Time to Go, Ready or Not

It's time for you, the readers, to weigh in. Are you about to enter the adult world head-first? What are your fears and hopes? And if you're someone who's been through it all -- what's your story? Do you have any advice for those looking forward to what will probably be the biggest changes of their lives?

We're waiting for your input! Click here to join the conversation.

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By Bob Greiner |  April 6, 2006; 2:09 PM ET  | Category:  Jumping In
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The author of this column got this right when she wrote "Some older adults scoff at this, saying a coddled generation just needs to suck it up and quit whining."

I recently turned 34, got through my 20s in one piece in the military, college, initial job (I'm in the beltway bandit industry), marriage, and kid by 30 without so much as a finger lifted from mommy and daddy. "Making it" takes patience *gasp* (what a concept), persistence, a humble attitude that you don't know everything, some sort of work ethic, and a realization that real life in the workplace and home is very much not what is reflected on television.

Thank God the people of the 1700's didn't have half the attitude as the generation of folks represented in this article. There might not have been a country where folks are so coddled as they are in the 21st century. Waaaa, waaaa, waaaa. I'm embarrassed for all of us. Sheesh, to think this story got spotlighted on the webpage...

Posted by: One Federalist | April 7, 2006 10:49 AM

Dear One Federalist,
Congratulations on getting to 34 without the help of your parents. Did you pay off your $30,000 loans yet? What about your $7,000 in credit cards you used to pay tuition? What about the $800/month room you're renting plus $200 in utilities a month and additional $100/month for food? Let's see, add in another $500/month for misc. bills (phone, car, insurance, transportation, etc) on a $2,000 a month salary. oh wait, that's not your reality...THAT'S MINE!

Guess what: the cost of living is higher than 10 years ago, salaries are about the same. Loans have skyrocketed while grants have gone the opposite direction. You know what that equals? Being forced to move back in with mom and dad so that you can at least stay afloat for the time being. It's not fun for either side but that's what's going on.

Unless you want to run for President and change the loans to grants and bring my non-profit salary up a little, stop acting like we're a bunch of little twerps who don't work. We are hard-working and idealistic and want to help others. We accept that we're at the bottom of the food chain but don't necessarily feel forced to stay there. I could go on but my lunch break is almost over and i have to GET BACK TO WORK.

Posted by: twenty-something | April 7, 2006 12:32 PM

Just one quick note: in the article, it seemed to imply that growing up somehow had to include buying a house and having kids. Some of us are "grown up" but still have very social fun lives. We don't all have to worry about having kids and buying houses. Leave that to the wealthy who can actually afford a house and a life.

Posted by: MC | April 7, 2006 01:01 PM

I'm glad to hear you made it to 34 and accomplished all your goals. For some of us our goals are a little more complicated. For example I, too have a lot of debt. I come from a hard working blue collar family and had to work throughout college. I have to try to enter a career where its almost impossible to get hired because the veterans that are coming home get preference (which I don't disagree with). Most likely I will work as a waiter for a couple years paying off debt, while at the same time trying to save money for a house. All this while having some type of social life besides.

Posted by: soon to graduate | April 7, 2006 01:43 PM

I'm 24, graduated from college in December 2004 and went to work right away. Didn't make jack (still don't), lived at home with mom and dad till I was able to afford a place of my own AND I am proud of it all gosh darnit. The thing with "getting started" and "getting out there" is that everyone else has done it before you so what right do I have to complain? None. You have to just suck it up and go to work . . . like everyone else.

Posted by: graduated and working, but not complaining | April 7, 2006 01:49 PM

The article interviewed three seniors that were graduating to starting salaries of $90,000 and $62,000. Another student was doing Teach for America so she could put off loans for two years. Does this really give a realistic picture of what the life of new graduates is like?

After working three jobs to get through school (still $25,000 in debt) and finally graduating with honors, I am barely making enough to pay my rent and loans. I am working as a temp and hoping to get a starting job anywhere in my field. I'll be happy if I can make $30,000 starting out.

I'm not alone. Most of my friends excelled academically in college, but are struggling to find employment. A year ago, my roommate could have been the girl mentioned in the story that was trying to get into Teach for America. She didn't get in and is now a nanny now while trying to save enough to go to grad school. Some have moved home to save money while they look for jobs or take internships or low-paying jobs in hopes that they will lead to something better. They don't make enough to pay $600/month to rent a room (not an apartment, a room in a share house), plus $100 utilities, plus $100 month in metro fees or gas, plus their $300 a month student loan payments and whatever the minimum is on their credit cards. Add in there food and new work cloths (since the jeans-and-flipflop college combo doesn't work anymore). Don't forget that you need to have the security deposit saved up and enough to at least minimally furnish wherever you will be living.

I'm getting tired of hearing about how my generation is always sponging off our parents. A college degree no longer guarantees a good job, or a job at all. A lot of us are out there struggling to make it, most of us on our own, without the help of Mom and Dad. We stand at copiers looking bored, take bagged lunches every day, and contemplate taking on the daunting debt of grad school. I don't look down on others who receive help from their parents. It is hard enough getting started without a bunch of people judging you for doing what you have to survive.

Posted by: Graduate of 2005 | April 7, 2006 02:51 PM

Actually, I'm well aware of the high cost of living in this area and I have yet to realize all my goals (if there is such a thing as accomplishing all of one's goals being that everyone's goals are more nuanced then can be identified in a quick blog). I've lived here since my mid-20's and, frankly, the cost of living really hasn't changed that much over 10 years as stated. To get slightly personal, I'm married with a kid choosing to live on a single income (so the kid doesn't have to go to a local "child farm") below $60K and am paying back both my $30K and my wife's $20K school loan back while renting a town home in the NOVA area. I also worked non-profit at one point, lived on $20K while living with 3 roommates, and had all the other pithy worries (relative to the worries I have now) that are implied. I lived frugally and dealt so I didn't have to get in any more debt then I was already in. Having a family, as you may find out someday, seems to lessen the ability to do that though, so now I have a little credit debt.

Thing about it is, life's tough in some respects with living in a high cost area (with all it's pleasant parks, hiking/bike trails, cultural activities, well paved roads...albeit crowded... social opportunities, education institutions, and the rest of it), but you can work to make it happen in this area of the country if you choose wisely and accept the fact that you can't have all the "things" you want (e.g., $2000 laptop, iPod, pimped out mobile, decked out apartment akin to the TV show "Friends", etc) and still maintain a healthy checkbook in this area.

You want low cost of living? There are plenty of towns in the Kansas (http://www.kansasfreeland.com/) that are looking for citizens!

Point is you live with your choices....and there's a ton of choices in this country.

For some, that may be too tough to grasp. For others, you just deal with it and work with what life throws at you via your choices the best you can. I like to think I chose the latter some days better then others. I just never thought about whining about it to some journalist.

Frankly, "graduated and working" has the right attitude. I'm not attacking a temporary pit-stop at mom & dad's to get on one's feet, I'm addressing the overall "oh whoa is me" angst attitude evident in the article. The whole notion of "having it all" by the time you're 30 is just an added dimension that pours salt on wounds for twenty-something's. It's fed by television, kids born with silver spoons in their mouths, and an entitlement attitude that tilts the scale in this part of the country.

I can't help that I tweaked some nerves over this reality by expressing my opinion, but there you have it.

Posted by: One Federalist | April 7, 2006 02:58 PM

As a 21 year-old full-time student and full-time employee, I can say that if you just get your tail out of bed in the morning and work hard, you'll find yourself to be in a position of self-sufficiency, no matter if you don't know what you want or should be doing.

I don't know exactly what I'm going to be doing when I graduate next year, but I know I'll be working, still living in my own place and not relying on anyone else to take care of me. (On a side note: I'm making more money than my parents.)

Posted by: Anonymous in MD | April 7, 2006 03:04 PM

One Federalist:

I don't think these kids are any different from the last group (our generation) You'll always have the whiners, the oh-whoa-is-me'ers and the ones who actually do something. I knew all of these types when I left school (about the same time you did).

Also, getting an almost 6-figure job right out of college!? I would have passed out if someone offered me half that amount right off the bat. Then again - I was an English major. ;)

Posted by: Danielle fr. Gmail | April 7, 2006 03:15 PM


You're right, of course. Ticked me off to see it then, ticks me off to see it now. :)

Also, I can relate. I was an English Major too!

Six figures out of college! No justice I tell you...no justice! ;-)

Posted by: One Federalist | April 7, 2006 03:31 PM

How to live on 2500 a month

Rent 750
Food 250
Transportation car loan/gas 400
Clothing 150
Utilities 150
Debt Credit and Student Loans 500
Leftover $300 or 10 bucks a day

Starting out sucks pay down your debts and start saving as soon as you can. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Posted by: | April 7, 2006 04:59 PM

I am reading the comments with great interest as a baby boomer with no kids. I really do have a historical perspective on this whole situation - I think multi-generational families are going to be one strategy for, really, survival, in the future. I lived as a rather poor student for many years, and I don't have many fond memories of it. Plus, the difference in lifestyle from my parents (who were not wealthy) and me was much less than it would be nowdays. There was no cable television, no internet connection, no cellular phone. That said, I lived for many years with roomates I didn't like, without travel, and with constant budgetary vigilance. It can be done.

The Bush administration has put the US economy on a course that will leave most people poor. Energy costs will continue their relentless rise. Young people need to look at these realities and base decisions on them. Living at home may be a necessity - but if you do live at home, do it as an adult, not a child. Insist on paying some rent. Whatever you cannot pay at market rates, make it up with housework of various sorts. Prepare dinner several nights a week. Clean the house. Mow the lawn. Run your siblings to appointments. These things will remove tremendous financial and time pressures from your parents (my peers, who seem to never have any time or money because of their having children). And they will mark young people living at home as adults.

It's one strategy - the multi-family economic unit - for beating the burgeoning bad times. There are others - but I note, with some amusement, I'm not advocating my own, which was to learn how to be poor. Been there, done that, and happy to be out of it. Though I am preparing myself, mentally, as well, for what the economic challenges will bring.

Do not expect the world you grew up with to continue.

Posted by: NJ | April 8, 2006 06:56 AM

I went to straight to library/grad school from undergrad. (Different schools though) Since my dad had been saving for college since I was little, there was enough money left to pay for grad school. (I'm an only child)
I'm attending library/grad school full time and will finish my program in December.
I can't say I'm nervous about getting out there. As long I can stay on the east coast, I'm willing to relocate.

Posted by: Elisa | April 9, 2006 12:00 PM

Here's my story: I put all my energy into getting into grad school this year. I spent most of this academic year visiting schools all over the country, sending out applications, editing statements of intent, editing my portfolio only to find out a few weeks ago I was rejected by everyone. To add insult to injury, my major and most of my internships are pretty much unrelated to what I ultimately want to do.

So right now I'm scrambling. I'm looking for jobs, looking for housing, sending my resume out to any and every company and position I'm at least somewhat qualified for and trying to determine if I can get into grad school or at least a certificate program by fall 2007.

The LAST thing I want to do is move back with my parents. I know technically there's no shame in that but for me, I would feel like an absolute failure if I went that route.

But seeing as I have no job prospects, no housing prospects with a month before graduation, it looks like I'll have to do exactly that.

Needless to say, I'm sufficiently freaked out right now. I never wanted to be one of those people who graduate and then flounder but it looks like that's what will happen.

Posted by: Graduating Senior | April 9, 2006 02:07 PM

I am a reporter here at The Washington Post. I was just reading over the blog at home over the weekend, and the most recent post struck me, from the student close to graduation who got rejected from grad schools. I can totally sympathize with how you feel right now, and I have a suggestion -- See if you can find a summer internship related to the field you want to get into. (You said you'd done internships in your major, but not in what you want to do now.) You never know, that may lead to a permanent job, or at least to another internship for the fall in your choice field.

In short, I'm saying that all is not lost because you didn't get into grad school. And it's not a horrible thing to live with your parents while you do your internship -- in fact, it might even be wise. I did two internships after graduation, and the second one -- here at the Post -- led to the permanent, full-time job I have now. So it can happen. Good luck!

Posted by: January Payne | April 9, 2006 02:26 PM

Thanks Ms. Payne (you are a Ms., right?) for your comment. I really appreciate your suggestion and encouragement. Hopefully everything will work out for the best.

Posted by: Graduating Senior | April 9, 2006 10:02 PM

No problem. And yes, I'm a "Ms." I know, it's hard to tell by my name. Good luck!

Posted by: January Payne | April 10, 2006 10:26 AM

I actually am 29 working in the computer engineering industry(my major). When I graduated college (5 years ago) I walked into a job making about $60k and and now I am in the mid 80s. I owe this all to my mother truthfully speaking, who told me a long time ago that the world is basically a competitive battlefield and life is not about doing what makes one "happy" or "glad" or whatever. She said that students getting sociology, anthropology, political science, and etc degress were foolish because despite those students paying the same amount for their education as I was they would graduate into a world that valued their education drastically different from that of mine. When I would point out that those students did not major in the "harder" science degress because they didn't like those subjects she would ask me if I thought that those students would "like" to eat regularly, or whether they would "like" to live a comfortable life. Basically it came down to the question of whether or not you wanted to pick a profession that didn't necessarily make your heart swoon but would enable you to live your life in a reasonably comfortable manner. Of course there are no guarantees in life but it's kinda like driving with you eyes closed - no, it's not guaranteed that you will crash but it's very likely so you take precautions like wearing your seatbelt or opening your eyes.
I say this despite the fact that I am sympathetic to my fellow post-college brothers and sisters. It seems that the world we graduated into is not the world that we grew up believeing would be waiting for us if we did good in school, brushed our teeth before bed, and ate our vegetables. That is...*sigh*...understandable but what I dislike is attitudes like One Fedaralist's in which people who have done what they were supposed to do, don't get what they are supposed to and aren't even supposed to say anything about it. You shouldn't whine though, you should yell and scream at your senators and state representatives because there seems to be this massive "re-allocation" (read: theivery) of public resources and monies. The government is shrinking the budget for federally assisted student aid but is raising the defense budget to build micro-nuclear weapons? The government is telling us in SOOOO many ways that they would rather have a legion of bizarrely-styled weapons than have a legion of debt-free college-educated citizens. You all should be pissed-off. Don't believe for a second that this just "happened", and if it did just "happen", why is it only seeming to "happen" to you and people like you? If you are an American and have done what you were supposed to do, where is your piece of America? Don't accept any voter-appointed representative trying to feed you a bunch of economic double-talk and business babble about why you are struggling because they don't seem to be struggling.

( Either that or I need to eat less candy )

Posted by: A Irritated Citizen | April 10, 2006 03:47 PM

I graduated in the spring of '05 and am currently living abroad as a fellow in a well-known international grant program. I have to find a job for when I return stateside come this fall and my panic is steadily increasing.

I'm not whining, I know what I need to do, but I have this feeling of uneasiness that won't go away...I don't know where I'll be in 6 months (neither job nor city). I know the general field I am interested in, but I'm not really sure which direction to take. I know I'll need to go to grad school but I'm not sure what type of program is best. I recently ended a long, serious relationship and am feeling pretty up the air about dating. I don't know what jobs I am qualified for, but I hope to find one where I can at least afford rent and food. I worry about moving forward in my career path rather than stepping back. Really, I am uncertain about everything. I am trying to figure it out, but it's a daunting process.

It doesn't seem like many upcoming/recent grads are even using this blog to post about their concerns. I don't see it as complaining- we have legitimate concerns. I am confident that my generation will figure it out. But maybe, just maybe, older people can give us some advice rather than attacking us. Maybe we just need some reassurance that millions of people have been in this same place and figured it out.

In the meantime, back to the cover letters...

Posted by: looking for a job from korea | April 11, 2006 08:25 AM

I am a 22 year old actress, about to graduate in two weeks with a liberal arts degree in theatre and history, and I can safely say that while many of my comrades might be lucky enough to have connections prepaid for them by their parents, I do not enjoy that luxury. And until three weeks ago, I was in an absolute panic about it.

A college degree means next to nothing now - when my parents were my age (back in the early seventies), a college grad could expect a larger salary than their non-degreed peers, and often started out ahead in the job search game due to that fact alone. Today, you can't even hope to get a job that pays more than $7 an hour, much less a salaried position, if you don't have at least an undergrad degree.

That said - I am finding myself obligated to move back home. My course load this year left me with no time for a job, and a whole lot of medical bills to pay, not to mention books, gasoline (the cost of which only became more dear), food, and various and sundry other living expenses that go along with day to day life. All these costs mounted, and now I not only have to go back home, and sponge off of my parents until I make some money, but I also owe them several grand in cash. As an actress, they don't really expect me to pay them back any time soon, but my own guilt has figured heavily into this. So my plan is to make enough money to move to the UK to work for six months.

That's right - in order for me to actually make enough money to afford the suburban working lifestyle, and pay back my parents, and hopefully save enough to move out when I get back, I have to move to another country. If people want to mock the grads who are complaining about money, fine, but until you can get me a job, near where I actually can afford to live so I can afford the gas, that pays as well as my father's job that he's been at for 25 years, because that only barely covers the bills for our family of four with one graduating senior in college, and one freshman just finishing up her first year, you really ought to look into just what you're scorning.

Posted by: Postponing the inevitable | April 24, 2006 04:13 AM

I graduated in 1994 with a Liberal Arts degree and a moderate amount of loans (around 25K). I had a TOUGH time finding a decent job and spent three years post-graduation underemployed. These experiences insipired me to write a blog where I deal with my demons and dish out advice to fellow Liberal Arts graduates.

Fast forward to 2006 and I am doing fine. I learned many things along the way on how I got from point A to point B but for people like One Federalist who tell people to just shut up and quit whining, please have a bit of compassion man! For many young grads, especially Liberal Arts graduates, the world is not so welcoming of their educational background. It will take some time and effort for these grads to hit their stride. Give them some practical advice they can use instead of just telling them to shut up and belittling them.

My message to Liberal Arts graduates -- it does get easier at some point. But you will need to hustle and be practical and realistic about your choices in the job market given your background. Visit my blog (http://liberalartsgrad.blogspot.com/) for more specific advice

Posted by: Liberal Arts Dude | April 27, 2006 09:22 PM

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