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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!

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?

ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY

30 Oct

Earlier this week my mom mentioned that I’ve been living back home for exactly one month now. Boy time has flown! But who’s counting? Then she asked, “how’s it going?” I actually get that question quite a bit from co-workers, friends, my boyfriend – as if they assume it wouldn’t be going well. I think most people just can’t imagine being under their parent’s microscope again. But much to everyone’s surprise I’m actually really enjoying living back home. And I don’t feel like I’m under a microscope at all – my parents treat me like an equal adult and allow me to live my own life. So today I’m here to set the record straight and share my thoughts about why my recent move back to the nest has been a positive one.

When I made the decision to move back home after my lease with two roommates in Greenlake was up, I wasn’t thrilled. I had been on my own and out of the house for most of college and for three years following, so never in a million years did I think this would be the path I’d take. But I knew it was the right choice (and even the responsible one) for me at the time. I can hear the critics saying “moving home isn’t responsible, you must not be budgeting well” or “your parents supported you your entire life, grow up and just live somewhere cheaper.” Well, there were many other factors that played into my decision besides just saving on rent.

Living with roommates is tough.

Especially roommates that are your good friends. (no offense to any of my old roomies that may be reading this – love you all – but we all know it wasn’t always easy as pie!) If conflicts arise, the overall friendship is strained. And it takes a while to rebuild what you had. I think almost everyone probably has a few good roommate stories to tell. To be able to afford to live somewhere I was comfortable (fairly clean and safe, nearby transit access for my commute, within 15 minutes or so to my gym and the grocery store, among other basic amenities – I’m not asking a whole lot here), the only choice I had was to live with roommates.

According to an article published last month on the Seattle PI’s Seattle Real Estate News blog, the average price of apartment housing in the greater Seattle-area has continued to rise (up 5% from this time last year) and now sits at $1,165 due to increased rental demand (more people are renting over buying these days). So like I said earlier, living with roommates has been the only option at my current salary. (Interesting side note – the Times published a story on Friday arguing that we 20-somethings are the answer to rebounding the housing market – I so wish I could buy!)

After experiencing about 10 moves since the age of 18 and nearly 15 different roommates, I found myself at a stage where living with others was no longer that appealing. Being in the latter part of my 20-something years I have also noticed that most of my friends are at varying life stages. Some are single, some are in serious relationships and some are married, while others work regular 8-5’s while others are bartenders or coffee baristas. To have a successful roommate experience I think it really comes down to matching up the right lifestyles, which can be challenging at this age. There are just so many factors that come into play – many that you don’t even realize until you’re already living with someone and have signed the lease papers.

Time is everything.

Having just begun graduate school while still working full-time, I’ve become overly aware about how I schedule my days in order to get the most out of them. When I had roommates we always lived in Seattle because the city is typically considered to have the most social outlets for 20-somethings, and most of my past roommates worked in Seattle. So I would commute to downtown Bellevue everyday either by bus or car which could sometimes take up to two-hours roundtrip. Three years of the back and forth across the bridge and I just couldn’t do it anymore. My time was getting increasingly more valuable as I tried to squeeze more things in my day, so that long commute just wasn’t in the cards anymore. Living back home on the Eastside has definitely helped add precious time back into my day that I can now use productively instead of sitting in traffic.

Appreciation of family.

You don’t realize how much your parents do for you until you’re out of the house. You also don’t realize how much you miss those simple daily interactions with family members until their gone. While living back home I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with my brother over common interests like technology and working out, taking the dog on long walks around the neighborhood with mom and having lengthy conversations on life, and talking about my career and school with dad. Those interactions are more easily had when they’re face to face and I’ve grown a newfound appreciation for them.

Finally this past month I had a small health scare and was in and out of many doctors appointments. Since I was home, my mom and brother were able to lend their support and help me get through the first week of doctor visits (it was difficult for me to drive). I realized that if I hadn’t been living at home this time would have been much more difficult. And so I greatly appreciated them being there for me.

I wanted to end this post with a question for my readers: At what age should we experience living on own own?

SO WHAT’S A BOOMERANG ANYWAY?

25 Sep

They call us millennials, gen y’ers, boomerangers, kidults and twixters. Whatever the term, we are 20-somethings. Within the past decade this new life stage of emerging adulthood – a term coined by psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett – has become acknowledged by academics and society, yet there is still a debate that persists.

There are those who believe that people in their 20s have a “failure to launch” syndrome, subconsciously prolonging their adolescence by reaping the benefits of decades of American prosperity provided by their boomer parents. And there are those who think this cultural shift is really something to take note of – and true support of this new life stage by society and our institutions may actually produce better, more productive citizens in the end. A “let them explore and experiment while they still can” kind of attitude.

To provide a bit more background on the 20-something situation, here are some striking facts that an article in the New York Times article presented last year:

  • 1/3 of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year.
  • 40% of people in their 20s move back home with their parents at least once.
  • People in their 20s go through an average of seven jobs.
  • 2/3 of people in their 20s spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married.
  • And marriage occurs later than ever. In 1970 the average age to marry was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it climbed to 26 and 28 respectively.

So why this blog?

As a 20-something who just began grad school, holds a full-time job in marketing/communications, and oh ya, also just moved back in with my parents, I am experiencing the emerging adulthood trend first hand.

Through personal accounts, listening to the perspectives of others and a bit or research –

I want to inspire others to share their 20-something stories.

Whether it be about moving home to save, landing that first desk job, or opinions on when the right time is to get married.

It’s clear this decade is a defining one, as we 20-somethings are laying the groundwork for what the rest of our lives will hold. So I hope this blog will bring the realities of today’s 20-something life to light and help overcome the stigmas associated with my age group.

Sources:

Henig, Robin Marantz. “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” The New York Times. 18 Aug. 2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.

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