Your Parents Didn’t Start Out That Way

My wife and I were just talking today about our friends who have college graduate kids who have moved back in.  Our children are still several years away from college, so the reason they’re all having their adult children move back is odd.  Of course, maybe we’ll be in the same boat in another ten or fifteen years.

Most of them graduated from college.  Some dropped out.  Whether they graduated or not, however, none of them seem to have found jobs that will go anywhere, or even full-time employment in most cases.  Most seem like teenagers who are living an extended summer vacation from high school.  Sleeping in late.  Going out with friends at night.  Volunteering or working part-time but nothing that pays enough for them to get out on their own.  Ever.

I’ve also watched some of the first time home buyer shows on the Home and Garden channel, although I needed to stop watching.  There is just something odd about seeing twenty-something couples complaining that a home layout doesn’t fit their “personal style” or that the appliances in the kitchen aren’t all stainless steel.  Many of these couples are just moving out of their parent’s home and some of them have mom and dad putting in the down payment.  I’m thinking in that situation I’d just be happy if the neighborhood was safe and their were no major structural issues.

Probably oddest of all is when adult children start dating and the parents allow them to bring their boyfriend or girlfriend home to live with them.  Most of the people in my generation were eager to get out on our own as fast as possible and would never think of  trying to be a couple under our parent’s roof.  And isn’t it odd for parents to have live-in lovers for their children and to be cleaning up and doing laundry for both of them?  I know that many Asian families have several generations under the same roof, which makes sense since 1) it is ridiculously expensive to live in many Asian cities, 2) the whole extended family can help bring up the children, 3) the adult children are there to help take care of the parents as they age, and 4) everyone gets a lot more time to spend with each other.  Still, I don’t think there are a lot of couples living together before marriage in those households, and I think the children are working every bit as hard as the parents to maintain the house and bring in income.

I’ve often heard it expressed that Generation Y were told that if they got good grades, went to college, and got a degree, everything would work out for them.  I’ve heard that there is a lot of frustration because things didn’t work out that way.  They got out of college and there weren’t the immediate job offers they were expecting.  The student loans ended up being bigger and more unwieldly than they were expecting, especially after spending five or six years going through rather than the usual four.

If that was what you came to believe, I’m sorry.  That just isn’t the way life is.

Your parents were not always living in the kind of home you grew up in.  They were not always driving the big SUV and taking vacations to Europe.  They were not always making $150,000 per year or more.

Unless they were a trust baby or able to work in the family business of their millionaire parents, they probably got a job doing whatever they could when they got out of college, or even straight out of high school.  They got a small apartment and maybe a roommate or two so they could afford the rent.  They had an ancient car that could get them around town but they wouldn’t trust it to take them too far from home.  Or maybe they didn’t even have a car but took buses or subways and just walked a lot.

They were probably living below the poverty line, but they never filed for food stamps or section 8 housing, because they never thought that they were poor.  They knew that their situation was temporary.  Most will tell you that despite not having a lot of money they really enjoyed the early years without all of the stuff to take care of.

The house you grew up in came fifteen to twenty years later, maybe as a second house after the apartment, after a two-bedroom starter home.  They bought it after they worked their way up from an entry-level job, to a mid-level job, and finally to their current jobs.

While it may not seem like fun, those early years are important.  While entry-level jobs may not pay well, they give you experience in  time management, dealing with people, and understanding how a business works.  They also help you figure out what you are good at and what you want to do.  Living on a tight budget helps you learn how to budget and handle money.  How to pay the rent and buy groceries.  How to eat really cheaply.  It also makes you appreciate meals out and vacations more because they are very precious at the time.

So if your expectations are that you’ll move right into a big house with a bonus room and an office, get over it.  If you think you’ll start out with a high salary and a job you love right out of college, get over it.  Just get out there and start your adult life.  Otherwise you’ll always be a teenager no matter what age your driver’s license indicates.  Chances are, while it may not seem like it at the time, those will be some of the best years of your life.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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