Recently, a U.S. Census report confirmed something many millennias like me know all too well: As of 2015, one-third of 18- to 34-year-olds still lived at home—beating out all other living arrangements, including cohabitating with a partner or living alone, for the first time.
Older generations like to attribute this to laziness or entitlement, saying we lack ambition or are coddled by our parents—but that’s a clouded argument. There are some lazy kids in every generation, but a third of us? Sorry, but no.
As a millennial who’s in this category, I’m setting the record straight on the real reasons we’re still living at home.
Market Watch reports:
We’re shouldering serious student loans.
Borrowers who graduated in 2016 owed more than $37,000 in student loans—and that’s just the average. I graduated with more than $60,000 in student debt, which translated into monthly payments of $611. Plus, because more than half my loans were taken out before or during the recession (before interest rates came down), I’m paying interest rates as high as 8%—on federal loans. That’s a huge burden when you’re just starting out.
It’s been challenging to find good jobs.
In 2014, 51% of new college grads were working jobs that don’t require a degree, according to a CareerBuilder survey. (Think: the stereotypical English-major-as-barista.) This is the problem that I, along with my peers, have been facing: We graduated into one of the worst job markets in recent history.
The lack of adequate jobs translates into underemployment, which leads to two problems: Lost wages and gaps in employment history, both of which impact earning potential for the rest of our careers. In fact, according to the Census report, 41% of men between the ages of 25 and 34 today earn less than $30,000, compared with 25% in 1975.
The rent is too high
A one-bedroom apartment rents for about $1,234, according to a GOBankingRates study—a high cost when you’re struggling to find work and pay down debt. (And this doesn’t even include utilities.) If you’re earning $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage, you’d have to work 170 hours a month just to afford the average apartment. Add in a $300 student loan payment, and it jumps to 211 hours worked in one month—just to live on your own and pay one debt bill. (And that’s pretax.)
Our parents are struggling, too
The recession may have hit us hard, but it didn’t leave our parents unscathed: Millions lost their jobs and had a hard time finding work, too. Many of them (like my father) had to dip into their retirement savings at the worst possible moment—when the market was at its lowest—just to survive until they found work again, and now they need to make do with lower wages.
Despite living at home, nearly 20% of us are currently helping out our parents financially, spending more than $18,000 a year on average to do so. I haven’t spent nearly that much, but I have covered some bills my parents couldn’t—from credit cards to prescriptions and car repairs. I don’t say this begrudgingly, because I love my parents, but their financial decisions do have consequences for my own personal plans and goals.
***To all parents out there whose kids are juniors in high school this fall; please seriously talk with your kids about jobs that pay well without a college education.***
Remember, this generation is shouldering serious student loans.
The debt trap in which so many millennials live, thanks to that college education, and the debt burden it brings, is avoidable, but they are going to have to think their way around believing that a college education is “the only way” to get a decent job.
Better yet, let your child figure out what they might like to do for a living and you, the parent, go find someone in that type of business and see if you can arrange some type of mentorship/apprenticeship program. Many small business would take on the extra help and have no issues with training someone who they believed was truly interested in learning that trade/service. That company would probably hire on your child after the program ends if they were truly an asset to that company. In addition, your child will be learning “hands-on” entrepreneurial skills that college will NEVER be able to teach them. Your child then walks away with zero debt and a whole new future full of opportunity.
THIS IS HOW YOU CREATE A MAJOR PARADIGM SHIFT!!!
The old model of a college degree being the only way to get higher paying jobs doesn’t make sense in this part of the 21st century. And there are respected on-line colleges which allow you to take college at your own pace, and can either enhance your chances of promotion at work, or give you the classical education you have wanted, whether it enhances your upward financial mobility or not.
But before kids think about college, and until maybe there is universal, free higher education in this country (a number of countries in Europe have been doing this for decades), they need to ask themselves; is this the only way to a good-paying career?!? And if they check out their options, they will see that this is absolutely not the case.