Archive | November, 2011

WHAT’S MONEY GOT TO DO WITH IT?

22 Nov

Turns out a lot. Probably more than I was willing to admit when I first moved out on my own. And it was another reason for my recent move back home. “Duh,” you might say. “Isn’t that the case with all you entitled 20-somethings?” Well, maybe. Read on for my story.

I entered the job market in 2007 when things weren’t quite so bad, and I still feel grateful to have a held the same job for these past four years. However even us 20-somethings with the jobs aren’t really getting paid the big bucks–or even getting yearly raises. I think those are a thing of the past for most companies these days.

A little history: I left the house with a nice little nest egg (essentially my life savings) and during the three years living out on my own (i.e. with roommates) I saw my bank account grow smaller and smaller, until I was living only about two to three paychecks ahead of my expenses. Given I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck, but I still wasn’t comfortable with that. I didn’t feel financially secure.

Clearly I was living above my means, but it didn’t feel excessive in any way. I was paying for life’s basic needs and trying to have the social life most any 20-something would want. But I don’t think I realized how much all the little things added up: utilities, Comcast, groceries, dry cleaning, house cleaning supplies, furniture, you name it. All things I thought I had money for, but didn’t explicitly budget for.

So who and what are to blame for my budgeting ignorance? No one really but myself. I can’t put any blame on my parents, since they warned me that “life would be different” when I was out on my own. They also put a lot of value on saving their money, which was instilled in me at a young age. So when that became difficult and nearly impossible living out on my own, I felt discouraged.

I grew up in a well-to-do community that definitely influenced my spending habits and lifestyle. But just like going on a very strict diet, those tendencies are hard to break. And I definitely learned the hard way. But I’m glad I learned this lesson earlier than later, and on my dime and not someone else’s. When I move out again (and hopefully for good!) the plan is to do it very differently, with a well thought out financial plan in place.

My goal is to eventually move into my apartment, but with rents continuing to rise, living with roommates may be the only option again. Many 20-somethings opt to live with a significant other if the timing is right, but my boyfriend of two and a half years (and myself) isn’t ready to make that move yet. That’s another post! ;-)

Not to get too sidetracked… In support of my financial goals I’ve been keeping an eye on the news for budgeting advice for 20-somethings. I’ll just say Forbes.com is my new homepage. Forbes recently came out with its 2012 Investment Guide with a special section just for millennials (Gen X’ers and Boomers fear not–Forbes has you covered too). This paragraph from the article “How Millennials Can Survive And Thrive In The New Economy” really stuck with me:

“They [millennials] grew up believing they’d be flying high so long as they followed a well-defined path: Notch a high score on the SAT or ACT, go to a good college, earn a respectable GPA and get a decent job. Work a few years, then go to grad school for further seasoning and come out with a job lucrative enough to pay off those hefty loans.”

Yes, that was the “dream” (and the mundane life) we were all running towards. I alluded to this concept of the 20-something’s shattered expectations in my last post. The article goes on to feature several 20-somethings who have paved their own career paths in an entrepreneurial way, deciding not to resort to submitting resume after resume to traditional 8 to 5’s. They make a decent living (but not big salaries mind you) and doing something they really love. I am planning to do a similar feature on the blog in the coming weeks–a series that will highlight inspirational 20-somethings–so stay tuned!

I’ll end this post with a video from the Forbe’s Investment Guide, which offers some guidance and reflection on the current millennial and boomer financial conditions.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS, BROKEN

16 Nov

Play

LISTEN | Educated And Jobless: What’s Next For Millennials? | NPR NEWS

Lately it seems not a day goes by that I don’t encounter something relevant in the news about 20-somethings. It may be that since launching this blog I’m paying more attention to the subject matter, or that this is just a very timely topic. Probably both. But as the one writer for this one little site, I can only cover and share my perspectives on so much (see BALANCE post from last week).

Busy-ness aside, I could not let another day pass without sharing this story from NPR’s All Things Considered which aired last Saturday. Whatever your generational cohort, I wholeheartedly urge you to listen to the podcast. In my opinion the story is spot on in uncovering today’s 20-somethings experience – as uneasy as it may be. It resonated with me so deeply that the entire time I was listening I could hear the little voice in my head saying “yes, yes, YES!” I was so happy this story was being told.

So here are some of my key takeaways in a nutshell (but seriously, please listen for yourself):

  • Millennials were brought up receiving high praises from mom, dad, teacher etc. which translated into great expectations about what we could do with our lives. Essentially if we we worked hard and got a college degree, the world would be our oyster. Unfortunately the days of “I can do anything I put my mind to” are over.
  • Undergraduates haven’t traditionally chosen their major based on job availability. The most popular paths are degrees in English, Sociology, Communications and the like because they are viewed to allow for more flexibility when the time to think career comes around. I knew I should have applied for that degree in Bowling Industry Management. ;-)
  • 25% of people ages 25-34 live with their parents.

  • 20-somethings like myself who didn’t meticulously plan out their first jobs during college years – and choose their majors accordingly – are struggling to hold down jobs that really only give us mediocre satisfaction, and at times, feelings of under-appreciation and  low self worth. We want to climb the corporate ladder but when the opportunity isn’t there (mainly due to the current job market and economy), our expectations are broken. Yes I know everybody has to pay their dues. But with really no sign of things getting better in the near term, it looks like we’re apparently going to burn out by 30 (women especially).
  • That “perfect job” can be seen on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – you name it. The digital closeness of someone doing something “cooler than you” fuels the false perception that the ideal career does still exist. And we’re still looking. Our expectations have simply not caught up to the times.
  • 20-somethings may be at the forefront of redefining a satisfying existence. Find joy in other facets of life beyond career. At 9 minutes and 50 seconds in, psychologist Barry Schwartz puts it quite nicely.
I’d love to hear your takeaways and thoughts after listing to the story. So please share them by commenting below. Enjoy!

POLL: ARE 20-SOMETHING STEREOTYPES TRUE?

13 Nov

There’s a lot of talk out there about us 20-somethings. And a lot of it’s not so good.

Apparently we’re lazy, lack work ethic, are afraid to stop living off our parents and have a sense of entitlement.

I could go on and on about all the negative perceptions I’ve come across, but instead wanted to see what you all thought. Whatever your age, please share your thoughts about these prevalent 20-something stereotypes by taking the poll below.

SEARCHING FOR BALANCE

12 Nov

I used to think I was a pro at getting it all done. I’m uber organized and relish any opportunity to craft a to-do list (and get especially excited when those items are crossed off one by one). But the recent addition of graduate school in my daily routine has forced a more pragmatic approach to what I can realistically check off. It has also inspired a deeper desire for and understanding of life balance.

I really strive for and appreciate balance across four aspects of my life:

Career, health and exercise, relationships and learning.

So with the decision to head back to school to get my Masters degree, you might imagine that the constant struggle to find the right balance across these four value sets has multiplied tenfold. And as I try to add more and more into the daily grind, I’ve found that I can only really do two to three aspects of my life really well – or at a level that I am proud of. Unfortunately as you take on more, something else will inevitably suffer. This is the reality of the culture we live in – obsessed with productivity, accomplishments and taking on as much as we possibly can.

Since being faced with mounting deadlines and what seem to be never ending to-do lists, I’ve slowly started to become more comfortable saying the word “no” to others and myself. In order to stay on top of my school work, for example, I have to be satisfied with only getting to the gym two to three times a week instead of my traditional five. Or not meeting up with friends for happy hour as often. I just can’t do it all anymore and I’m coming to terms with that.

Now I know the balance struggle is something people of all ages deal with, not just 20-somethings, but bear with me here. The desire for balance was actually a key piece of my decision to move back home for the time being – a growing trend for people my age today (see blog post “So What’s a Boomerang Anyway?” on Sept. 29). This article from The Seattle Time’s NW Jobs website almost hit it right on the nose: “Work/study: Sometimes, to get ahead, you have to go back (to school).”

I knew going back to school while holding down a full-time job (and still feeling somewhat good about my other two value sets: health/exercise and relationships) was going to be one of the biggest tests in life balance I would ever face. So I felt moving home and having my family as a central support system could only benefit my new working student lifestyle positively. It also cut my commute down down in half equalling more time in my day, and I have less social distractions since most of my friends live in Seattle.

But beyond establishing support systems of friends and family to be there for you throughout the journey, The Seattle Times article also offered some additional sound advice for going to school while working full-time that I found particularly relevant:

“Everyone has to understand that you must take time out of every weekend, so you may not be as available as you were” – Douglas Arnold, Antioch University

“Many returning students start to eliminate self-care, like not sleeping or eating well. Figure out what else you can cut out — maybe take one class a week instead of three.” – Stephen Coates-White, South Seattle Community College

Find opportunities for your work to double as a school assignment.” – Gerald J. Baldasty, vice provost and dean of the UW Graduate School

So my question today is for all ages and asks about life balance. How do you find it? Do you have any tips and suggestions for getting there? And what life values do you prioritize?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

7 Nov

Tomorrow I’ll be turning 27 years old. Yes sill a 20-something, but certainly on the latter end of this life stage. When I was a younger I thought by now I’d have it all figured out. I’d be completely through school, at a job that paid well within my chosen career path, possibly married and on the way to owning a home. Boy are things different than I had imagined!

This is the American Dream we millennials were taught growing up:

If you worked hard and pursued something you were passionate about, everything else would fall into place.

Am I right? But then college graduation comes around and you have to get a real job. You can’t just spend all day writing poetry [for example] and expect someone will pay you for it just because “it’s your passion.” Unfortunately the so-called “American Dream” of a successful career, a long and loving marriage and a house with a white picket fence doesn’t just fall into place anymore.

But is that the dream anymore?

Each year around my birthday I like to reflect back on the things I’ve accomplished in the past year. For instance this year the highlights were getting accepted into grad school, riding the STP (Seattle to Portland bike race) and competing in my first triathlon. But year after year I’ve found myself getting more discouraged because I believe I haven’t accomplished “everything that I ought to” for my age. This could be because I’m one to constantly compare myself to others my age to judge where I should be and what I should be doing. I’ve also always held myself to high expectations across all facets of life, which often is a recipe for self-imposed failure.

As I approach the final few years of being a 20-something, I’ve felt a mad rush to complete a million things before I’m 30. And I’m not alone. Several of my friends have actually created “30 before 30 lists” – a set of 30 goals they want to complete before that pinnacle age. I’ve thought about creating one myself but realized it would be too hard to narrow the list down to only 30 items. So instead I’ve set a broader single goal to reach before I’m 30: to feel like a true adult. Of course that lofty goal is often not realized by many adults ever in their lifetimes. And the definition of adulthood is different for everyone. So I must define what being an adult means to me.

As I mentioned earlier I used to think adulthood meant the realization of those key pieces of the American Dream: career, marriage, home ownership. However now I’m not so sure. I think being an adult actually has a lot more to do with a mindset and how you handle yourself in various settings [with professional colleagues, family, friends etc.] rather than checking off “adult-y” things. According to my old definition I would be at 0% adulthood since I still have a long way to go in my career, am not married and recently moved home with my family. But if I think about adulthood according to my new outlook – the mindset – I feel like I’m about 75% there.

So readers, what does adulthood mean to you?

I came across this blog post and this CBS news report poking around the internet doing research for this post and encourage you to read them as you think about this question. This is obviously a personal opinion for all so I’m very interested to read what others think about this subject.

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

MILLENNIAL AND BOOMER DISCONNECT IN THE OFFICE?

5 Nov

As I was researching for an upcoming blog post about Gen Y’ers in today’s workforce I came across this video on Forbes.com titled “Managing Millennials: Why companies should be more accommodating to the younger generation.”

The quick two minute video gives an overview of a recent study on millennials in the workplace conducted by Simpson Consulting.

The biggest takeaway? There is a clear perception gap between the 30 and under workforce and their boomer bosses.

For example millennials said they are willing to work long hours if schedule flexibility is available, but bosses thought gen y’ers employees are not interested in working overtime. Also millenials said they are productive through multi-tasking, which was considered a lack of attention by the higher ups.

I’ll let you watch the video to take in the rest. The reporter is a tad creepy but he has a cool english accent and the content is good, I promise! Just click the image below which will take you to the Forbes site where the video is hosted. Also my apologies for the poor video embed. Forbes only offered an iframe code which didn’t seem to be compatible with my blog (if you know of a workaround, please let me know!) Finally after watching the video, consider responding to this post’s question below.

If you’re a millennial who works with boomers, do you see this perception gap in the office? What are some examples of disconnects you’ve experienced?

Same question goes for the boomers. Also what don’t millennials understand about the corporate world that you wish they did?

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