Dear Illustrious Member of Generation Y who believes I should bow down at your feet,
Listen up: you want it all, and I'm sorry to say, you're not always prepared to earn it the hard way, like people of my generation had to. You have high expectations and big dreams. Nothing wrong with that -- as long as those dreams and expectations are mixed with a healthy dose of realism and common sense. And I know, the last person you want giving you advice is your folks. Fine. Uncle Kevin's here. You'd better listen to what I have to say.
So you've graduated from college or trade school. Congratulations! The world is your oyster, right? You heard about that one guy in your class who sold his startup for $2 million a week before graduation -- now it's your time to shine. After all, according to you, you deserve a windfall of cash, a closetful of Armani and some really nice dating prospects, right?
Wake up and smell the slow-brewed coffee, my young friend: Few waltz into that kind of fortune right out of college. If you're lucky, you will eventually find work that is meaningful and fulfilling, but it's not instant. We've all got to pay our dues.
The 20s are a battlefield. Never before will you have been under so much pressure to spend large amounts of money on things you don't really need -- the perfect apartment, the perfect suit. It's like everyone in the world is screaming, "You're finally an adult! Now spend like one!" You've got a legitimate adult job and a nice little paycheck. At first, you're careful. But then you go out for drinks with people from work, and then a couple of nice dinners, and you don't want to look like the cheapskate, so you charge it all to your credit card. Suddenly, you've got a big balance that you can't pay off with your flimsy paycheck, especially while you're bleeding cash on rent for the studio apartment of your dreams. And you really do need a new designer briefcase for work. And look! There's a sale on drapes -- wouldn't those look nice in your apartment?
Do you see the problem? All the little expenditures add up -- and you may also be paying off your student loans. According to a recent survey from PNC Bank, the average 20-something is $45,000 in debt. Yikes. It gets even worse when you take into account that you might not be able to find a job. In 2013, a Gallup poll showed that only 43.6 percent of young adults had full-time jobs. As more young people enter the workforce, there are fewer and fewer jobs available for them. This puts an even greater strain on your finances. If you are unable to find work, you may start leaning too heavily on your credit cards, or worse, crawl back to Mom and Dad and ask if you can move back into your childhood bedroom. And nobody -- not you, not me, not your parents -- wants that.
Best of luck. You're going to need it.
Read more about finding financial freedom in my newest book, Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids, and Money.