Adulting – It’s Hard To Do
Still, millennials took to the work force just as unforeseen economic and social forces changed the landscape. The collapse of big banks in 2008 and the ensuing fallout made it difficult for millions of millennials to secure financial independence, a key aspect of adulting. In addition to this new economic reality, millennials turned to higher education as a way out – the number of people who went to college spiked 53 percent since 1970 – and saddled themselves with student loan debt. The uptick in college and debt, in turn, diluted the job market, making it even more difficult to land a good job. James Cote, a sociologist at the University of Western Ontario and author of Generation On Hold and Arrested Adulthood sees how this economic climate made it tough for millennial job seekers. “You need a college degree now just to be where blue-collar people the same age were 20 or 30 years ago, and if you don’t have it, then you’re way behind.” This shift may explain the disconnect between a frustrated baby boomer parent and their college graduate child who just moved back home.
Many social changes have pushed the process of adulting further out as well. According to Pew Research, the average American baby boomer married at 21 years of age for women and 23 years of age for men. Today, millennials are putting off marriage till later – the averages are 27 for women and 29 for men. With such an influential and important touchstone of life saved for late twenties, other key mile markers – buying a home, advancements in career, having kids, saving for retirement – are put off until their thirties. In effect, the major life experiences baby boomers achieved in their twenties are coming to fruition for millennials in their thirties.
The challenges are great, regardless if you are a millennial struggling with a substance abuse or mental health disorder, or the tough economic realities. However, millennials are adulting in new and exciting ways. For starters, they are ditching suburbs and white picket fences for urban life. In a recent Time Magazine article, demographic shifts show “a surge in urban apartment building. The 25- to 34-year-old age group is focused on living near their peers…want to be socially engaged and live near work…[and] reduce their automobile use.” As much as 80 percent of Americans now live in urban settings and the millennial generation comprises the most ethnically diverse adult cohort in U.S. history. And despite a sizable portion of the 80 million strong millennials who “boomerang-ed” back home after college, there are opportunities to make the most of it.
In Kelly Williams Brown’s book Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, the millennial author gives sage advice to the “twentysomething” ready to make the jump from mom and dad’s couch. “Sometimes it’s difficult for parents to see adult children as adults if they’re not doing the things [the parents] value as adults,” writes Brown. The key is to adjust behaviors to be in line with parent (and coincidentally adult) values. So for starters, avoid taking money from your parents on a regular basis, demonstrate usefulness around the house, take responsibility for your actions, and as Brown explains, “[be] graceful in your interactions, graceful in your interpretations, expecting the best, and assuming there’s no malice in what people [i.e. parents] are doing to you.”