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Weekly Reader 10.3.11

Is Gen- Y Overly Optimistic?

A fascinating piece by author Barbara Ray questions whether many young adults harbor a too rosy view of the future  In her research for a second book on Gen Y, Ms. Ray asked100 23-year-olds what the American Dream meant to them, and if they thought it was still attainable. Most believe that it is, citing happiness,  success, security as their goals.

But are those hopes and plans doomed by the “grim statistics”  that Ms. Ray cites in a Psychology Today blog post, “Gen-Y Optimism Prevails, But Should It?”  She writes,

But overall, the optimism  and belief that if they just work hard, they will prevail is at once heartening, and frightening. Sometimes, after all, hard work alone is simply not enough.

What happens if  emerging adults fail to achieve their dreams?  Ms. Ray believes that Americans often blame themselves and look inward to seek solutions.  She wonders if it’s not time for Gen Y  to look outward for answers, questioning some of the institutions and policies that have deeply impacted their lives:

And is this eternal optimism and individualism the reason why they are not taking to the streets like their peers in Europe and the Middle East? The kids in Europe came out in force with mere threats of a paltry tuition increase. When I told two German 20-somethings visiting over the summer how much debt our kids leave college with, they were speechless. And yet, nothing: no anger, no protest, no mobilizing from this American generation.

How to Avoid Resenting Your Children

Many baby boomer parents believe that their adult children have no choice but to move back home after college, given the economy and job market.  Perhaps that explains the astonishing figures reported by a National Endowment for Financial Education survey: 40 percent of 20- and 30-something adult children still live at home. Adult children are not the only family members living with an altered reality.  The survey also found that among parents: 

  • 26 percent have taken on debt
  • 13 percent have delayed plans for a major life event such as getting married, taking a vacation or buying a home
  • 7 percent have delayed retirement

Parents often become a  bit testy over these unplanned changes to their lives.  So “How to Avoid Resenting Your Children,” outlines some steps to take.  Among them:

  • Think like your son or daughter. Find out why she wants to live at home and how it will help, and how long they plan to do so.
  • Crunch your own numbers. Parents often don’t even realize how much it will cost them to invite their children to live back at home. Between grocery bills, utilities, and other extra costs, it can add up. To avoid big surprises, try to anticipate those expenses in advance, and figure out how to offset them.
  • Write some ground rules. Do you want a move-out date? A contract for shared housework? Putting it in writing can help avoid misunderstands.
  • Share costs. Come up with a plan to enable adult children make a financial contribution, or at least to help with chores around the house.
  • Don’t forget about yourself. After your adult child has moved out, think about what you each learned and what you need to do to get your own finances back on track.
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