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Outlook Not Good For 20-Somethings

23 September 2011 24 Comments

Interestingly, the mainstream media is starting to pick up on a few trends that I’ve been talking about for years: namely that the 20-somethings coming out of college are going to be in big trouble. The reasons for this are:

1. College degrees are becoming not much more than a piece of paper that says you’re slightly better than someone who didn’t goto college.

In other words, they don’t mean as much as they used to.

Why? Because college has turned into so much more than education. Now obviously there are exceptions to everything I’m about to say, but…. college has turned into a 4 year vacation for millions of youngsters where they are to “find themselves.”

Whenever someone spends four years to find himself, it usually means he was lazy and sat round Starbucks talking about idealistic crap that is irrelevant.

Moreover, most people graduate from college without any real skills towards anything. Now, I wouldn’t be opposed to a sort of liberal arts education if the economy were roaring and individuals had my generation had a better work ethic, but both of those are not the case. Which brings me to my next point…

2. My generation isn’t self-reliant

How many college graduates do a half-ass attempt at finding employment during their last year of school, fail, and then just move home until someone pops up? A lot.

25% more young adults live at home now than before the current recession.

My parents as well as the parents of many of my peers came out of college with nothing. No money and nothing to fall back on. They went out and made a life for themselves.

Most people my age are unable to go do this. Maybe its a generational thing or maybe it is a result of the previous generation “pampering” us, but most 20-somethings are content to live at home and halfway search for employment, while halfway being content to not move on with life.

3. Debt levels are extraordinarily high

While the impact of the college degree has decreased, the debt levels required to finance that degree have increased. So, you have a piece of paper to hang on the wall and you live at home with mom and dad. Add to the mix $100,000 in student loans and you get a good idea of what millions of 20-somethings look like today.

Their work ethic and motivation is minimal, their debt service is high, and they really are incapable of doing much for an employer. Quite a combination.

What’s the point?

Why talk about this? Well, I mention it to hopefully wake a few people up. It’s time to get on with life and make something happen yourself. Stop waiting for someone else to do something for you.

Go get a couple jobs doing work that you don’t really want to do. Make some contacts. Find people who know people. Work your way in. Do more than the next guy. Make some money. Learn a skill.

Good luck.



  • Rick said:

    I have five children in their 20s. One in college and four graduated with either computer science or computer engineering. All are employed and earning good salaries. If you go to college, make sure you are earning a degree that employers want, and not some hobby job degree.

  • Daniel said:

    While college degrees are becoming not much more than a piece of paper I still believe they have thier value. Current unemployment figures can attest to this. While overall unemployment rages in the 10% area, unemployment for those with college degrees is at a more normal level of 3-4%. Good luck finding a job without a college degree. But of course if you start your own business or enter a vocation where degree not necesarily required like plumbing or electrician then you can be very successful without that degree.

  • AIS said:

    In response to Daniel, those with degrees who are finding jobs may not be finding them more easily as a result of holding degrees so much as having the organizational skills and motivation to actually land a job, now that they have such high debt to pay off!
    Another reason 20somethings are living at home is because, with the high cost of housing, they want to avoid wasting money on rent or incurring debt with a mortgage. My 20yo son, who had a 2-year internship in computer programming in lieu of a degree, is living at home for those reasons, even though he is gainfully employed. We are not charging him rent, because he is willingly doing chores, being responsible with his money, and saving for the future when he marries and buys a home with a good-sized down payment or cash. As long as he isn't living like a sponge, we are happy to give him a leg up. I am very proud of him :).

  • Jim said:

    And I bet you are not making him pay his share of the utilities, food or any other real life expenses. You are a prefect example of the author's point. You are coddling him and not allowing him to learn about real life. I hope he has at least offered to pay those expenses or you really have bequeathed him a serious entitlement mentality.

  • Bowmanave said:

    "some times"? That's an understatement.

  • IAmDebtProject said:

    I like the post and all the comments, it's definitely true. I'm late 20s and I feel like I only truly started to become an independent thinker after college, when I took it upon myself to learn about new stuff, acquire some relevant skills, and manage my life better. There are a lot of smart people in my life, and yet it seems like they are still quite "cookie cutter" as Andy said, entering medical and law school or getting MBAs. It's not that I don't value those achievements but it seems as if we have overvalued them and we have some pressing issues at hand that are not going to be solved by everyone becoming dentists. I have more thoughts on the more visible members of my generations, but I don't want to get off topic. Great post!

  • 20sfinances said:

    It's true that college degrees don't mean as much as they did years ago. A 4 year degree is becoming the standard and many people are graduating with lots of debt and no job prospects.

  • Daniel said:

    Many people are also getting that debt from degrees that really don't offer much in the way of future job prospects such as history, english, liberal arts. When considering a future college degree it would be of great value to consider what you'll actually be able to do with that degree upon graduation. Weigh your future earnings against the debt you will incur to get the degree to see if it's worth it. If not, then go into something with a brigther future. Plenty of industries hiring and paying well such as engineering, nursing, accounting, computer science.

  • John said:

    I would go as far to say, college education is not worth the money spent on it. I don't feel I gained any knowledge that is worth the amount of money spent. I went to school for Finance and out of college got a job at a software company. I am 3 years out of college and am doing something completely unrelated to my degree. The point I'm trying to make is, you don't need college to gain the skills you actually need for a job. With that said, without a college degree I would have never got the job, even though I feel I could do the job without anything I learned in college. In my opinion, 20 somethings are in a tight spot where many employers won't even interview you without a college degree, but the college degree you have is not worth the money. There is nothing "higher" about the education I got from college compared to public high school. I feel there is no reason why college costs so much and public school is free. I feel like public high school could be just as challenging and the teachers could be just as smart as professors.

  • Shan said:

    I agree with just about everything you said. You do the time and pay the money for that piece of paper, and the only purpose it really serves is to get you into the interview room. I don't completely agree with your last sentence, but it could be true with respect to liberal arts fields.

  • MavEryck said:

    Let me get this straight…

    1. "I would go as far to say, college education is not worth the money spent on it."

    2. "With that said, without a college degree I would have never got the job, even though I feel I could do the job without anything I learned in college."

    3. "In my opinion, 20 somethings are in a tight spot where many employers won't even interview you without a college degree, but the college degree you have is not worth the money."

    So, if employers won't interview you without a degree and you would not have landed the job without the degree… then the degree is definitely worth the money!

    Because not getting the interview and not getting a job, is far more costly in lost revenue that you would not generate.

    I would choose being gainfully employed, in a field outside of my degree, rather than unemployed…any day!

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  • Ron said:

    I believe part of your story is correct but you are forgetting 10 years ago you could go to almost any school for cheap. I do agree that a lot of student go to college to 'find themselves' and come out with some useless degree after spending 100k. I live in the Northeast where everything in the last 10 years has become exponentially expense and our salaries haven't kept pace. The cost to buy a house has doubled, the cost to rent is outrageous, and the cost of our school is out of control (cost of school has gone up 400% in the last 25 years–yes more than housing!).

  • john @ Investments said:

    Its funny, every older generation states the same thing about the younger generation. Over reliance, Lazy, No Drive….. yada yada yada….. Its funny the human emotional nature about younger generations. As far as college is concerned, an education is the greatest gift. Regardless if it makes you a millionaire, everyone should strive for knowledge. Does the cost suck…. Oh yes!

  • Jordan said:

    It's funny to take a look at the current state of our economy and see how wonderful it is… oh wait… it's not! It's funny how humans tend to always take the path of least resistance, even if it's to their detriment, and then try to rationalize it. The first step is awareness:

    Stop enabling mediocrity!

    "Knowledge" intrinsically costs nothing. There is NO reason to sink yourself in debt without a PLAN to pay it ALL back. To do so is simply being irresponsible.

    Oh an I'm currently a 20-something – complaining about MY OWN generation.

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  • Daniel said:

    I am not sure you know the right 20 somethings. The 20 somethings I know, my friends from college, are all gainfully employed, earning thier way and paying thier own expenses. I don't know any who are mooching off thier parents. Not all 20 somethings are as you describe.

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  • Eric said:

    It is human nature to be lazy. We are always looking for an easier (aka more efficient) way to do things. It is not that the generation of 20 somethings is lazy, we just have so much technology that our lives are easier than ever before. Our lives were already preplanned by our parents before we even started school. It was been engraved in us we need to go to college, get a job right after graduation, buy a home and save until retirement. That's what I was always taught. But, the problem is 20 somethings are faced with completely different problems that our parents never came across. Their problems were solved by their advice, and some day we'll give advice to our kids about what we did and it may be irrelevant to them. Maybe taking time off to "find yourself" isn't the worst idea.

  • Ashwani Roy said:

    Love the article though I totally disagree with the point no 1 and to some degree with point no 2. It is important to have the rubber stamp from a good college if you want anything more than checkout clerk at one of the supermarkets and no2 sounds better when talked in context of US and UK and etc.. Indian and Chinese students dont have cushion from their parents as much as their western counterparts .
    I live the summary a lot.

  • Cherry said:

    Going to college is always going to better than to not go, as long as you're in a field that is in high demand. Even then some do still struggle to get out of debt. Which was my case, I ended up with a huge debt… and in a completely different field.

  • MavEryck said:

    Here are my simple rules for success…

    (1) find yourself in high school

    (2) apply yourself in college

    (3) be true to yourself in all that you do.