Last week, I saw this tweet from MoneySense:
Generation Y is outspending older Canadians on luxury items. Fancy that. This & other stories in the roundup:moneysense.ca/?p=29906
— MoneySense(@MoneySenseMag) June 20, 2012
That led me to this weekly round-up, which finally led me to this article from the online version of the magazine Canadian Business.
You’re probably aware that GenY is mired in debt, lacks employment, and is excessively educated. Despite those depressing facts, GenY’s spending on luxury goods grew more than any other generational cohort.
Reading this, I felt a twinge of shame. As you may know, I’m vintage ’87.
I’m starting to feel like GenY’s failure is a foregone conclusion. And it’s for the most pathetic reasons of all: laziness, apathy, and straight-up hedonism.
A lot of smart writers like Rob Carrick have sympathy for our generation. It’s kind of them. We do face legitimate problems, but that only merits a certain amount of leeway.
Our grandparents had some problems, too. They beat Hitler and put men on the moon.
What have we, the Echo Boomers, done? After 9/11, everybody my age started hating George W. Bush. Then they all got baked and just kinda rode longboards. Hipsters emerged. We’re post-modernism’s cruel parody of the Greatest Generation.
To my fellow Gen-Yers, and specifically the Pop’n'Chips set: seriously, suck it up. I am sick of you. Your failure is not for lack of good advice (except about the housing bubble — I’ll give you a pass if you foolishly bought a condo in Toronto).
Nevertheless, the late GenYs are only in highschool now, so there’s still a chance. I’m going to lay it out one last time. Here’s a super easy three step guide on how to not be an indebted, over-educated, self-indulgent, unemployed loser (i.e. the typical GenY kid in his 20s).
Step 1: Don’t Get a Useless Degree
If you get a B.A. in Anthropological Post-Modern Women’s Cultural Studies, you are the author of two things:
- A ton of subjective, navel-gazing, terrible essays; and
- Your own misery.
You need to be the solution to your own problem by getting a credential that’s in demand. You don’t need to be an economist to choose the correct credential.
If you get a Latin degree, I wish you all the best. Maybe you’ll become a successful lawyer. Most likely, you won’t. Sorry for chuckling when I see you at an Occupy Wall Street rally.
For the Kids
If you’re a 17- or 18-year old kid who is about to graduate highschool, here’s all you need to learn from this article:
- Get a useful credential. This could be a trade certificate. No, not Early Childhood Education or kitchen chef. I’m talking about getting your electrician or pipefitting papers. Alternately, you could get a degree – but make sure it’s in Engineering or an applied science.
- Go to the oil patch.
Step 2: Get a Job
Proper alignment of labour supply and demand is essential to a healthy economy. The truth: there is demand for labour in Canada. The problem for GenY grads? The demand isn’t in Ontario (nor is it demand for hair stylists).
If you’ve followed Step One (Don’t Get a Useless Degree), and you’re willing to move, you’ll get a job. On the other hand, if you can’t handle doing TWO things right, then you’re lazy or selfish or both.
For the Unemployed B.Ed.s
If I hear one more B.Ed. living in Southern Ontario moan about how they can’t find work, I’m going to lose it. Teaching is a great job – it pays extremely well and only takes an extra year of school (if you’ve already got a BA in Philosophy). That makes it very attractive to a large subset of graduates – the ones who have no prospects in the labour market and who can’t create their own jobs. As a result, no, you will not find a job in your hometown. At best, you’ll run on the supply teaching treadmill for years. What’s the solution?
Move. Way up north. Northern Ontario, perhaps. Nunavut, even. Wherever there’s a job. There are a TON of jobs for teachers, but not in Oshawa (if you think that’s far north or the middle of nowhere, you’re an insufferable Torontonian). Northern jobs pay well. They must pay well, or else they wouldn’t attract enough workers (Canada’s north is a harsh environment).
Oh, you’re not actually up for a challenge, huh?? You just like saying it on your resume? Well, you should probably stop lying to people about how you like to “challenge” yourself when really you just like mountain biking. You want to stay in Guelph with the BF and BFFs? Don’t be hating when I laugh at your story on ‘Til Debt Do Us Part.
A job isn’t for fulfillment. It’s for money. Otherwise most of us would be volunteering for a foodbank or travelling Europe all the time. Oh right, Gen Y does the latter constantly. You live in an absolutely magical time and place – an abundance of material wealth, lots of free time to pursue your passions, and incredible technology. Even still, menial jobs and hard work are below you, GenY. No wonder you’re unemployed.
Do you think your Great Grandparents toiled on farms to find themselves? Do you think your Grandpas slung metal in a factory for fulfillment?
If this truth is some kind of sacrilege to your Theory Y-enlightened PC sensibilities, then it proves one thing: guidance counsellors have successfully rendered impotent our entire generation. Your “Employment Development Officer” isn’t working for “recognition” and “satisfaction”. He or she works for money. Think about it.
Step 3: Don’t Spend Like an Idiot
This one’s self-explanatory. The Baby Boomers had it easy on Steps #1 and #2, so they succeeded. But, unlike their parents, the Boomers – as a whole – flunked on #3. There’s a reason that most of their net worth is tied up in houses and they haven’t generated appreciable assets: they spent too damn much money. They may have a workplace pension so they won’t have to eat catfood. You, on the other hand, probably won’t enjoy Defined Benefit golden handcuffs.
The answer is simple: save money. Below are six rules. They don’t explain how to save money in every specific situation. That would take a book (are there any publishers out there who want to take a chance on “How to Not Be Money-Stupid” by Joe Wood??). In lieu of the book, here are the rules:
Rule #1: spend less than you make.
Rule #2: pay yourself first.
Rule #3: maximize the surplus of your revenue over expenses.
—Rule #3 (a): Structure your life intelligently to avoid high fixed costs.
—Rule #3 (b): budget carefully to avoid high variable costs.
Rule #4: maintain a modest lifestyle (even a student poverty-esque lifestyle, if necessary).
Rule #5: pay with cash or have the cash to pay it off.
Rule #6: maximize your tax-advantaged accounts every year. It never gets easier, only harder, so start now.
Conspicuous consumption is cool today. Your iPhone will be pretty lame when you’re in debt at age 50.
And that’s the 3-Step program. You didn’t even need to buy my book.