Congratulations It’s a Dud!

The following is what I imagine all adults in my life have really been thinking, every time they congratulated me for some kind of achievement in my life.

High School Graduation

Congratulations! You’ve just graduated high school! Now you’re off to University right? That’s the only way to improve your income these days, gotta have a University degree. Now I know I told you that you could be anything you want to be all your life, and never really gave you any concrete life lessons about how the world actually works, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just choose a major you like, sign those loan papers, and everything will be fine. World needs lots of interpretive dancers right? Oh, you’re picking business? Good for you! That’ll be a sure fire way to start out life on the right track, before you know it, you’ll have a house, a family, and two cars.

University Graduation

Congratulations! I can’t believe four years have gone by! Listen, while you were in school, a little something called an economic slow down happened. I know that job prospects aren’t quite what you thought they were going to be, but because I haven’t saved enough for retirement, and took on too much debt, I’m going to be working a little longer than I planned, and spending less on consumer products. Since both of these things contribute to less jobs for you, all I can say is: whoops!

I know, I know, this means you won’t be able to get the job you were hoping for right out of school, but hey, you can always move back into the basement until you find something stable.

Student loans, you say? Oh yeah, well I suppose the government has cut some funding to the universities since I was there last, but I’m sure it’s nothing you can’t handle. $26,000? (Canadian average) Really? Why didn’t you work during school? oh you did? Well, just get a part time job working at a coffee shop until you can find full time employment, after all, you won’t have very high living expenses, I’ll cut you a good deal for the basement.

First Full Time Job

Congratulations! You’ve got your first full time job, it only took eight months of searching, that’s not bad. An assistant? Well that sounds like a great way to gain some real world experience. I bet that you’ll be running the company in no time.  One thing though, don’t count on getting a pension, back when I was young companies used to give full pension, but that didn’t work out too well for them. You should probably start saving for retirement tomorrow.

Buying A House

Listen I know you were probably planning on trying to buy a house in the near future, after all you’re almost 24, your mother and I were already home owners by then. But with the housing market so massively inflated right now and all that debt you’re carrying, it’s probably better if you just rented for a little while. It’ll take a small fortune to both pay off your debt and put 5% down on a house.

Geeze, your mother and I are some lucky we got into the housing market when we did, our house has quadrupled in value! Mind you, we still haven’t saved enough for retirement, so we’re really counting on those high housing prices to pad our nest egg.

What I’m Thinking

I hear a lot about how my generation is lazy. How we don’t want to work for anything, how we expect to have good jobs and everything in life handed to us. How more and more kids are returning to their parents’ basements after University because they got a degree that had few job prospects but still cost thousands of dollars.

This really bothers me. First of all, the assessment of those kids is really not fair: Yes, those kids are out there, but how do you think they got that way? It might have had a teensy bit to do with how they were raised, what they were told, and how hard they were made to work?

Second of all, we’re not all that way. Lots of us worked really hard, and did exactly what we were told would get us the life we wanted. Yet here we are, having completed every task that older, knowledgeable adults told us to, and we remain denied those things. I’m very lucky to have a job right out of school, but I’m unlucky because instead of doing grown up things like buying a house and saving for retirement, I continue to live in University style squalor while I scrape every penny together to pay off my student loans.

I would love to buy a house in the city, but unless I go back to University for some form of additional education, there is absolutely no way I could afford even a postage stamp sized piece of property in any city of even moderate size. More school means more debt, which leads to an even greater retardation of my adult development. At the rate I’m going, I could likely be thirty before I had enough net worth to buy a home. And kids? Well that’s a whole other ball of wax involving maternity leave, loss of earnings or time at school, I just can’t see that working it’s way into the mix any time soon.

I don’t want much. I don’t want to million dollar apartment in the trendy part of the city. I don’t want to drive a BMW. I don’t want a pool, hot tub, and the latest electronics. I just want a little house, with a little green space for the dog, in a nice city, in a non-scary part of town. I want a car that won’t cost me $500 per month to fix. I want to be able to save for my own retirement.

What really depresses me is how much that sounds like a pipe dream most days.

How’s that for a cheery Tuesday morning post? Have you had to adjust your vision of your future because it might just not be attainable? I want to know!

  • http://twitter.com/PlungedinDebt Plunged in Debt

    I think it’s working now! Cheer up dude! Your last post is about paying off almost 13k is debt! That’s a LOT of money. You will get there trust me! If your car is costing 500/month to fix maybe investing 250/month into a car payment for a car with a warranty is better investment? or get rid of the car if you can? public transit? If it makes you feel any better I will probably be 31-32 before I start saving for my retirement, I’m going to spend the next 4 years being super aggressive about debt payoff then reallocate money, ideal? No but it’s what we have to do. Hope you have a better day!

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      Thanks for the words of encouragement. My car isn’t really that expensive, but some days it feels like it is! Once it’s all paid down I’m seriously considering ditching it for something a little bit easier on the wallet.

  • http://twitter.com/RFIndependence Pauline

    You are already doing pretty well for your age!! It is hard for parents to encourage their kids, having no idea of what the job market will be like in 5, 10 or more years. I couldn’t project myself that far. Many parents entered the workforce at 18 and worked for 40 years for the same employer, how can they possibly advice you on your career? I never change my vision of the future because it is unreachable, I change it when I change as a person. I like the idea that if I reach too high, I might actually achieve 20% of my goal and that will already be grand.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      I agree that parents would have a really hard time giving kids real advice, but that wasn’t just parents, it was teachers, career counsellors, people who are supposed to be ‘up’ on the latest information. I really like your idea about reaching high, maybe that’s what I should do!

  • http://twitter.com/DebtandtheGirl Debt and the Girl

    I found an article not so long ago that was officially the officially most depressing thing I have ever read. The funny thing was that it wasn’t the article itself that was depressing but the comments. People as young as 26, 27.28, 29, 30 years were posting how they already had something close to 100k-250k for retirement. It made my head spin because I don’t know ANYONE even close to that age that has that much. I feel like our generation is a bit screwed in the fact that many of us did everything we were supposed to and still wound up struggling. This was a really good post.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      “Many of us did everything we were supposed to do and still wound up struggling.” I think that sums up the feeling of this post exactly. I guess we’ll just have to keep plugging away the best way we know how.

  • Caitlin

    It also bothers me when I hear folks say that we have it much easier. I actually think that opposite is true. I remember when I was in college, having a good GPA and a great standardized test scores meant we will get in to most of our top choice colleges. Now a days kids have 4.0+ GPA, 1500+ SAT scores, and popular scientific patents that are used around the world and they are waitlisted at IVYs. In our grandparents era, a college degree basically guaranteed you any job you want and they had pensions through their employers. In our parents era, a college degree gave you an edge in job search and they will have social security (sorry, American here). In our era, our college education cost more than they ever did but don’t guarantee us a career or even a job and probably no social security. We have much more competition and also more of our future to take care of than previous generations.

    On that note, I think you are doing great. You have the right priorities and are making strides. Keep your head up and don’t get discouraged!

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      Exactly, we face fiercer competition, have fewer safety nets, and the initial investment in property and education is astronomically higher than ever before. It’s frustrating to say the least. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • http://www.uniquegifter.com/ Anne @ Unique Gifter

    You can do it! You’ll have decent cash flow when your debt is gone that you can roll into those other wants/needs. Solid summary though… I did the coffee shop game and it sucked. One positive to living in a small town is the affordability of housing. Not relative to other small towns, but much better than the major cities that we would be living in otherwise. PS – For folks who have owned their houses forever, the return is often not that great. Throw their purchase price and year into the Bank of Canada inflation calculator… it’s not always that rosy.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      I totally agree on the affordability of housing in rural areas, it’s unfortunate though that in order to access housing that isn’t outrageously priced, one must move to a rural area. Also, I agree with what you say about housing values, if you consider compound interest – repairs that have gone into the house, they aren’t actually that great of an investment!

  • Tb at BlueCollarWorkman.com

    All I can think when I read this, is yeah, it sucks. Id idn’t go to college and it’s still tough. I work very hard, very very hard, and it pisses me off when people say things are handed to us. Are they? Because I work 40+ hours a week on my full time job and tons of extra hours on my sidejobs and it’s still tough paying for my home, my wife’s schooling, my girls’ college funds, and stuff…. it’s not as “set” and easy as it used to be. There’s no pensions, all the old people aren’t retiring…. they’ve really put us in a bad spot!

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      Agreed!

  • http://twitter.com/obsolete29 Michael Harley

    [quote] I would love to buy a house in the city, but unless I go back to University for some form of additional education, there is absolutely no way I could afford even a postage stamp sized piece of property in any city of even moderate size.[/quote]

    Curious to know what your alternative is? If you’re working in a suburb and driving, I’m not sure you’re saving any money with car expenses… especially if you put a value on your free time.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      I live in a rural area and work 10 minutes from home. Much more affordable, even with car expenses.

  • http://www.vanessasmoney.com/ Vanessa

    This post made me sad. I’ve only experienced the first two and you’re so right so far… Thanks a lot!

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      Sorry for making you sad! I just needed to get that rant off my chest.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    The sad thing is that we really don’t have it easier. Each generation has its own set of challenges. Just because ours are different does not mean that it’s easier, it’s just different…two very different things.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      Agreed! As a woman, I don’t have to worry so much about discrimination in the work place or lower pay just because of my gender (although these things still exist) but I do have to worry about all of the stuff I’ve listed above.

      • http://earningmytwocents.blogspot.com Alice @ EarningMyTwoCents

        Agreed! I think each generation definetely has its own share of challenges. But at the same time I think that some challenges are just a part of growing up. If we didn’t go through being super broke in our 20′s, we wouldn’t learn to be more frugal and save in our 30′s etc. My parents went through the same struggles and taught my sisters and I to plan ahead, etc but I still have to go through being broke and paying off debts and paying for college for my husband, etc. Such is life.

  • http://twitter.com/prairieecothrif Miss T

    This bugs me too. I agree with John. Each generation has it’s challenges to deal with. No one has it easier just different. I know when we compare ourselves to our parents there is a bit of a disconnect as to what we stress about and what they did. I find the expectations just that much higher these days. We have to go to college, university, and then even do more training before we can get hired. Gone are the days of having kids early and getting on with life at a younger age. It takes us that much longer to get settled now.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      Agreed! Generally, I don’t mind (as evidenced by the vigour with which I’m attacking my debt) but every once in awhile it just weighs on me and I feel compelled to write about it.

  • http://www.savvyscot.com/ Savvy Scot

    Nicely said Jordann! Too often are we branded as lazy when actually a lot of things were easier in our parent generations. I am 24, so probably a prime example of who is stereotyped! When universities offer degrees such as surf studies, you have to wonder who is to blame! That said, a lot of people who left school in my year and went into trades at 16/17 are doing very well for themselves. Online education is about to revolutionise the world as we know it.. Stay Tuned

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      I agree, the universities are definitely partly at fault (especially for the high tuition costs) but they are just catering to the demand, they offer those courses because there are students who are dumb enough to take them. The sad thing though is even if you take a completely useful degree, the chances of getting a job are still not as good as they used to be.

  • http://dropthatdebt.wordpress.com/ Drop that Debt

    Awesome post ! I love the way you put everything. And it’s annoying to hear the older generation complain about how irresponsible kids are when they bought more than they could afford and racked up debt themselves, choose to work longer into retirement, leaving job opportunities so scarce for us young, inexperienced yet educated people.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      Exactly!

  • http://www.momoneymohouses.com/ Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses

    Wow does this sound familiar! It took me 8 months after graduating to find my first full time job too! And my parents have told me so many times that they sure were lucky with their home. They bought it when they were in their 20s and it has definitely doubled or maybe even tripled in value.

    • http://my-alternate-life.com/ Jordann

      But good luck trying to find an affordable piece of property where you live! Isn’t it crazy that they could buy in their 20′s, but you won’t be able to buy what they have, maybe ever? I find that depressing.

  • http://www.outliermodel.com/ OutlierModel

    Don’t be discouraged! Brian and I have bought 2 condos in Vancouver and we are still 20-somethings (though getting up there…) It’s tough, but doable. And for most of that time, Brian has been working for a non-profit! You just can’t be held back by the baggage of expectation – don’t expect to have a house with a picket fence right away and don’t expect to find the perfect job right away… It will come eventually. But careful planning and saving will work out still, regardless of your generation.

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  • addvodka

    I’m a huge fan of this post, because it’s so true. I’ve worked harder than my parents ever had to, and they’ll be the first to tell you that. They sold their first two houses for $100K more than they bought them for, in their very early twenties/late teens. I’m okay with working hard but even working extremely hard reaps very little benefit.

  • Crystal DeCorte

    Wow. That was creepily dead on.

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