If you were born between 1982 and 200o, you’re unlucky.
You may have already won the lottery, found a four-leaf clover and took home a new car like a lunatic on “The Price is Right.”
Doesn’t matter. Still unlucky.
In a recent piece for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson calls Millennials the ‘Unluckiest Generation.’ He says the economy, job market and student debt have all combined to make our lives historically tough.
The one upside to being so unlucky? We have plenty of tried-and-true wisdom to pass along.
When our children are old enough to understand, here’s what we, as a generation, are going to tell them:
1. Avoid student loans like the plague
Years later, my generation is still dealing with a mountain of student debt. If necessary, take a job to help pay for school or start out at a less expensive community college.
Oh, and apply for every grant and scholarship you can get your hands on. Yep, even the obscure ones like the Jif Most Creative Sandwich Contest, Wear Duck Tape to Prom Scholarship and American Fire Sprinkler Association Scholarship Program.
They all add up.
2. If a good job/internship comes along, take it
When I was your age, millions of well-paying jobs went overseas, and Americans had to fight and scrap for whatever was left.
In my twenties, I shouldn’t have been so picky. What I really needed was experience, experience, experience.
If a door opens, walk through it. You’ll find your true passion soon enough, but in the meantime be thankful you have a steady 9-to-5. They aren’t guaranteed.
3. Learn a second language
I mean really learn it. Not the typical four years in high school and then you’re done. Commit to being fluent in another tongue, particularly one that matters on the world stage.
Twenty-five years ago, you could manage just fine if you only spoke English. Now, you’re at a huge disadvantage. I wish I had picked up Mandarin or Spanish when I had a little more hair on my head. Those languages matter today more than ever.
4. Treat your credit score like a priceless work of art
In my twenties, I played it fast and loose with credit cards. Before long, I was in debt up to my eyeballs and had a financial history no one wanted to touch.
Bad credit impacts so many future purchases. It even made it tough for your mom and me to get our first house. My advice to you: spend only what you can afford, pay bills on time and have an almost religious devotion to maintaining your credit score.
5. Major in a field that’s in demand
I know I sound like a broken record but…when I was your age, I majored in philosophy when I should have focused on something more marketable like business, math or science. Understand what the economy needs and tailor your education to be the right person for the job. And don’t forget to dress nicely for the interview.
Geez, I sound like my father…
6. You must save for retirement
Your grandparents completely exhausted Social Security and bequeathed my generation, the Millennials, zilch for retirement. You know what that leaves you?
Well, what’s less than nothing? That’s what you’re going to get.
Take a little out of every paycheck now to ensure you have money down the road.
7. Don’t hide out in graduate school
If you need the advanced degree, we stand behind you. If you’re avoiding the real world, then please accept a gentle nudge into the unknown.
Just keep your eyes open because life itself is a master’s degree. And the School of Hard Knocks never requires tuition.
8. You don’t know how lucky you are
I remember when gas was only $4 a gallon, a song on iTunes was $.99 and we actually wrote things with pen and paper. Times have really changed since I was in your shoes. But in many ways, they’re still the same.
Like my generation, if you take advantage of every opportunity and save money when you can, you will set yourself up for a happy life. No one controls the future, but we can certainly prepare for it.
Now, can you please turn down that god-awful music?
Kids these days…
What will you tell your kids one day?
Feature photo from Sergio Vassio Photography (Flickr)