Like everyone else on Facebook and Twitter, I read this article on HuffPo this week about Generation Y and their problems. And then I read the inevitable backlash from people in this age group. Some of the responses were stupid or trite, and some were well put. Fellow blogger ErinEph had a particually good response that got me thinking.
My feelings are split on the GYPSY article. I think that the article doesn’t ring true for a many people in the demographic it defines. It should have instead labeled the intended audience as Generation Y Entitled Idiots And Shithead. (GYEIAS?) I lots of friends in this age demographic and this label doesn’t apply to any of them. However, just because I don’t see it firsthand doesn’t mean it does not exist.
My lovely wife sees the behavior discussed in the GYPSY article on a daily basis. As a program director at a local non-profit, she feels that this definition applies to a majority of the GYEIAS that she manages. As someone who has to directly manage anywhere from 50-100 GYEIAS on a daily basis, she says that an inflated sense of entitlement is probably the biggest challenge to managing young adults today.
The point that I want to discuss today was made in Erin’s blog. She says and I agree that the deck has been stacked against 18-34 year olds and it was done by 50-75 years olds. The old American Dream of an opportunity for education, career, property ownership, and retirement has gone away. As a 35 year old, I consider myself one of the very last people lucky enough to grab the American Dream before it was snatched away from everyone. I have the opportunity to be the Unicorn Belching Rainbow and it’s the subject of this week’s #Friday5.
Top 5 Opportunities I Was Given That Are No Longer Available
1. Free College Education Paid For By The State
When I graduated high school in 1996, I was offered several financial packages to attend college. I was a solid student, but not the first in my class by any means. Accordingly, I chose to attend Missouri State University because I was offered free tuition. And I mean completely FREE tuition. Living expenses were not covered, but a combination of summer jobs and the low costs of living in Springfield, Missouri made living expenses manageable. After five years of college I walked away with a diploma and zero debt in 2001. Graduating college debt free is extremely difficult these days to all but valedictorians, and quite expensive for most kids. My brother Paul just started his second year of college, and I can barely fathom how expensive it is nowadays.
2. Graduate School On Heavily Subsidized Government Loans
While I was pursuing my Masters Degree, I was able to pay tuition and my living expenses using affordable loans from the Federal Government. When I graduated from UMSL in 2006 with my Masters, I did so without any private loans, and a very reasonable rate on my subsidized loans. Accordingly, I’ve never had a problem with making my student loan payments in the seven years since I graduated. Based on the large number of loan repayment horror stories I’ve heard from friends and read online, my experience is becoming increasingly rare.
3. Paid Internships
By pursuing my Masters Degree a few year before the Great Recession hit in 2008, I was lucky enough to find not one but two(!) paid internships. During the summer of 2005 between my first and second year of Graduate School, I had a summer internship that paid me and counted as class credit. After graduation in 2006, I moved to Florida to take a yearlong internship that paid well and gave me extremely valuable experience in the career I was pursuing. Since 2008 paid internships pretty much no longer exist.
4. A Career With Generous Benefits
When the financial crisis hit five years ago in 2008, I was a in a job that was about to be downsized. And then I hit the jackpot by finding my current job. The first real day of my career started in January 2009, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. Right when the Great Recession started I somehow found an ideal job with extremely generous benefits. Not only do I have a great medical insurance, I have an actual pension. As in a full retirement package that is 100% paid for by my employer. This is pretty rare for someone my age; I don’t know a single person under 40 who will be getting a pension at retirement.
5. Owning A Home
While owning a home isn’t all that uncommon among my peers, I was one of the lucky ones who received considerable incentives to own a home. On top of the low interested rate I received on my home loan, I was given $8,000 for free by the Federal Government when I purchased my home in 2009. Like everything else on this list, I’m fortunate to have got in during a narrow window that has since closed.
I feel like one of the last people to be given a realistic the chance to achieve the American Dream. Granted, I had to work hard to get where I am today, and I will have to continue to work hard for the next few decades. But so many of my peers will have to work just as hard for a fraction of the benefit. I am equal parts grateful for the chances I’ve been given, and troubled that so few others are being offered the same. I’m proof that America can be the land of opportunity. I just hope that I’m not one of the last.