’m hard-pressed to think of one college grad who waltzed with ease from graduation into a career-worthy job. Even unpaid internships are tough to land. Heck, most high-school students don’t have summer or other part-time jobs, either.

I don’t mean to show my age. But…back in the day, virtually everyone worked. And if you asked your parents for some money, they’d probably reply, “Get a job.”

Yet most folks would agree that “kids grow up so fast these days.” Indeed, in many ways, they do—from an early obsession with colleges, grades, and test scores to early exposure to sex, drugs, and digital living. Even LinkedIn recently announced a new target: High school and college students. “This is a way we can engage kids in their future,” states LinkedIn mouthpiece Christina Allen.

We can engage them in more screen time, I think she means. Yet the best contacts and jobs will still call for traditional social skills like taking initiative, minding your manners, and maintaining presence. As Woody Allen says, “80% of success is showing up.” (And I don’t think he meant on a LinkedIn page.)

Time for Temporary Retirement?

One can only hope for a big-picture, long-term outlook for these young’uns (and their families). Why not, for instance, take that first career break before the career kicks off? One could…

  • Take a gap year, like so many countries kids do, and travel on the cheap; is there anything more educational than travel? Won’t most worthy employers be impressed—especially if you become bilingual?
  • Join the Peace Corps, Americorp, or other worthy outreach program.
  • Look into teaching in a developing nation.
  • Check out living with a relative in a faraway city or country.
  • Get entrepreneurial and start a business.

It’s conceivable that these millennials will need to work 50 years before officially retiring—if they ever do find jobs, that is. My hope is that this group and their challenging circumstances might help usher in the paradigm shift that makes temporary retirement throughout their career a common, and celebrated, experience.

On that goal, they’re off to a good start!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply