A good friend of mine posted this article to Facebook the other day. ‘A Look into the Bedrooms of 20-Somethings Still Living with Their Parents,’ shares stories of young folks who are, for various reasons, waiting to fly the coop. It got me thinking about the opposing messages regarding millennials in the media today.
On one hand, millennials want to save money and face the challenging economy with well equipped bank accounts. Some of their parents want to help them to do this so they let them live at home well into their 20s. And on the other hand, when millennials are out on their own, they generally have unreasonable expectations, lack some life skills, and have a difficult time saving money. I’m beginning to see the connection between these two conversations.
My point, in short, is that parents who are helping their millennials save money or are letting them lean on them for financial support may only be contributing to the unreasonable expectations, lack of life skills, and inability to save that is so common among millennials. I know and fully recognize that this is NOT the story for some young folks who get financial help from their parents – some of you were still encouraged to save, look after yourself, contribute to the household, and operate independently. But you can’t disagree that this does align with some millennials’ situations.
There are a few ways in which I think parental crutches are contributing to the challenges that millennials face. The first is in creating unrealistic expectations. When we live at home late into our 20s we run the risk of not being properly exposed to the realities of the workforce and an independent way of living. Once we fly the coop, the shock of reality vs. expected reality can be debilitating. Think about it, it can get really comfy to not have to pay for groceries and not have to grimace at the price of toilet paper or other necessary purchases. Life can feel easy breezy when you don’t have to consider a utilities bill or stress over getting that job because you really need to pay rent. I can imagine it wouldn’t be easy to throw your kid into this shark pool called real life but a little dose of reality gives one the opportunity to grow some thicker skin and fend for themselves. It’s through experience that we grow to understand what things are really like and the less time we spend being sheltered from it, the less we grow these unrealistic expectations. Expectations around how easy it may be to get a job, to score an apartment, to even afford an apartment, to rely on yourself for transportation, and to balance all of this, plus day-to-day chores and caring for oneself. Many live-at-homers are thinking, once I can just get this money saved (thanks mom and dad!) I’ll be able to conquer the world and get ahead. Well no, not really. Especially if you haven’t been making your bed, cleaning your dishes, or paying for your own groceries for the past 6 years. This brings me to my next point.
Life skills. Those good old how to’s that kids used to learn in Home Ec back in the day. Studies show that today’s quarters lifers are lacking them. An article from Forbes states:
“In fact, Millennials are unfamiliar with a broad range of life skills. They are less likely than older generations to know how to sew, make basic home repairs, or drive manual-transmission cars. With GPS always at their fingertips, many never really learned to use physical landmarks to guide them. Some can’t even imagine how people functioned before mobile IT. One Millennial wrote an article asking older people how they used to look up information, meet up with friends in public places, and handle getting lost without smartphones.”
Some of you might be reading this and saying “Ya, that’s right! I don’t need to know how to sew a button. How does this correspond in any way with me being held back in life?” And I hear you. I get that you can probably just google how to sew a button and bam you’re good to go. But what I’m talking about is the big picture. If some millennials weren’t relying on their parents in such obvious ways, perhaps they would have picked up these life skills at a quicker and earlier rate. When you’re out on your own earlier in life, you don’t have the money to eat out for every meal so you’re forced to learn to cook, experiment, and figure it out. When you’re entering independence at 27, you may be making the money to order UberEats everyday and so those cooking skills that you never bothered attaining just never come. Get it? I’m a millennial too and fully admit by life skills shortcomings – like how to navigate my way around a flat tire or do anything car related at all – that needs work. But I have experienced the evolution of my skills from first year university to now and I wouldn’t have developed them in the same way if I hadn’t discovered independence when I did.
And lastly, I’m finding that there is a direct correlation between millennials who lean on their parents and the inability to save money. This one is simple. When you live at home or your parents give you a cushion of funds, you can most likely afford a comfortable lifestyle. If you’re not responsible for the staple expenses in your life, you can save some money and then the rest is allocated to entertainment. So you buy all the things, all the time. This gets tricky when you’re ready for independence from your folks and realize that you can’t possibly maintain that lifestyle while juggling all of your bills. This push and pull in a millennial’s finances is tough. Among some of the people I know, willpower is hard to come by, so they end up spreading their income really thin in order to maintain their once ‘parent-supported lifestyle’ while living on their own. In doing this, they give up the chance of saving any money at all. No one wants to live pay cheque to pay cheque! But you may wind up there if you insist on that weekly mani/pedi, drinks with friends 3 nights a week, and owning that set of wheels that you just can’t part with.
Here are my parting words… Millennials, I fully agree and understand that the world has changed and that ‘getting ahead’ is seemingly impossible but I urge you to seek independence sooner rather than later – you’re not doing yourself as many favours as you may think you are by staying under your parents’ roof or bank account. And parents, pack up your kid’s stuff and ship them out (okay, maybe not so harshly). But find ways to support them that won’t hinder them in the long run. Your generosity and concern are so meaningful but make sure it’s coupled with teaching your millennial independence, life skills, and financial responsibility.
Stay positive you beautiful, worthy beings!
PS: This post was super challenging to write. I’ve been sitting with the draft for over two weeks. Phewf, so glad it’s over.