Is Generation Y wasting their time, going to college and occupying Wall Street?
This was previously published on Student Loan CPA.
From a Generation Y finance/career perspective, Occupy Wall Street is objectively definable as what happens when the smartest people in the world let someone else think for them. What I am about to tell you can change your life if you open up your mind to it; it has definitely changed mine.
[FYI this is not a political article, so please don’t engage me on that level.]
Some research says we are dumb.
To put it simply and politely, the world changed right under our noses. To be blunt, the smartest people on the planet completely missed the most dramatic changes the world has seen in centuries. Look it up, and you’ll find that every generation is smarter than the previous—this is a fact. Each succeeding generation has access to more knowledge and technology, and faces more global competition because talent is more mobile. Generation Y is supposed to be really smart because of the internet; we have access to so much more information, but clearly we spend almost all of it on bloggers like Perez Hilton and Nik Richie.
Mostly, we let our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, professors, etc direct us into career and educational choices that worked great 20-40 years ago. They either tell us what [in retrospect] worked for the most successful peers they have (usually “go to college”), or they tell us what they wish they did (usually “go to college”). It never dawns on us that college might not be good for us individually if everybody is doing it!
Even today we get statistics about how people who went to college make more over a lifetime than those who didn’t—but we never ask who was surveyed to reach that conclusion. How many people under 30? Probably none because they’d have to use people who have worked for a long period already. What decisions did those people make after college? We seem to think that by age 22, the most important driver of lifetime income has taken place … how smart does that sound now?
Salary is one thing, but what about standard of living? Did they factor in student loans? Probably not. Thirty years ago, college was dirt cheap and today’s “low-wage” labor jobs paid enough for people to be self-supporting without working more than part-time. This is no longer true, of course. Thirty years ago, most middle class families could pay out of pocket for their children’s education … not anymore. The house we thought was a mansion turns out to have been built on a wobbly, rotten foundation. Education is no longer the magic bullet … I use college as an example, because even President Obama talks about a college education like the pill that cures all financial ills … which it no longer is.
Yes, the same generation that grew up “Googling” things, doesn’t realize that the mere ability to spew back facts (that are Google-able) can’t possibly be worth much money. The kids that have email [pen, Youtube, FB] pals from all over the world who proficiently read and write the same language as they (usually English) failed to realize that global outsourcing to regions of cheaper labor is inevitable.
The generation of instant messaging and video conferencing never realized that even doctors (stereotypically well paid) can serve patients across borders with the same technology. In fact today, companies like GE (don’t quote me on this one) are working on technologies that will allow doctors to serve remote regions. In my opinion, these same technologies will be used so that highly qualified doctors in regions of lower medical cost like Europe & Asia can remotely serve us. Do you need any more examples? The most “informed” generation in the world continues to close its eyes to the continuous devaluation of the college degree. Maybe we are just dumb?
I sympathize with all Generation Y Occupiers because I suffer similarly. I recognize that many entities (governmental, educational institutions etc) played a part in the state of the global economy, but it doesn’t matter because they also do in good times. The lesson here is that in a capitalist society,we are responsible for looking out for ourselves both in an unchanging environment, and in a changing environment. We should therefore protect our long-term financial interests early by planning with the future in mind. A good place to start is to ignore our parents and their peers, whose success occurred in the past. If nobody had ever given you anecdotal evidence about the income or social status of certain careers or colleges, what choices would you have made based on today’s economy? Don’t you wish you had spent more time reading articles like this one, and less time on Facebook and Youtube? I do.
It is therefore my opinion that Generation Y Occupiers are people who lacked (or ignored) relevant, competitive financial/career information. Someone told them that if they did ABC they would get XYZ, but that information was severely outdated. Most of us desperately rely on our careers as a source of income, and our education as a primer for that. Let’s open our eyes before it’s too late.
Now that you know, what will you do about your situation? What are your own thoughts?
Images courtesy of the author