There’s been a lot discussed in the media recently about Generation Y and all the difficulties they are facing today.  See this Globe and Mail article, for example.

Who are these disadvantaged youngsters?

There are differing time frames, but the generally acceptable one refers to the generation born during the 1980’s and early 1990’s – roughly those between 18 and 34 years of age.

Related: Learn from the Boomers’ mistakes

Members are often referred to as “echo boomers.”  This term is mistakenly interpreted as the children born to the baby boomers.  While this may be the case for some, it really refers to the generation’s size relative to the boomer generation due to the significant increase in birth rates during the time.

They are also called the millennial or the Internet generation.

Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe are credited with giving them the specific characterizations of:

  • Materialism
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Increasingly narcissistic

Author Ron Alsop calls them “trophy kids,” a term that reflects the trend where “mere participation is frequently enough for a reward,” and being overly praised for little accomplishment.

Related: What if you’re not University material?

Other media articles that “explain” this generation include; Stop trying to define millennials and 10 things generation Y won’t tell you.

The comments after the articles are quite enlightening.  Especially interesting to me are those that consider the Baby Boomers to be evil, at total fault for everything, always had an easy life, and won’t quit their jobs so the millennials can take over the desks.

Finding yourself

It’s no secret that young boomers, disenchanted with what they perceived as the dehumanizing and regimentation of employees working for big business profits, thought they could “drop out” and “find themselves.”

I believe the turning point came from our depression-era parents.  Their philosophy was – work hard, save your money, don’t come crying to me (if you do something foolish) and we’ll see you for Sunday dinner.

Related: What are you saving for?

Boomers quickly got a dose of reality when they “found” themselves working to provide for their families.  Most boomers married and had children very early on – often right after graduation.

On the other hand, Gen Y’s are known as the “Peter Pan,” or boomerang generation because of their tendency to live with their parents longer than previous generations.  They tend to switch jobs frequently due to their great expectations from the workplace and find themselves unemployed and frustrated.

The difference is that their parents hover reassuringly above them and praise their darlings for abilities they don’t yet possess.  They commiserate when their child doesn’t get the dream job, loses their girlfriend because they’re broke, and can’t afford the high housing costs.

Some Gen Y’s that I know personally

I don’t know many youngsters in this age group, but here’s some I do know (names have been changed).

Yasmin is 23 years old.  She has enrolled in a number of 16-to-20 weeks courses in various fields but has not been able to find work in any of them.  She lives with her parents even though they purchased a condo for her, because she just doesn’t earn enough money at her three part-time jobs to be self-sufficient.

Related: When doing what you love doesn’t pay the bills

Twenty six year old Yancy has attended university for the past eight years.  He can’t graduate as he omits mandatory courses necessary for a degree in any significant course of study.  Fed up, he quits with $45,000 in outstanding student loans.  He moves into his parent’s nicely finished basement where his mother cooks his meals, does his laundry, and loans him her car when he’s tired of playing video games.  He has worked on-and-off at various low paying jobs.

Yolanda worked as a cashier at a grocery store during high school.  After graduation she had no real motivation to continue her education, so she stayed working at the store.  An opportunity arose for her to move into an administration role.  Now this 24 year-old, who regularly slept in to 10 am or later, starts her new position at 6 am – and loves it.  Yolanda recently became engaged to York who is an engineering graduate and they are anticipating a good future together.

Yolanda’s sister, Yvette (22), on the other hand, took a legal course and, since Calgary is to lawyers as Toronto is to banking, she is now working in a large firm as the assistant to the assistant’s assistant.  She works hard and is well liked and is looking forward to rising to the office in the ivory tower.

Related: Money advice for college graduates

Finally, there’s Yvie, who moved away from her family, across the country to Fort McMurray.  This 21 year-old works at an exceptionally well paying job in the oil sands.  She learned financial responsibility early on from her parents.  She purchased a small condo (with down payment help from her parents), is fairly frugal, and is saving and investing her excess (especially overtime pay).  She doesn’t intend to stay forever, but if she stays the course with her finances she’ll have a very bright future.

I know this is a minuscule sampling, but it shows that you can’t paint an entire generation with the same brush.  Whatever the generation, different personalities deal with circumstances in various ways.

So, where am I going with this?

Young adults, you are smart and well educated.  You thought that if you went to university or college, doors would open for you.  You developed dreams and want to follow them.  You want to get it right the first time.

You are special because you are unique – not because you deserve every privilege.  You need to be realistic.  The adage – luck happens when opportunity meets hard work – is true.  You can’t apply for hundreds of jobs via the Internet and expect to nail the perfect position, you have to pound the pavement and network.  Be the person the employer wants to hire.

Be willing to start at the bottom.  Be reliable when performing what you think are menial tasks.  You need to be willing to do whatever it takes.

Parents, your job is to teach your children good work ethics and values, learn how to manage money, and have a sense of responsibility.  Then let your baby birds go.  If they need assistance when some disaster strikes, do what you can to help.  If you have the desire and the means to finance their education, pay for a honeymoon and gift them with a down payment for their first house – go ahead.  It’s a lovely gesture that will be appreciated.

But they need to live their own lives.  Let them go.

Final words

I’ll end with this quote that is attributed to Socrates, 469 BC – 399 BC.

The children now love luxury.  They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise.

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