We are young/heartache to heartache we stand/No promises, no demands/love is a battlefield.
OK, so Pat Benatar was talking about love, but if you swap love for life, those lines could be the battlecry of my generation — or at least that’s what we’re being told to believe.
It started last week with a column by Rob Carrick in The Globe and Mail entitled “2012 vs 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today.” In his column, Carrick laments the life of us 20-something nowadays: broke and in low-paying jobs even as the price of things, such as houses and cars, have risen astronomically. Carrick wrote:
I had it easier than today’s twentysomethings, and I have no problem saying so. But quite a few others can’t see what all the fuss is about when it comes to the financial concerns of today’s young adults.
“Finally!” was a common refrain from those in my generation. “Someone who gets how I feel and how hard it is to be me!”
I read Carrick’s column and walked away with a mediocre feeling. I didn’t see this as a battle cry. This wasn’t the refrain of a generation. Are things tougher for my generation than my parents? I don’t really know. I can say my parents had it rough while I was growing up, but it was such a different time. I commented on this recently when my boyfriend and I went shopping for tablets.
Back when I was a kid, I remember my parents saving for months and months and months to get a CD player or finally a VCR. Nowadays, my generation seems to live in a kind of “I want, so I buy.” When was the last time you really saved for anything? Personally, I don’t even remember it.
But sure, OK, we have it harder today.
Then this week, Carrick published a letter from a 29-year-old man thanking him for what he wrote. This man, who is the same age as me, lamented the things he’ll never be able to do because things are so tough for us right now. Here’s an excerpt (the man was kept anonymous, so not to hurt his job hunting chances):
At the age of 29, I’ve likely forever lost the following opportunities due to cost and probable inability to make up for lost wages and career potential:
- Getting married.
- Having children.
- Owning a home that’s bigger than 500 square feet. (hint: that’s not big.)
- Studying any more, whether that means grad school, law school, or even just night classes at a random community college.
- Retirement. Sure, I’d love to be investing for it. But with what money?
The piece goes on about how this guy applies for 100 jobs in the hopes of snagging 15 interviews, and how he continues to repeat the process. Like Carrick’s last piece, many of my peers leaped on to this as a battling cry.
I posted my response on these four points on a friend’s Facebook wall, but here they are:
- You can get married without a big giant paycheque coming in. If being “married” is so important to you, then go to City Hall and spend $140 on the licence and get married there. This guy is whining he can’t afford the party that usually comes with getting married — the party is not the same as getting married.
- Having kids: Poor people have kids. Full stop. Sure our generation hoped to plan better for our kids and have the money, the time, the whatever, but it doesn’t always work out that way. My parents didn’t have all those things and I survived. Love is the most important thing when it comes to having kids, and as J.Lo says, Love don’t cost a thing.
- Owning a home that’s bigger than 500 square feet: Again, I wonder where this guy is looking at buying. If it’s in Toronto and Vancouver, then you’re right, it’s expensive. But there are ways to make it work. Did I ever expect to own a home this young? Nope. Is it hard? Definitely. But I’m making it work despite not bringing in the millions I so obviously deserve.
- Studying any more: Again, get off your high horse. In theory, I don’t “have the money” to be taking extra classes, but I’m finding a way to. And if I go back for a master’s, which I’m seriously considering, I will be doing it with the help of OSAP. I’m not above having to take out a loan that I pay back. I still owe $18,000 on my undergrad and am happy to pay that back every month. I would not trade having to pay for my education for anything. I know I wouldn’t have the same value for it if it was free.
- Retirement: You’re right. We’re all going to work until we die. Poor us.
Now, I’m not saying our generation doesn’t have it hard, because we do — every generation does (heck, my grandmother was born into the start of the Second World War, her parents lived through two world wars and a Great Depression). But we’ve got to stop feeling like we have it the hardest of any generation that ever came before us because it just makes us seem entitled. Yes, entitled.
While I’m sure his job search is hard, I haven’t heard of anyone who applies for that many jobs at once. Which makes me wonder what industry this anonymous letter writer is searching in.
And my second question goes back to my observation about the difference between my parents’ generation and mine: Do we not have the disposable income to get married, have kids, buy a house and save for retirement, because of all the gadgets we buy?
Next time you lament how you can’t afford a downpayment for a mortgage, look at where you’re spending money: smartphones, gadgets, dinners out etc.
And another thing that’s different from our generation compared to our parents: In 1984, university degrees were rarer. More people went to college. That’s not the case today. An undergraduate university degree nowadays does not guarantee you a job, you need more to stand out from the pack.
That being said, sometimes it’s all about luck. I know a 23-year-old recent immigrant to Canada that just landed a job paying almost $50,000 a year — and she has no post-secondary education.
Yes, things are tough for our generation, but let’s quit whining about it already.