Friday, January 23, 2015

Are Millennials in trouble?

I caught a Yahoo article this week entitled Baby limbo: Millennials struggle to find the right time for parenthood. As I will mention in my upcoming WND column for this weekend, the article detailed how many young couples find themselves so saddled in student loan (and other) debt that it literally paralyzes their financial position for decades to come –- including during that critical window in life when they would otherwise be buying homes and starting families.

The article highlights some high school sweethearts named Mandy and Nathan. "By the time they graduated college in 2009, both with degrees in English, they were already married. They had talked about having children for years, but with graduation came an unwelcome reality check: a combined $60,000 worth of student loan debt."

After giving the statistics on how Millennials are putting off traditional adult benchmarks such as buying homes and having babies (due to a combination of debt and a poor economy), the article gave some advice for young couples wanting to untangle their financial knots and plan for a future family:

1. Practice living off of one salary for at least a year.

2. Make lifestyle adjustments now, not later.

3. Review your health insurance policies.

4. Balance your savings needs with your children’s savings needs.

5. Plan your transition away from and back to work carefully.

While I don't necessarily disagree with these bullet points, I have a feeling the problems with the Millennials goes deeper.

It saddens me to see so many young people starting out their adult lives as slaves... because make no mistake, debt on the order of $60,000 (or more) is little more than a slave collar around their necks. It makes me want to shake them (or their parents) for encouraging or accruing that kind of debt to begin with, particular in a fragile and shaky economy.

As carefully as this article suggests planning out one's future, it never touches on what got this couple in trouble in the first place: poor planning for their future. Mandy and Nathan accrued $60,000 studying a subject (English) for which there is no appreciable demand.

It's not that I object to studying English -- far from it, I take great delight in writing and literature -- but Mandy and Nathan should have been advised to match supply and demand before spending that kind of money (see this blog post for a better explanation). There are far more English majors (supply) than there are jobs to support them (demand). And while they are actively working to build their careers (kudos), student loan repayments wait for no man. And now this young couple's future is trashed because of it.

If I could make some possibly unfair assumptions about Millennials, one of the problems is they've never been told "no." They've never been told it may not be a good idea to major in English or Psychology when there are no English or Psychology jobs available. They've never been told NOT to "follow their heart" when it comes to studying useless subjects in college and then wonder why they emerge with $60,000 in student loan debt that haunts them for years to come.

If you're at the juncture of your lives where your future may literally hang in the balance -- namely, graduating from high school and contemplating entering college -- think very very carefully about the path before you.

You don't want to end up like Mandy and Nathan.


  1. Good points Patrice. Yet I would add that thinking carefully about your future path is much harder these days than many of us would think especially where college is concerned. Four years is a long time and beyond the reach of knowing a good path for most people. We are not talking trade skills here which is what I would recommend for most young people especially Men. Even back in the 90's it was a crap shoot. I remember a huge drive pushing students into liberal arts degrees like History in the early 90's because there wasn't enough young people to fill the gap of those teachers who were retiring. By the time many graduated they were no longer looking for History teachers because they had to fill those slots with Gender and race specific degrees. I also remember a huge push to get more students into international business law due to the formation of the EU and the demand they claimed was going to be needed. It never really panned out and after about four years we were positively wading in lawyers.

    I just am not sure college degrees are anything more than an expensive crap shoot trying to guess what social engineering scheme the government is going to come up with in four years. Outside of the Stem areas anyway and even that is a gamble no telling what incentives are going to be offered in four years by the government.

    All this social engineering has made responsible planning for the future almost impossible.

    1. PP,
      i'm with you.
      nephew studied a subject for which jobs were plentiful. when he graduated all of those jobs had literally gone to india.
      he has always had job, just none in his field. [it was something you do on a computer].
      deb h.

  2. This is the very thing I wrestle with now. Child 1 - very bright, but not a good student in things not interested in - even with parental pushing. (Extremely well read - 20 YO has read Atlas Shrugged, Count of Monte Cristo and many classics - Unabridged - point of pride. Argued with HS instructors over the condensed versions they use in class.) C student in HS, but classes taken include; Biology, Chemistry, Physics, 4 years of Latin (in HS.), Algebra, Geometry and Trig. Now has technical College Certificate (C student) and a skill. Working for local government. Starting at 40k with excellent bennies (not yet 21) with advancement opportunities. . Works with and makes more than another with a Master's in Microbiology. Paid for all college working fast food for 18 months.

    Child 2 Basically "A" student. Same HS as above, but add Anatomy & Physiology and College Algebra in HS. Extremely interested in Constitution and Supreme Court. Remembers numbers, facts and figures that are unreal. Very interested in Constitutional Law. Competes in Latin and WINS in History category. Law Degree would put this child in $150K debt before law school. He sees this and does not want the debt, but it seems to be true calling....yes - I am stressing. I swear child 2 knows more about the Constitution then 95% of the politicians we have elected......Natokadn

  3. Most of our friends and acquaintances who are parents with kids our age probably have thought we were mean ogres for deciding not to pay for our kids to go to college. Our reasons: We live in Alaska and have only the state university system and two private colleges (with non-standard, weird course offerings), and since I attended there, I know they kind of progressive, Marxist, and dangerous nonsense they teach there.

    Second: They would end up with outrageous debt for some useless degree and still end up competing with people their own age for low paying jobs in the service or retail industry.

    We told them they could live at home if they chose to go to college here, but they would have to use their own money (WORKING -that terrible word!). Or they could work and attend a distance university.

    Both have their Associate's degrees, but both also lost their sense of urgency to complete their full undergraduate degree. They are still working and working their way up to better paying, more responsible jobs as they mature and are doing better than some of their college graduate friends.

    With the new proposal (done deal with the stroke of the presidential pen) to pay for all young people to go to community college free, all our kids will be competing for the same lousy jobs, but the bar will have been raised from having a high school diploma worth something to having an associate's degree. It is a shell game! Can't count all the kids hanging out at community college as "unemployed" if they are "in" school.

  4. So true, even jobs such as teaching "you will have a job no matter what!" is a lie. I was teaching 4 years when laid off due to budget cuts and being low on the pole. I made 40,000 a year, applied for an open job and 500 applicants applied for this one job. They school hired a fresh out of college kid for.29,000 a year, and the veteran teachers were told sorry but we can't afford your salary. :( but I.laugh cause scores and issues are arising that these youngsters have no idea how to deal with. So even though a job you know supply and demand (people keep having kids, schools are growing and have to due to the demand of educstion) still doesn't mean you will get the job in that field.

  5. it's true. I know lots of people who "followed their hearts" and found themselves in masses of debt that they will never actually be able to be free from, because their "hearts" didn't take into account if they were likely to get a job in the thing they wanted. For example, one girl I went to school with spent 4 years and I dread to think how much money, studying Russian. She has never used what she learnt there, even for a holiday in Russia, and works in admin at a small church. funnily enough, they don't speak Russian at this small church in England, and there's nothing involved in the job that she couldn't have done if she left school at 16 and went straight to it. all her studying beyond that was a complete waste, not only of money, but of time and energy too.

  6. At a recent dermatologist's appt I had a young male LPN stay with me after in office surgery. We had a conversation about nursing and why he chose that field. His response - I'm intrigued by what the human body can do, how we can treat it and mainly job security. He went on to explain how he took 3 years to get his 2 yr degree, living with parents & working as much as possible so he wouldn't have any debt. Graduated top of his class. Now working for 18 months, both a full-time and part-time job to pay for the next 2 years to get his BS in nursing and be an RN. Is now renting a small 1 BR apt near the college he will be attending. Wants to be sure he can afford it. Smart kid.

    We also talked some about his friends majoring in English, Spanish, etc. He felt he could take a few classes at the Adult Education center offered locally, use internet sources or just do it on his own. Wanted the liberal arts on his terms because his friends weren't on career paths with their degrees. Again, smart kid.

  7. Unless it's changed a lot in the last 15 years, it's not just a matter of not being told "no."

    It's a matter of being actively, aggressively encouraged to do stupid things like attending college without a plan ("I don't care what you study, just GO!"), change majors half a dozen times, or study something useless (I recall all those lectures from the English department about all the great jobs for English majors...).

    Who's doing this?? Silly parents, or a predatory banking and/or education industry?? Maybe both...

    It's a matter of more than spoiled kids. It's also a matter of teaching them to have sense enough (and enough faith in their own common sense) to resist the barrage of propaganda they're subjected to.

    Because, to a frighteningly large subset of society, we are, if not slaves, then nothing more than "human resources."

  8. This is a real problem. Part of it is we no longer have the job engine to create jobs for people when the graduate. In my industry, we are hiring entry level position (scientific careers) for people essentially straight out of college with no chance of moving up. For every one of these good folks we hire there are another five just like them (mostly with debt) looking for a job. You can create all the college graduates in the world; if there is nothing for them to do when they get out, you merely have educated indebted unemployed.

    I was one who followed my heart but stumbled into a career in which my heart is not followed but is well paid. I counsel my children a great deal to get a degree that will get them a job when they leave school. I need to emphasize the part about no debt as well.

    Finally (and I am not very good at this myself - I will probably always work for someone because I do not have the skill set to work on my own full time) - is possible that we are not encouraging people to work at starting careers and businesses for themselves? Unfortunately for American students they now compete globally for careers; is it not possible to teach them how to found businesses and careers that have a local or regional focus? In this respect, globalization has service us very poorly.

  9. I count as one of the greatest accomplishments of my life the fact that I paid for my own education, with help from my mom, a single parent.

    She allowed me - insisted, actually - to live in her apartment rent-free as long as I worked, saved my money, went to school and got good grades. (3.98 GPA.)

    It took me 3 1/2 years to get my Associate Degree, a two-year degree. I worked the whole time to pay tuition and my working Ma chipped in.

    I took the bus to class and when I had saved enough money, I bought an old junk car. I did housework and made meals for the two of us.

    I was employed the day I graduated with no debt. Am self-employed now. (Second greatest accomplishment of my life.)

    Thank you, Ma. Love you.

    Dang. I told myself I wasn't going to cry....

    Just Me

    1. This reminds me of an incident that happened when I graduated from college in 1985. As we all sat in the audience in our caps and gowns listening to the (very boring) speaker, I noticed a fellow ahead of me who had a sign pinned to the back of his gown, something like: “This diploma is courtesy of John’s Shoe Repair Shop.” It was clearly a salute to a hard-working father who put him through school. I thought it was wonderful for the student to so publicly acknowledge his dad. As my own father admiringly remarked, “John had to repair a lot of shoes to send that boy to college.”

      - Patrice

    2. Makes me all teary all over again when I read a story like that.

      Just Me

  10. Could have been worse - they could have run up a $190,000 debt for undergrad and masters degrees in acting that created a job prospect of employment in the fast food industry. IF the two English majors with $60,000 total student loans both can get even basic jobs AND they aggressively work to pay down the debt, then they could get out debt in 3-5 years. Most will just spend their way into slavery.

    We managed to pay off all of our student loans (and a mortgage). We also have enough saved for both kids (3d and 6th grade) to go to a good university and for one to get a masters or doctorate. But we live in a nice home not a McMansion, we rarely go out to eat, we don't spend much on vacations, and we live within our means without using debt. However, I am already getting my 6th grader educated on the reality that certain fields (mostly STEM fields) are employable and others are not worth the time or investment.

  11. It is way past time for some honesty in this student loan debate. Many, perhaps most student take the maximum loan they can get and spend what is left over after payng for tutition and books. You can buy a new car with monthly payments on the student loan left after paying for a community college. You can get and apartment rather then live at home so you can party. You can drive to the beach or vacation in Mexico during spring break with the extra money that the student loan provides. Imagine the temptation to do exactly that rather then only borrow as much as you need. Then 4 or 5 years later the bill comes due. What's the answer? To complain that student loans are too expensive and maybe the government should forgive those loans so these poor kids can enjoy vacations and new cars again.

    1. Are you *expletive deleted* serious?!?!

      Holy bad decisions, Batman!!!!

      STUDENT loans for more than tuition and books?? Some institution will lend you money to PARTY?!?! That's so far beyond stupid I can't even wrap my brain around it.


      I guess I'd better scrape my jaw up off the floor and never complain about Hubby getting thru engineering school on student loans (all paid off now) again.

    2. Close your mouth MC. A few decades back in the last century I saw a lot of guys do cars, new stereos (this was a big one) all on their student loans. I took out small loans, paid off long ago, but then....I did get a BS for about $10k total - for all four years...... How times have changed...(I guess that makes me REALLY old, huh?) Natokadn

      I should add that about 5 years later I went back to school and got a technical degree and a SKILL and it was not until then that I got my first full time benefitted position.

    3. HO-LEE COW!!!!

      All these years I thought we were spoiled brats.

      I guess we were smarter than I gave us credit for.

      That boggles the mind.

      Permission to repeat that story to my MIL the next time she gets down on herself for the job she did raising Hubby???

  12. I always did very well in school and could have gone far in college and university. I'm sure there were family members who expected me to do that. However, entering college, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, except that I didn't want to waste money doing something I wasn't sure about. I got my AA in graphic design (being artistic and good with computers), but I stopped there. By the end of my community college days, I realized I didn't want a career in that, and there was no way I was going to continue with that uncertainty. As it was, I was in a serious relationship by that point, and I knew that I wanted to put family before career.

    Today, I am married (for 7+ years) with two kids and our own home. My husband has a full time job, and he's taking classes in his own time to try to expand his skills. I am working part time at the office where I've been working since high school, and my parents help with the kids on the days that I work. I don't regret my schooling decisions at all. My sisters and my best friend all went on to get BA degrees, and none of them are working in the fields they studied (although they're all doing well enough as they are).

    I have really appreciated your posts on this topic over the years, Patrice, and am continually impressed with the maturity of your girls as they make decisions for their own futures. It helps me know how to encourage my kids when they're old enough to be facing these choices themselves. :)

  13. My nephew got a degree in accounting and decided it was boring. Went to law school on student loans. Got a low paying job that didn't even service his debt although living in a rathole apartment and eating the cheapest things he could find. His mother paid on the debt because she felt sorry for him. He could still have done accounting but didn't want to be bored. Went back to school (more debt) and got an MBA in finance. Found a job but hated the area of the country he worked in. Got a transfer to another area. Hated it too. Changed jobs twice. Now has a job he "sorta likes" and has finally paid off his debt. Problem: He just turned 50. No wife (couldn't afford to date), no house. Hasn't had a real vacation since summers during the first four years of college. Also still hasn't paid his mother back for the extra help with his law school debt. But he is a CPA. a member of the bar, and a financial planner. I'm not taking any advice from him!

  14. I have a master's degree and a trade school/ vocational degree and I can guarantee that in my lifetime the trade school will pay for itself ten fold and the masters degree might never do that once.
    My husband owns two businesses and openly admits that he pays no attention to degrees earned, he want a real person with experience in the real world... a young person that can hold a conversation and put in some honest work- not someone force fed theories and methods.

    I love education- I teach part time, but it is wasted on those who are not there to learn, those who go to college because it is expected, or required; and how ridiculous to believe that you will know what you want to do for the rest of your life at 17! at the price tag of $60,000!

  15. It is Nathan & Mandy, not Mandy & Nathan...or at least it was for all of history until the exact things you fight against every day took over. And hidden in that very point is a huge reason Nathan & Mandy are struggling and will struggle.

    And as much as I love your message- and I do- it is why you should immediately take down the "husband of the boss". Men get this in every media- and it's pushed by the very people and ideas you stand against. Men & women, our families, our children, our churches, our communities and our churches are better when men are honored as the head of their families.

    1. Do you have a blog? I read at Elspeths blog,

      She writes about things such as what you do. I don't agree with everything she says but 99% of the time I am nodding my head in agreement.

      If you don't have a blog you should. We need more people who think like you, at least of what you shared here.

      For what it is worth, I think many couples don't see how comments reinforce the idea that women are in control of the home. Men have been taught these comments are acceptable and not to even consider how they undermine traditional roles. It's all said tongue in cheek.

      I do think Don leads his family well. You get a feel for things when you have read someone for several years. Your point still stands but I think Don and Patrice don't think much about the wording.

      This is something that I have had to retrain my thinking in as well.
      Ouida Gabriel

    2. Interesting... May I opine? At a glance, I took it to be a polite (ladies first) form of address. After a second look, I STILL take it that way. I've been a girl/lady/women for nearly 60 years and I never fell for that Woman's Lib nonsense. Nor did I go overboard in the other direction. Balance in ALL things, my esteemed fellow blog commenter. I also think 'Husband of the Boss' is totally cool because, unlike your good self, I can plainly see that Patrice and Don (deliberate arrangement of names there) honor each other in a magnificent way. It shows in all of their writings that they have a deep regard and respect for each other. Don probably doesn't feel the need to stand on something tall and bang his chest while shouting in a dramatic fashion to get his point across, so you may not have noticed this. I feel this only enhances my good opinion of him as Man of their House, blessed by God.

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

    3. What are the rest of your rules for living? You don't seem to respect anyone else's perspective on life, so why do you bother with us worthless types? Lighten up. If you've read anything else on this blog, you'd know that Don is the head of the Lewis household. Judge not lest... and all that. (Sorry, Patrice. This just irked me to no end.)

    4. It is probably old school, but I was always taught that when addressing two married persons, you never separate the man's first and last name, hence, Sue and Joe Smith. Why? Because the woman's last name will change when she marries and the man's is constant throughout his life and denotes the family unit.

      I don't know for sure what was intended with the order of names here, but I just always do it that way. Perhaps nothing ill was intended at all.

    5. Original Anonymous here-
      First, and I thought I made this clear. I love the message here. We live a very similar rural, self sufficient lifestyle. I've got no beef with the Lewis'.

      Second, what would you say if I told you I had a blog at one time. One that taught men to love their wives, children and to lead their homes...and normal christians and hardcore feminists don't look much different these days in their beliefs or in how they respond such ideas.

      50 years ago, husband of the boss was a joke- and maybe a funny one. Today, it is the truth in 80% of the homes in America, if not more. Even if a wife does not think she is "the boss," with current teaching in the church, schools, government and pop culture combined with the effects of divorce, ailimony, child custody laws, etc...makes for an environment where it is not only a terrible joke in today's day and age but encourages a narrative that I don't think the Lewis' mean to encourage.

      As far as the all the arguements presented:
      1) there were no last names given, even still, until the feminist movement a husband's name was always first.
      2) I did not call anyone worthless, nor beat my chest.
      3) If your perspective is different that mine that we should honor men as the head of the household and reflect that in how how we communicate- I would like to know. Let's put our cards on the table.
      4) As I stated above, many who do not realize it have had "women's lib" seep into their minds without even realizing it. It is so ingrained in our culture that most cannot even recognize it- even those who call themselves conservatives or christians.
      5) As far as judging, first that is a false narrative of false teaching within the church. I do not know the Lewis' well enough to know their faith and where they stand. But if we are indeed christian brothers and sisters, we are called to rebuke one another when we are in the wrong. 1 Corinthians 5:12 clearly teaches we are to not judge those outside the church but that we are indeed to judge those inside the church- but you are correct in the Matthew teaching that we should be careful how we judge because the same measure will be used against us. I care about the Lewis' as I greatly enjoy their message and I suspect they share faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord & Savior. This is aspect that I brought up though is harmful though to what they stand for which is why without calling them names, telling them to go away or beating of my chest I told them exactly that.

  16. Both our girls went to college on full scholarships. The eldest wanted to be a teacher, but the ROTC scholarship she was awarded was in nursing, so she became an OB nurse and served her country. Later she took some classes and taught at a private school. After a few years of starving, she's back to nursing, where it pays the bills, allows savings and she can schedule time for her ministry work.
    The younger daughter's scholarships did not have strings attached. She was doing quite well in the pre pharmacy program, when she decided to follow her heart; criminal justice is a useless degree, and there are now programs on line that give same degree she sat in classes and listened to marxists to obtain. She graduated a year early against our wishes, but with honors and was debt free. She also worked full time in order to keep and board her horse that she used on the riding teams in college. It is a good thing she is a hard worker, because she's back in college getting a nursing degree and at some point when she has worked and saved more money, she'll return to get certified in anesthesiology.
    It was painful to watch her struggle but we let her own her struggle. We will help the kids out when and if we can, but we are working on retirement. Like college, retirement should not be financed.
    Youngest child, son, is being directed at vocation tech career. Plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic, diesel technician. I will need to be sedated if I have to help one more of my own, cope with the toxic effects of tenured professors spewing hatred of capitalism and this country.
    Son knows he gets to choose and PAY.

    1. You're doing it the right way. No matter what anyone tells you.

      Just wanted you to know that.

  17. Here it is in a nutshell... I have been awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of water gushing from a burst pipe destroying part of my home. NEVER once during that long night did I ever feel the need to call a PhD or a major in Liberal Arts or anyone who speaks a foreign language fluently. I try to be practical.

    One idea for parents is to point out to their young people what they each NEED done by others (electrical, plumbing, law enforcement, etc.) and then think about pursuing one of these careers. By my calculations, they have 16-18 years to make these observations daily and point them out to their kids before anyone decides on a lifetime of work or debt. IMHO.

    God Bless.
    Janet in MA

  18. I graduated high school at 18 and went to college. I really didn't know what I wanted to do for a career but my family expected me to 'just go'. My parents paid my expenses for three years. Then I received a letter from my Dad saying that I was receiving the last check from him. Being cut off financially was the best thing he could have done for me. Plain and simple, I got a job on that paid my bills. I did not accrue any debt. I lived in a small apartment with lots of roommates and we shared meals cooked together. I graduated but with a degree that was absolutely worthless to me.

    I then cobbled together jobs and was marginally employed until I was 27. I went back to school for a degree in accounting. Many people asked me how I could stand being in accounting. I said it was simple, really. In those years after I graduated the first time and struggled to find work, I would open the help wanted ads and see jobs in accounting. I went to school for a degree in something technical and relevant to the job market.
    I did fall into the trap of taking out more student loans then I needed and did graduate with debt. In my case, the debt was due to some really bad decisions such as going to school in a high cost of living area and other poor lifestyle choices.
    Because of my major and my work history, though, I had a choice of jobs at graduation. I paid off my student debt as fast as I could. Being in debt for a short period of time in my early 30s had a profound effect on me. I have not been in debt since except for my house mortgage.

  19. About 50 years ago when I went to college we did not expect our parents to pay OR to get a loan. We worked and paid our way as we studied. It was possible because everyone paid their own tuition and government intervention was non-existent.

    Absolutely the ONLY reason to go to college today is if you need some type of official certification for what you want to do with your life. Only if you want to be a nurse, doctor, lawyer, government school teacher, etc. and cannot do that job without it, should you even think about going to "college". Today, everything you ever wanted to learn is available for free.

    I'm encouraging my grandchildren to pick a path where stick-to-it counts more than credentials. Well that, and to always pay cash.

  20. Why do we focus on student loans as the problem? Nearly every anecdote left in response (many extremely inspiring, don't get me wrong) involves pushing off life until late 20s or beyond.

    It seems to me the problem is not debt, or not being told no, or any other common reasoning. It's our economy, overspecialization and outsourcing. We treat higher education as if it's a requirement, a given, how it's always been, when in fact society did just fine without it for the majority of human history.

  21. ^^^^


    This is an excellent thought. Along the same lines as not falling into the "Doesn't-matter-what-you-study-JUST-GO!!" trap. Lest you think we were some paragon, may I add that my dad fell into that trap and, even though I had misgivings, I went walking merrily right on in. I have to give him credit for good intentions. And credit for NEVER having any intentions of paying for it himself. I always knew that was on me.

    College is a business like any other (at least in one respect)-- they have to sell their goods to stay in business. If people stop buying their goods, their goods will get cheaper. Granted education is only one thing, and probably not the main thing, that they sell (their main product, despite what they'd like you to think, is research).

    Stop feeding the monster, and the monster will have to get leaner.

    In the meantime, I'm telling my kids stories about two kids (two very lucky kids) in a leaky old trailer with a patchwork of part-time jobs and one car between them. I'm telling my kids stories about two kids in a camping trailer, one of whom worked two jobs and cleaned the landlady's house in lieu of rent while the other worked one job and went to school (and walked a few miles each way to do it, if the stories can be believed, because college students didn't drive cars back in the '40s when my grandfather fought his way through WVU).

    Making life too easy isn't a gift of love.

  22. For your reading Patrice .. an autobiography from Ace Walden of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho .. from the good old days .. before the 'safety-net' of big brother made life 'better'