WBUR

Generation Stuck

WBUR is looking for young people for a radio/web series we’re creating to illustrate the realities of life as a 20-something in the wake of the most sustained economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Are you between the ages of 23-29 and feel you’re not where you’re supposed to be in life? Perhaps you’ve found that the “American Dream” is drastically different than what you expected. WBUR is looking for young people for a radio/Web series to illustrate the realities of life as a 20-something in the wake of the most sustained economic downturn since the Great Depression. Post your story in the comment section below or send an email to stuck@wbur.org, and we’ll be in touch. Thanks!

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • Elizabeth Martel

    I know I am one of the rare. After graduating from college, it took me nearly 7 months, but I found a good job related to my field of study, and willing to pay me appropriately for my work. In that, I am immensely lucky. 

    However, I am stuck in the arena of those who are so buried in college debt that the idea of moving forward in life seems laughable. I don’t have the ability to save for the things that typically show forward momentum, such as my own home. I cover my loans, I buy myself food, I pay for a car and insurance, I had to negotiate with my employer about the coverage of my health insurance, I attempt to contribute what little I can spare to a 401K, and I pay half the rent on an apartment I share. After that I have very little left over. I will have these burdensome school loans for the next 20 years of my life and credit report.

    I’m one of the lucky ones.

  • Sarah Merriman

    I have no excuse to be disillusioned, not yet. I’m only a few months of college, and I intentionally slowed my job search in order to help out at home for a few months. But, after applying for over 80 jobs since January, including jobs that are way below my skill set, as well as at non profits where every single person knows and likes me, and still not being given ONE offer…I’m starting to feel exhaustion creeping in. 
    Maybe my problem is that I am trying to work in a non profit, which, though often lower paid with fewer benefits and higher burn out rate, are more competitive than almost any other industry. It doesn’t feel like I should be killing myself to help other people, but if I want to get paid for it, I have to. What’s worse is the feeling that I am competing with people just like me, who also want to help people. My community-oriented heart tells me to ally with them, but my student loans and my rent demand that I do what I can to “win”. 
    $24,000 a year, a 70 hour work week, and terrible benefits doesn’t feel like winning. 
    I’m in no way complaining. My mom is ready to pay for graduate school when I am ready to go, but I had wanted to try my hand at the “real world” for a year before I dove into whichever degree. It doesn’t help that you better have specialized in whatever you wanted to do starting freshman year of college, because every “entry level” position wants at least 3 years of experience. They’ll make you jump through every hoop to get it, including stellar references, a special interest in the issue, knowledge of their databases and software, and up to 4 separate interviews. Yes, I’ve gone through processes that included 4 interviews. There is no such thing as giving someone a chance anymore.

    I shouldn’t be disillusioned. I have friends, love, a roof over my head, I’m so fortunate, so blessed. It’s just hard not to take it personally when who you are, at least in the one page limit of a resume, is constantly thrown out. Maybe this generation has to be the one to reinvent the definition of success-maybe the answer is in entrepreneurship, technology, invention. 

    And, soon, maybe even I will be gainfully employed and have the energy to dream bigger than next month. 

  • epynephrin

    I still don’t know what I want to do when (if) I grow up. Sure, I’m an adult with a (more than) full-time salaried job; I have benefits, and am beyond fortunate to have only a little debt. The job also keeps me in the lifestyle to which I am accustomed: a car, an apartment, a social life and a loving–albeit demanding–family. 

    So, when I tell people I don’t actually like my job, and they point out the various things I have going for me, I always get a little annoyed. Frustrated because I feel like I should be happier, and frustrated because I know there is someone out there who would kill to have the job I have. Someone who would be willing to put in the 50-60 hour weeks, and even not mind that they get paid for only 40. Someone who is honestly better qualified, despite management’s assertion that my “non-traditional background” is an asset. Someone who thrives in the high-pressure, fast-paced world, rather than survives. Someone who would view the job as a career goal, and not as some needy child I am stuck babysitting.

    I pay my bills, I have a title that sounds all respectable, and by all accounts I am a functional member of society. Still I yearn for my minimum wage job at a bookstore; I wasn’t paying my bills, but I actually enjoyed going to work. 

    Yet, every time I shout “this is the last straw, HQ! I won’t play your game anymore,” to an empty chair, every time I swear I’m going to start looking for a new job, I don’t. Part of it is fear of finding there’s nothing out there (“It’s a tough job market” is the new cliche, right?), part of it is fear of failing and being stuck where I am. Part of it may even be a lack of desire to take responsibility for my own destiny. 

    In the end, I think it’s mostly because–even though the needle shifts a little from “don’t like” to “hate” each day–I still don’t know what I’m looking for; I still don’t know what I want to do if (when) I grow up.

  • Lydia R.

    I am twenty four and have been met with relatively good fortune. I work three part time jobs with two of them pertaining to what I actually went to school for and volunteer at a local high school. However, with the debt I owe from school, I still have to live with my single mother who pays for my food, car insurance, health insurance, and utilities. I know I have been putting a strain on her as I try to progress to a self-sufficient level. I also have a lot of friends in the same predicament, that’s how I know that I am fortunate to have the opportunities I do. They work only one part time job and are struggling to make their way into their field of study, some of my other friends are actually going back to school in the hopes that when they get back out, the economy will be better and they will be more desirable with a Masters.

    My sister is twenty seven, and although she doesn’t live at home nor has ever had to pay the loans I do, she struggles week to week in a hellish job that she is drastically over-qualified in.

    Overall, I do feel like a generation overlooked. I was one of the many people who protested the raise in student loan rates (the one victory we have had), but my mother, like many of my friends’ parents, are of the baby-boomer generation where their is concern over retirement and I’m concerned that I will be unable to support her.

  • Annie

    I am 29 and therefore on the tail end of this age group. I’ve spent most of my 20s in school. I went into a graduate program directly after undergrad with the intention of going all the way to the PhD but became burned out. After three years I moved back home and spent 18 months looking for a job while I helped my widowed mother fix up and sell her house. Although I eventually found a satisfying but low-paying job at a public library, I decided to go to library school because my previous graduate degree had clearly not prepared me for anything useful. I’m almost finished with my MLIS and I work two part time jobs in a library and make a little under $20k. I’m able to afford an apartment but only by combining my income with my significant other, who just recently managed to secure an entry level job in her field, two years after finishing her undergraduate degree. I feel like things are improving for me a lot, but I am still angry and frustrated that I work as hard as I do and get no benefits, and I’m not sure when I will be able to get any. Right now I’m struggling with the fact that I need to get my wisdom teeth removed and this will mean I’ll have to take some unpaid time out of work. It seems like an amazing and unachievable fantasy to have sick time.

  • Tanya

    Hm, my husband and I are not where we want to be in life but it has little to do with the economic downturn. My husband and I have many of things that interest us and we keep quite active, but we have no clearly defined path that we’re dedicated to pursuing. This is a rather unsettling feeling for us. I don’t know where I’m supposed to be in life! We have so many things that we like but we don’t know how to compile them into one, coherent vision, as with the traditional American Dream. We are 29 & 31 and not interested in parenthood, homeownership, or full-time careers. Maybe we’re not Generation Stuck, but instead are Generation Wandering? Yet we’ve received no instruction on how to enjoy Life; The Journey in lieu of Life; The Destination? Or is there something critically fulfilling about the American Dream which we’re ignorant of? Not knowing is wearing on us.

  • guest

    My husband and I did everything “right” – we both got BAs from a prestigious school, he went on to complete a PhD, and we moved abroad in early 2008 to follow what we thought would be a great opportunity for his career. It turned out to be a miserable mistake, as the company he was working for was hit hard by the recession and poorly managed, and my job was incredibly abusive and unfulfilling. We ultimately had to extricate ourselves and return to the US, ultimately nearly bankrupting ourselves in the process. Two weeks after returning to the US, his new job laid him off when their funding dried up, and as I was unemployed, we spent 4 months depending on the charity of our parents. We had to move again, within the US, and spend 8 months living in his parents’ basement before we could start to get back on our feet financially and emotionally. I’ve spent the last two years in school doing a post-bacc premed course and am now waiting to get into PA school, since my prestigious undergrad degree didn’t offer any of the options I had hoped it would. We laugh ruefully about how out of reach many traditional American dreams (a house, kids) seem, and how snookered we were by the idea that studying hard at a subject we loved would pay off. Certainly we made mistakes along the way, but there’s definitely a lot of frustration at having been “good kids” only to discover that wasn’t going to get us much of anywhere.

    • Dd

       Liberal arts – there’s the problem!

  • Jcrewmemphis

    I’m 30 and after 7 years of education and an advanced degree I have concluded the higher education in this new age is HIGHLY overrated.  I would be better off in every arena- financial, housing, relationship- if I had gone to trade school or skipped out on higher education all together. 

  • Nash

    I graduated from a prestigious liberal arts college a couple months ago. I might as well have skipped that $200,000 liver experiment  and gone straight to the unemployment line after high school. Seeing as without some kind of advanced degree (i.e., a masters in whatever), I`m unqualified for any and all paid employment, the outcome would have been the same. On a better note, there are many unpaid internship opportunities being thrust my way. If I take one of those, my 40+ free labor  would certainly allow me to afford to live in my parent`s basement and at the end of the internship be qualified to babysit . Oh the joys of post-grad life.

    • Dd

       Liberal arts – there’s the problem!

    • Geoffbuzz68

      lol I think you still havnt learned the key lesson from your experience.  You would have been better not going straight to the unemployment line after highschool, but rather investing your 200K into a business or property and getting a regular job or going to trade school.  It’s not your fault though.  Up until most recently, Americans have taken it for granted over the last 50 years that a college degree = good paying career. 

    • Lisa Tobin, WBUR

      Hi Nash, 

      I’m a producer on this series. Would you be interested in doing a blog post about your story? We’re interested in getting some perspective from recent grads. Our email is stuck@wbur.org.  

  • dabzy

    Hi, i graduated from University of Massachusetts in 2008 with a BA in Economics. However because of the economy at the time i took the first job i could get, so now am stuck as a mutual fund accountant at one of Boston’s financial institution. Am not sure if folks know this but there is not future in fund accounting, the service is been moved overseas (particularly India) and also the job functions are been done by macros more and more. I currently make less than $42000 a year after 4 years of doing this job (i started by making $33,000), and at the age of 28 it’s embarassing to even tell someone how much i make. Compare to friends who have jobs in different careers, who entry level job is paying them $60000 right off the bat i feel like a failure. I have been trying for the past two years in acquiring another job and i have done a lot of interviews but nothing more than that..interviews. It has gotten to the point that i gave up applying for jobs for about four months because i didn’t see the point. I currently have less than $1000 in my bank at 28 year…(am a failure), if something was to happen now that demanded that i spend more than $3000 or more, am screwed (family emergencies, etc). Am miserable, depressed and not motivated to do anything. I know conventional wisdom is to go for my masters during this period but am the type of person that if my financial ducks are not in a row it affects everything about me. I am currently trying to get my MBA but i have to confess am not motivated at all because am depressed. Am not sure if what am saying makes sense or not but that’s who i am. PLEASE I NEED HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Dd

       You need to learn how to write proper English, then maybe you could get a better job. How in the world could you have graduated with a bachelor’s degree with your writing skill – something seriously wrong with our higher education.

    • Geoffbuzz68

      Your making the same mistake again.  Your first problem was in assuming that an economics major from umass was going to land you some fancy job.  As an econ major, you above all, should have known better.  Now what are you doing, pursuing a generic mba???  Trust me holmes, that won’t help you earn much more.  Why dont you instead look at the jobs that pay more and get the specific training to do those.  For instance, accounting.  You can make at 50K to start and the salaries rise FAST.  I’m talking public accounting.  All you would need is a 1 year masters in accounting.  In terms of your current salary, it’s not even that low.  I know lawyers who spent a ton on their law school education and went to good schools that earning less than you.  Or skip education all together and go drive cab.  You’d probably make more than you are now. 

  • Huh?

    Um… degree in economics? 200,000 degree in liberal arts? Why dont you go back to school to be a mechanic for steam engines? Or maybe to repair 8-track players. I hear there are plenty of jobs out there for that.  Right now i am frantically looking around for some useless junk to sell to you.

  • mh

    Hi, “Generation Stuck” is an interesting concept and I look forward to hearing more people’s stories. I turned 27 last week and am a humanities teacher at one of MA’s first charter schools. I am from VT, went to school in VT, and moved to Cambridge, MA three years ago to try out city living. I moved down with my boyfriend of a year and our dog. It was a tough first couple of months as we acclimated to our new urban setting and faced the awful task of finding a job- the stress was only heightened when we found out I was pregnant. Eeek… Luckily, shortly after we found out we landed jobs. Me, at the school where I teach now, and my boyfriend at an insurance company where he is now manager. For my first job, I was a teaching assistant making $25,000 (I was 24 at the time), the following year I was offered an admin job at the school that paid a little more and starting this year I’ll be a classroom teacher, which is the job I’ve been working towards. I’ll be making $40,000 and couldn’t be happier given the dire reports about the economy that we hear regularly. I had my son two and half years ago, and I finished a masters degree in Instruction Technologies a year and a half ago. My fiance and I pay $1400 a month in rent, and $1100 a month in daycare. We do have a lot of college debt between the two of us (probably about $100,000 for the both of us) but we do recognize that we would not have our jobs without our degrees. Neither of us have parents who went to college, and our parents did not pay a penny for us to go to school. Both of our mothers have passed away and we receive no support from the remaining grandparents. We recognize that our large amount of debt will most likely hinder us from buying a home anytime soon, and vacations/ nights on the town are out of the picture for the time being.  That said, I cannot emphasize enough how lucky we feel to have our health and our jobs. I am always perplexed by the people my age who feel paralyzed about finding work or trying to do what they want to do. Not to sound rude, but I am actually quite sick of all the whining. The past few years have had a lot of challenges but I still feel like I am proof that if you truly believe you can make it work then you can. We did not have parents to fall back on, and no basement to go home to. I believe that this forced us to get where we are today. And believe me we still have a ways to go! My advice to people who feel stuck is to refocus that energy you put into at looking at what’s wrong with the world and the disadvantage you’ve been given, and create a vision of what you want your life to be… then work towards that. If you give it time, you will create the life you love. I’m reminded of a quote from a show that most people my age are likely to remember well. I believe it was Perry from Dawson’s Creek who told Joey, “Dreams come true, not free.” All the best to all everyone out there trying to get their life together.

  • BF

    I was hesitant to comment on this post considering the potential backlash I would receive for my views.  In the end, I decided to share because hopefully this will serve as some form of self-therapy.  I will be 28 in less than a month and I am definitely not where I want to be at this point in my life.  I graduated from the University of Florida 5 years ago and I have just found my way into an entry level position at a non-profit.  I don’t make much money and the little money that I do make goes to bills and necessities.  After years of struggling, albeit with help from my parents, the frustration had taken a toll on my mental health.  It was getting harder and harder to wake up every morning with a positive attitude.  

    Unlike many others, I cannot blame my current position solely on the economy.  Don’t get me wrong, the abominable economy has tentacles that reach far past our wallets.  It effects our unemployment rate, it negatively effects many of our welfare programs and, it even makes getting into a post grad program that much more competitive.  The strain on the U.S. economy has created a Darwinistic society in which only the strongest, brightest, and the most connected will survive.  The reason I cannot blame the economic down turn for my current position is because it is a situation that is beyond my control.  I choose to focus on the things I can control and I also understand that I have much more control over my life than I first imagined.  Once I came to this realization, my mental health began to restore and my passion, focus and drive slowly began to return.   There are many issues in this world that are beyond our control.  As the adage goes, life is not fair.  However we CAN control our reactions to these situations and by controlling our reactions and responses, we can better manage our mental health.  When we have a clear mind and spirit, it enables us to become more efficient in all realms of life.  This new found clarity has enabled me to view my situation in a different light than I had previously.  No longer do I feel like a victim.  I have regained the power that I had lost somewhere during my journey.

    Are things perfect?  Hell no!! But, I do feel like I can make it and be a productive member of society.  After all, statistically speaking, even in these down economics times, people are finding careers that will lead them to a happy, meaningful and successful life.

    Just my thoughts!!! 

    • mh

       Your optimistic attitude, as well as your ability to take responsibility for your life and current situation, is refreshing and a sure sign of a great life to come. Keep the faith!

      • BF

        Likewise!  Much success to you and your husband!!

    • Geoffbuzz68

      Good for you!

  • JS

    A lot of people in our generation think that more education is the solution to finally getting the jobs that we’ve convinced ourselves we deserve all these years. After a 2006 BA from Dartmouth College, and a subsequent Masters  degree from a much more affordable state university, I have decided to start a business – and one that has nothing to do with my higher education. The one perk of being in Generation Stuck is the prevalence of entrepreneurship, with people forging forward and making something of their own, in an economy that we are otherwise unable to penetrate. 

  • Helen

    I think our generation was raised being told that we could be whatever we wanted when we grew up, but we’re finding that mantra to be untrue as we enter our 20s. I’m 26 years old, graduated from a top private research university 2008, have worked full-time and earned a Masters degree since then, and am now leaving a job I’m spinning my wheels in to go to law school. Four years of pursuing this other path and a good deal of soul searching have made me sure that what I really want to be when I grow up, for better or worse, is a lawyer. 
    While I’m fully aware of the state of the legal field and the job prospects for young lawyers, I still believe this to be the right next step for me, and I haven’t taken the decision lightly. In response to telling friends my plans, however, some have told me I’m crazy to walk away from a job when so many people don’t have one. Others have practically accused me of being selfish for trying to pursue what I think will be a more enjoyable career – don’t I know that they’re all in jobs they hate, too? Who am I to break rank? One coworker told me I’ll be fine as long as I don’t mind getting married later in life, because no guy will want to sign on when I’ve got sizable law school loans. Better hope to find a high-paying job if I want a husband! Perhaps I’m naive. Perhaps I bought into what my parents told me as a child a bit too fully. Perhaps I should keep my head down and weather the storm like so many friends are doing. But then what? I’m not willing to take the safe road, wallowing in a job that isn’t right for me but that someone else might be brilliant at. I’m prepared for the risk I’m taking on. What I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of alienation that’s come with pursuing my dream.

  • Beth

    I was going to tell my own sad story of a woefully mislead college student who studied English editing and Arab-Islamic studies because those things were interesting, and I was told to study what I loved. Even though I had a National Merit scholarship the first time around, I went into debt going back to school to study teaching. Now I’m a substitute teacher. It appears that upper-middle-class tragedy has already been covered. Let me tell you about my 23-year-old younger brother.

    My brother is not the academic type. Even though college-educated high-school teachers tell their students that anything but a four-year college education is practically failure (in my teaching program I learned that encouraging kinetically minded students to pursue vocational training is racist, classist, ableist, and otherwise horrible), my brother decided to enroll in the county’s vocational high school program to learn computer-aided design (CAD) and carpentry. The vocational school is so small and underfunded that it only accepted two students from each district in the county. My brother was rejected because a pre-engineering student at his high school also wanted to study CAD to pad his résumé for his college application.

    Meanwhile, many vocations are desperate for workers as the Baby Boomers age and retire. Our country desperately needs welders, machinists, plumbers, diesel mechanics, and other skilled blue-collar workers. These jobs pay well and offer opportunities for advancement and entrepreneurship. I believe that many unemployed people in my generation, especially those who have no post-secondary education, could have benefited from vocational training, though their high-school teachers thought it was below their students. Unemployment is worse.

    • Beth

      *misled

  • rebecca

    I actually feel like one of the lucky ones.  I dropped out of college in 2006 and got a full-time job at a bookstore.  I started out at a salary just above Massachusetts minimum wage, but through raises I now make closer to $12/hr.  I feel valued at my job and I enjoy what I do.  I save a little bit of money every week through automatic transfer to my savings account and manage to cover my own expenses every month, though I do live with a boyfriend who makes more than twice as much as I do, and we split the rent proportionally.  My only concern is what I would do if I were to lose my job (bookstores aren’t exactly booming at the moment, and there have been times when I’ve felt a bit slapped in the face by people who use me for information so that they can buy from their Kindles rather than assist in keeping me employed), and how I will afford to go back to school should I choose to do so.  Increasingly, I’m thinking vocational training would suit me best.  I have no idea who would hire a person like me in this job market, though I do have more work experience than many middle-class folks at 26.

    • Lisa Tobin, WBUR

      Hi Rebecca, 

      I’m a producer on this series. Would you be interested in doing a blog post about your story? I would really like to feature some young people without college degrees. Our email is stuck@wbur.org.  

  • Plastic Bertrand

    Yes, I was 30 years go. And so were many of my contemporaries.

  • arabaszc

    We were born to a generation that grew up believing that hard work can accomplish anything. As the “millennials” are starting to wade through the financial challenges that have been placed before them, the parent generation holds strong to their belief that hard work can get one through anything and that any failures can be attributed to apathy and laziness. 

    We would love to start a real life. We would love to start buying houses and raising families of our own. But most of us will have to wait until we hit 30 before we feel we can comfortably do any of those things. Meanwhile, we continue to try to show them all the reasons why things are way different now and there’s nothing we can do to work through our new troubles.

    We live in a world where college is no longer a luxury, but rather a requirement to get a decent job anywhere. Thus, we’re forced to take out obscene amounts of loans in order to get to college. We know exactly what we’re paying for, how much debt we’ll be in and all the fine print that’s there when we sign the loan. But what can we do? We have to take on the debt if we want any kind of a life. Educational financial assistance is embarrassingly low on this nation’s priority list. We can barely fund a 401k.

    Furthermore, the pressure to go to college is so high that most young people don’t even have a chance to *think* about what they’d like to do for a career. They’re raised expecting that they should enter college immediately after high school graduation, even being told that it doesn’t matter if they’re undecided about their major – just go! Just go! The colleges, say. Take on a Liberal Arts temporary major and figure out the rest later.

    I’d love to start my “ideal life” now, but the loan letters say “not for another decade”.

  • Scott

    Take courage, find some determination, and work harder! Self pity never won anybody a corner office! 

    Yes, the unemployment rate is twice what we would like it to be. Yes, its very difficult to find a job without going to college and taking on a level of debt. Yes, the middle class has taken big hits over the past three decades. However, we live in an age where information and education are as abundant as they have ever been in history and we must take advantage of that wealth. Not only is information and education abundant, but so are the ways in which you can demonstrate your knowledge beyond a piece of paper that reads “Magna Cum Laude.”

    I’m just an average 29 year old guy born in middle America but for the past several years I have held a full time jobs in addition to freelancing most evenings to try to build something for myself. I am now about to pay off the remaining debt I owe from a $70k student loan and am launching my own business doing what I love. It was hard to do, very hard. As in 6-months-of-working-day-and-night-seven-days-a-week hard. It hasn’t paid off just yet, but I’m confident that it will.

    I’m posting this because I want people to know that getting what you want is possible and entirely up to you.

    Go get it. Good luck.

  • C W Boerl

    I am 29 and hold a Ph.D. in political science.  My wife, Bonnie, is also 29 and has an MD.  We are both employed full-time, and our joint income is about $92,000 a year.  There was a time when I thought $92,000 was a lot of money.  Indeed, in many respects, it is.  Yet collectively, my wife and I owe more than a half a million dollars in student loans.  Each month, I alone pay $657 in private student loan fees, and that amount only covers the interest!!  If it were not for Income Based Repayment available on federal student loans, nearly all of my salary would go to paying student loans.

    In December, Bonnie and I are expecting our first child.  We’re both very excited about the prospect of being parents, but with that comes added financial responsibilities.  Daycare as you can imagine is not cheap, but neither one of us can afford not to work.

    We like to joke while we might be the best educated of all of our friends, we’re also the poorest.  Growing up, Bonnie and I were both told that a college education was the key to success and achieving the American dream.  Today, we are both less certain of this.  In many respects, Bonnie and I know that we’d probably be in a better financial position had we never gone to grad school.  

    When Bonnie finishes residency, her salary will go up considerably, but even then, it will likely be another 5-10 years before we’ve paid off enough of our student loans to qualify for a good a mortgage rate.  It’s kind of depressing to think that two kids who followed all the rules, got good grades, went to good schools, and worked tirelessly for degrees that ultimately benefit our communities, will probably renting until their 40.

    One option that we are looking at is having Bonnie specialize in particular field.  Specialists typically earn double what primary care physicians make.  This would of course add another 2-3 years to Bonnie’s medical training, but it would allow us to pay off our student debt much quicker.  The only problem with this is that Bonnie’s passion is in primary care, as are many other doctors, yet the burden of student loans forces many doctors to specialize.  As a result, America now finds itself in dire need of primary care physicians, but until we address the issue of student loans, I don’t see how we can solve this problem.

    I’m write this, not because I’m looking for your sympathy, but to say that our from a purely public policy perspective, our current means of funding higher education is harming America.  In addition to driving good doctors away from primary care, its also subjecting an entire generation to a life of indentured servitude.  Nationally, our collective student loan tops a trillion dollars.  Just imagine how productive that money could be if, rather than going into the coffers of multinational banks, that money instead found its way into the pockets of recent grads.  Savings rates would go up, home sales would climb, car sales would grow, credit delinquency would fall, more families would be started, and people would generally be happier, healthier, and more secure.

  • Rcortz

    I am 23, I see/ feel everyone around me succeeding in life. I have two jobs (40-42hrs p/w) one to help with the debt I have accumulated in the last 5 years. The other to help pay bills, pay for mums medication and put food on the table. I wish to study and get a degree. However, I know I could not afford to stop working and go to University. I have low-average abilities in Maths and English, I hope to soon develope in those two core areas and apply for a scholarship get a degree to help me gain a stable job in th future. I am a more practical base learner I hope they make more opportunities for someone like me; train in the field of eg egineering.

  • Ljc

    It’s expensive to live…. Everything is about money and the power every minute every hour. Why were we created ? To go to school then work, accumulate debt though further studies then work. Work for what? To live, not to enjoy to live.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carol-Christen/100000823592761 Carol Christen

    When the economic downturn first happened, executive job coaches were telling their clients that they would have to make about 200 contacts in order to get re-employed.  That’s not 200 resumes, but getting in touch with 200 people to learn what jobs can be done with their skills, what companies have those jobs and who the hiring managers are.

    As the Great Recession drags on, I imagine that number has gone up every year.  So, adjust your mind to making four or five hundred contacts. You’ll gather lots of information and Nos before you’ll hear that Yes!

    So until you hit 500, you’ve got no reason to be discouraged.  Just keep chalking up numbers.
    Carol Christen, http://www.parachute4teens.com

  • Desert Flower

    I’m 28, and an economic refugee. I left the US about 2 years after finishing graduate school, and I can’t come back until the loans are repaid. I made a bad decision taking on the debt that I did, at the age of 17, 18, 19 years old – I thought loans for college were an investment, like a small business loan, that would pay off enormously in no time. I thought the people in the financial aid office, and especially the bank, wouldn’t give me money I couldn’t afford to pay back. I didn’t know at the time that the banks were taking no risk on me at all and therefore didn’t really care what I could or couldn’t afford. I didn’t have the right guidance, but I should have done more homework!
    Cut to graduation – I was lucky to be immediately employed in my field. However, I spent two years becoming increasingly stressed about the fact that my monthly net income of $2100 would cover loan repayments ($800), rent in a studio apartment ($500), electricity, water, internet, phone ($200), car insurance ($200), and less than $100 a week for food, clothes, medical care, and everything else in life.  This was my life: if the car needs a service, I eat ramen for the rest of the week.  If I get sick and see the doctor and/or pick up a prescription, I eat ramen for the rest of the week. If I break my eyeglasses, I eat ramen for the next two weeks. I cut my own hair. I buy clothes second-hand. I was, frankly, shocked, to be employed full-time and holding a graduate degree, yet living hand to mouth and passing over meat in the grocery store because it was too expensive.  

    I was increasingly depressed by my prospects – with 30 years of loan repayments, even the idea of an eventual increase in salary through career advancement seemed like little hope. For years into the future, I was looking at saving $0.00. I couldn’t afford to get married or have children, I could never afford to buy a house. I couldn’t ever afford another car after the one I had died. I could never take a vacation. And perhaps most of all, I wouldn’t be able to take care of my mother – herself struggling to get by. This would be my life for the next 5, 10, 15, 30 years – work to stay alive and pay Sallie.

    So, I went overseas – I secured a job in my field in the Middle East where my salary affords a much more comfortable living standard, extra debt repayments, savings, help for mom, and even a budget vacation every year. Where I live, there are lots of expatriates from Bangledash, the Philippines, India and other places, all of whom have left a lack of opportunity at home looking for better prospects abroad.  When I meet one of these folks, we are both struck to find ourselves here for the same reason.

    • montreal

      Hi Desert Flower, if you dont mind me asking, what country did you decide to settle in the Middle East? In what field are you working in?

  • TwentySomething

    This topic immediately drew me in and I’ve enjoyed reading through everyone’s posts. I am 27 and in my first “real” job after graduate school. I consider myself very lucky to be employed in a job that I both enjoy and find intellectually stimulating. Did I work hard to get here? Yes. This included waiting tables through college and graduate school which amounted to a 7-day work week for several years. However I still have to attribute my current position – and those of many of my friends – to a case of “right place at the right time” and being well-connected. 

    When I was applying to college, I could not understand the fervor of friends’ parents who would do anything to see their son or daughter get into the ivy league. My parents took a more mellow approach: work hard, go to a school you love, and study what inspires you. Very enlightened advice I thought at the time. And I did just that. I had a wonderful undergraduate experience at a prestigious (though not ivy league) school. It was great. I loved every minute of it. I graduated with a less-than-marketable liberal arts degree and went back to school to gain some more technical skills. One day I happened to pop into my advisor’s office and a conversation started that eventually landed me in the position I have today. Right place at the right time. I never would have landed this job by cruising job boards and submitting an online application. I wouldn’t have had the right buzz words in my resume to make it past the first HR screen.

    I have seen how others in my network came into their jobs and now I understand the immeasurable value of those ivy league degrees. The education you get at state school X may be just as good as another more prestigious school, but the people and brand you have access to at the latter make those educations unequal. A friend of mine walked into an excellent position in mainstream broadcast news (BA in poli sci) after she served lunch to a woman who went to her alma mater. Was she qualified? Sure. But I’m sure the other 400 applicants who applied for the position were qualified too. 

    It’s nothing new and nobody likes to hear it but in my experience it’s not just playing by the rules that lands you great jobs, it’s having access to the right people. 

  • JT

    I might be a tad out of this age range at 31, but my experience might be helpful for others to hear. When I graduated high school, the job market was much different than it is now. Even so, my parents couldn’t afford to help me with college and I didn’t get any financial aid or scholarships. So, I decided to go to the local branch of my state University and get my Associate’s Degree. I took on no student loans and paid for it myself. While I went to school I worked 3 jobs. One of those jobs, I started out as a file clerk but was promoted in 2 months. Within a year I ended up managing and supervising my entire department. All without a degree. I know I am smart and capable and I didn’t need a degree to show this workplace that I was skilled. I finished my Associate’s Degree and by that time had gain significant managerial experience and taught myself medical billing. I stayed at this job for 5 years. I ended up moving to a different city and I got a job immediately in the same field and I was charged with over hauling their billing system. I did, and ended up getting them a lot of money. After a year I decided to move to the “big” city of Boston and had 4 job offers. Back then I think it was easier to get a job (2006), however, I got my foot in the door with my experience and then wowed them at the interview. I took the lowest paying one, but the one that I felt offered me more potential for the future. I was right. I ended up at that company for 5 years. I started as an Office Manager, then was promoted to Business Consultant, then to Director of Sales. I made more money than I ever had. I ended up leaving because the work environment turned toxic, but I gained new experience that expanded my resume. I now make a lot more than my friends with Bachelor’s and Graduate degrees. I am not saying don’t go to school. Here is what I am saying: a HUGE part of this is your ability to interview well. I know that I knock it out of the park. I am amazing in interviews and I truly love people. Once you get your foot in the door at a company, be willing to stay and show them that you can take on new roles. I started at jobs as a file clerk and an Office Manager and ended up running a department that I had no experience in.  Granted, I am lucky because I have zero student debt. If I did it would be a lot harder. 
    To note: I have an ex that went to Law School and instead of taking the bar, worked at banks during law school, learned compliance, networked everywhere he could, found a mentor and in 3 years was making six figures working compliance. Taking the bar was the obvious route, but he didn’t do that and thought instead of what he could do with some experience and networking. 

    • ///o-o\

       Good advice.  But keep in mind that not everyone is good at networking.  It’s a sad state of affair where being a good networker or knowing people is the only way to succeed.  A strong economy is one in which someone with good credentials can apply for a job and get an interview without any previous connections needed.  Also, why didnt your EX take the bar?  Studying for the bar only takes two months.  I dont understand why these compliance banks would want him over a licensed lawyer.  Something smells fishy here…

  • 28andstruggling

    Well, after graduating college, with a degree that I was told was required to find work, in 2006 – it was at least a year before I found a full time job and it wasn’t’ in the field of my degree.  I’ve been with a boyfriend now for 8 years and we can’t afford to have a wedding, because our parents can’t afford to help us with it, and no one has a yard (so even if we wanted to, we couldn’t have a backyard wedding which is so common among our generation.  We can’t afford to replace our car because neither of us have gotten raises in 5+years, and neither of us are in positions/companies that seem to offer promotions.  

    I got lucky in being able to pay for college and graduated with no student loan debt – but I still have other bills to pay.  My boyfriend just graduated college after returning from a hiatus – and now that his student loans are coming due we’re feeling a financial strain.  I’m trying to take on freelance work, in the field of my degree just to help supplement our income, which basically means two full time jobs.  The reason we really can’t afford things is because our health insurance cost almost doubled 2 years ago, and hasn’t come down in cost yet.  And since our pay scale doesn’t go up to account for the increased cost, we’ve taken large pay cuts to pay for basic healthcare coverage.  

    Now we’re trying to get to where we were basically told we’d be by now, in the next 5 years.  Some of our friends settled for what they could get, in order to start a family that they wanted as they began entering their 30s.  I can’t even fathom the idea of having children in the economic situation that we’re in, or the situation of our neighborhoods and country.  When I was growing up the idea was by the time you were 30 you were in your career, comfortably at a company you could work for longer term, and making a reasonable wage.  I feel cheated out of the life my parents thought I could have had by now.  My only hope is that we’ll be all able to make up for lost time when we do get to where we want to be. 

  • Guest

    I really find this discussion of “generation stuck” (or as the Times put it recently “generation screwed”) disingenuous. Each generation has had challenges to deal with, many of which we millennials cannot begin to fathom. My grandparents survived the Great Depression. My maternal grandmother worked in a mill when still a child. My paternal grandmother survived the dust bowl on a family farm in the midwest. My mother had a fraction of the choices available to me. I am a 28 years old college graduate from a fine arts program. I leveraged my degree into a successful professional career through years of hard work. I am happily married and expecting my first child. We do not come from privileged backgrounds but we have solid financial skills. We don’t carry debt (apart from students loans), live modestly and put money towards retirement and other savings. 

    • wareinparis

      I applaud you loud and long! The notion of “generation stuck” is offensive to me, too. You are correct that each generation has its challenges. What matters is what we choose to do with life’s challenges.

      My father died when I was 6, leaving my uneducated 32 year old mother with four children ranging in age from 3 to 15 to support. Our home was sold out from under us within a very short time – - by my paternal grandparents who had no financial skills of any kind. We survived. It was not easy. There were lots of bumps in the road. College was not an option for girls from my demographic when I finished high school in the top ten percent of my class almost 50 years ago. I graduated high school on Sunday and went to work in a factory on Monday. But I had a job, a full time job. And I thought myself fortunate. I still think I was fortunate. I kept that job, plus a couple of part time jobs until shortly before the birth of my first child.

      For most of my life I took whatever job I could get and learned to love what I had rather than pining for what was not available to me. Eventually, I landed a job working in the business office of a local school district, where I worked for nearly 8 years. When this job ended I was fortunate, through unemployment insurance, to get one year of college for a certificate program. And at age 48, I made Dean’s List both semesters! Woohoo!!

      Finally, I found myself in a wonderful position as the assistant to one of Massachusetts most respected municipal employees, in one of its most affluent communities. During my 16 year tenure there I made many friends and received an informal education worth more than I can say. Oh, yes, I even have a pension of my very own to show for my efforts. My husband of 46 years thinks we are fortunate, too.

      I have always tried to see the value in what I had, rather than feeling sorry for myself because of what I don’t have. This is what the so-called stuck generation needs to do. My advice to these kids is this. Get over yourself. Be thankful you were able to get your education. Look around and count your other good fortune. Then get off your bottom and go look for a job. Start with what you can get for now. Half a loaf is better than none.

  • AM

    I’m 23 and thought I was doing pretty well.  I graduated with a BA in writing, had a decent amount of money saved up  and was the supervisor of a bagel and coffee shop.  I decided to move to a different state to be closer to my boyfriend and to the grad schools I was applying to. 

    A month after I gave notice at my job, I was unexpectedly fired for an unprovable offense (I’ve been fighting for my vacation pay– almost $900– for the past two months).  I heard that this sort of behavior was common with some employers who think, for some reason, that most students and recent graduates just work for spending money rather then to support themselves.  Losing that job and vacation pay was all it took to demolish my savings.  By the time I completed the move and found a new job, I had to borrow almost a thousand dollars from my family.  I still could barely afford food and could not afford my birth control.  My one week lapse in birth control resulted in an unexpected pregnancy. 

    Between the bills and money I still owe, as well as the medical costs I’ll have to pay whether I keep the baby or not, I’ll have to walk a thin tightrope if I want to be able to afford just the application and GRE fees, let alone tuition for grad school.  Right now I work at another cafe for $8.00 an hour plus tips.  Hopefully my MFA will be the investment that I thought my BA would be.  It takes very little to fall into a dark financial hole, and it’s desperately hard, sometimes heartbreaking, to pull yourself back out.

    • not a lawyer 808

       FREE advice:  file a small claims action against your employer.  depending on which state this occurred in, you might even be able to get double or triple damages.  Regardless, I doubt your employer will pay for a lawyer to go to court.  Theyll probably seek to settle this.  Small claims court is cheap and easy. 

  • Edit08

    I am 28, married for two years, and renting a condo in a downtown core. My wife and  I both went to school and graduated debt free(we both worked part time jobs, had scholarships, and parents who gave us some money for the “extras”).  Initially we both worked part time jobs coming out of school, but we applied to jobs, and I found a job placement agency in my field. It took a solid year but both of us found well-paying jobs in our respective industry.  We know are looking forward to our early years as married young adults.  Nothing comes easy, but if you want something, I tell you, it’s out there.

  • Jo Ski

    Im 27, with a Masters degree in business, and BA in economics.   I cant say im doing terrible, but im only making 40K a year, and I have 80K in student loans.  Worst of all, im paying almost 7% on my student loans, when the reserve rate is the lowest in history.  They wont let me re-fi either.  This is what happens when we let the govt. control student loans.

  • Jim

    I am 43, so I fall outside of the age range of this article’s “Generation Stuck”.  You should know that there are plenty of people in all ranges who are struggling. This is the story of time – there are always struggles, no matter which generation. That really is the journey of life.

  • Kathee

    As I write on all my cover letters, I’m a recent graduate–a status of which I am unclear whether it helps or hurts in the job application process. Although seeing as though I have yet to secure ‘gainful’ full-time employment, I might want to start leaving  it out.

    I went from being a neuroscience major to a theater and sociology major in school, with no regrets about it in the four years I was there–loving every moment within the hallowed and sacred halls of a liberal arts college. Now I’m starting to wonder how my ability to get through dozens of pages of Marx, Durkheim or Weber translates into marketable skills. 

    I, like many in my generation, am under-achieving, and the longer I under-achieve the more it hurts. We were the best and brightest, but now we are one of thousands of the best and brightest with “social-media” know-how and “internship experience.” 

    So now I give historical tours of Cambridge in full period costume. It isn’t a glamorous job and every time I see a college classmate, high school friend, or even an acquaintance around the city, I hide–a feat in itself in my giant hoop skirt. It’s embarrassing, because I know I can do better. And I like my job sometimes, I pepper my tour with women’s history in an attempt to make even this tourist-trap job intellectually engaging for myself and the hundreds of French Canadians who seem to be the only people who love history tours. 

    I’m good at it too. I actively refuse to be bad at it. I delight European tourists who show their immense appreciation in compliments and requests to take my photograph instead of actual monetary tips.

     But this job isn’t going anywhere, it pays nothing, and it sucks up all of my time. I split my 7 days a week between the tours and my second part time job–coincidentally, also giving historical tours of a small Boston museum. Being a historical interpreter is certainly not the career in the theater or in sociology that I anticipated, but it could be worse. 

    This summer I took the plunge and moved out of my parents house, using my graduation money I got from my aunt to pay first and last months rent. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in terms of building a social network for myself post-graduation, but I can’t guarantee is was financially the best thing I’ve ever done.

    I live pay-check to pay-check. I just received a card in the mail from the Massachusetts Bay Department of Transitional Assistance. Food stamps. I am not proud to be on food stamps. I am less proud to be on food stamps than I am to give ridiculous historical tours. I’m guilty and I’m ashamed. I took enough sociology classes to know that there are people in more dire straits than myself who could use that extra 30 bucks a week. But those 30 bucks a week are going to come in handy when, come October (30 days from now) I will have to start paying my student loans. Hence why I walked into the DSS, had a conference  with Irene the social worker, and now hesitantly hand my card to the cashier at Trader Joes each week. 

    My story is not a sob story by any means, and I am very, very happy.  I just think my life as it stands is a classic illustration of our under-performing but over-achieving generation. And I’m under-performing in my hoop skirt daily. 

    • ///o-o\

       Kathee, your job sounds great, even if it pays little- don’t be ashamed of bumping into friends or family.  It’s great that youre out there working and doing something out of the ordinary.  It’s not your fault this economy SUCKS.  But listen, if you want to make more money, there are options out there.  There are plenty of accounting jobs, for instance.  All you need is a one year masters in accounting and you are good to go.  And there are other fields too, you just have to do your research.  You can also consider leaving Boston, which is saturated with recent college grads. 

  • Alex

    I am Alex, an Immigrant who moved to New York at age 9 from the Dominican Republic.  
    I learned at young age that in order to accomplished my american dream I was going to need a degree, and ever since I was either in the 4th or 5th grade I decided that my ultimate goal was to go to college and get that degree that will open the doors of opportunities in this my new home, America. 

    My role model weren’t famous singer, celebrities,  but were simple ordinary people that at that I considered to be smart, well rounded, educated.  Growing up I was always curious about people careers path.  I guess I saw it to be a way to help draw my own career path.  

    I was able to manage to make it to college with students loans and financial aid from the government 20 years later, Still sharing an apartment with my mother, making a lot less of what I should be making.  I considered myself to be very educated, fully bilingual, great people skills computer skills and very knowledgeable in different fields.  I have a bachelors degree in business administration, that in my opinion is a  well rounded degree,  and can’t seemed to be able to land that first good job or at least good enough that pays me enough to give me the option to get my own place, i live in NYC where the cost of living keeps getting higher and higher.  

    • ReggaeFanaticP

       Bro, sounds like you have a new york problem.  Leave and I’m sure you’ll find more opportunities and a better standard of leaving.  What happened to that American spirit of chasing down opportunities wherever they may be?  Our generation is spoiled- we want what we want on OUR terms. 

  • Hayley

    Generation stuck. Couldn’t have said it better myself.  I think a similar sentiment to myself on an almost daily basis as I try to plot my way out of my current situation. I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in May of 2008. I left Providence, RI for Boston an eager fresh graduate with a scenic painting internship at the American Repertory Theater. I envisioned for myself a future as a painter, perhaps working in the theater shop by day and creating pieces for my own body of work by night, and making it work somehow.  I knew this plan was not a get rich quick scheme, but I thought it would work for me.   
        I can still remember the day in September of 2008, sitting on the floor of the A.R.T. shop floor while working and listening to WBUR when news of Lehman Brothers broke.  I’ll admit that I didn’t really understand at the time what it all meant, but it all became quickly apparent. And my run as an A.R.T. intern ended up being a short one.     I have mostly (among several different kinds of jobs, some arts related, some not)made my living as a house painter since that run at the theater. It’s a trade I learned growing up while working with my dad, a house painting contractor, every summer and school break from the time I was 13. I am no doubt proud to be a hard working woman in the labor field, and have a definite respect for it, as I have always respected my dad’s dedication to providing good work, but…I’ll be perfectly honest.  It’s just not the career I envisioned for myself 8 years ago when I first left for art school and dreamed of what I would someday become.  House painting was something I did to fill my time and my wallet as a teenager and college student home from breaks – this was not a desirable career path.     House painting provides me with a means to autonomy, but thats really it. A degree in fine arts painting was fun to get, but in the real world only translates to vague skills, leaving me ‘qualified’ to do very few things.  I often feel very disappointed in myself and anxious about the future. I often vacillate between feeling proud of what I do and sad about it.  I come from the generation that was told they could be whatever they wanted, I even went to one of the best schools for what I wanted to do, and now I just feel stuck in a situation that I cant break the cycle from. Finding consistent work for the past five years has been anything but easy. Covering the cost of my student loan bills and the debt that I have accrued in the years since graduating just to try and cover myself when my checking account got too thin has left me with few options. Life, with or without offensively high student loan debt is expensive enough where I live, there is very little room for me to try and change direction and maybe go back to graduate school like I always thought that I would.  I am now 26 and want to move on with my life – I want the things my parents generation was able to have. The starting of a family, buying a house. I know my situation isn’t special, and I know that a lot of people are in a similar boat and I try to feel grateful just for the fact that I at least have work and a way to support myself. I would never ever suggest that anyone feel sorry for me, but I can’t help worrying about my future and my happiness in that future.  Thinking about the things that I thought I’d be heading towards now fills me with anxiety.  I am no where near where I want to be. 
      

    • Realist86

       Sounds like the typical modern story that is not directly connected to the 08′ crash: choosing between what you love and something practical to make a living.  Do you think most people want to do accounting or finance?  They do it because it pays and because their hobbies don’t. 

  • 23andStruggling

    23, first-generation American, first-generation college graduate, class of 2011 from a top 5 liberal arts college in the US.  Too often, I feel stuck and I cannot   I wonder if getting a college degree was worth it.  I feel stuck.  I would love to travel but I can’t.  I can’t afford to do a program where I would essentially break even because each day I’m making negative income. I’m not sure if my top tier liberal arts education was worth it.

    After graduating, I was lucky enough to land a  job.  A job, that wasn’t a good fit… That I woke up dreading to go to.  One I was thankful to have but made me resent attending college (because of the ensuing debt).   Now I’m looking towards Americorps or PeaceCorps, partly because it would be a great way for me to travel (I love to travel) but also because of their loan-forgiveness schemes.  I feel directionless not because I don’t where I want to be but because I don’t know how to get there.  My parents keep urging me, “Go back to school.” For what? More debt? The sad thing is I would love to go back to school, yet I cannot foresee a time when I will not be worrying about making my loan payments.  So, it doesn’t make sense to continue accruing debt, especially when I already have more than most people have after a graduate degree.  My loan payments (which have gone up each month) are over $700 a month.  A mortgage payment but with nothing to show. I feel like I got lured into the the lie of higher education. 

    People don’t understand.  Friends who don’t have debt don’t understand.  They say: Why would you go to this college if you knew you would have so much debt? How could you not have read the terms?  The college I attended was less expensive than state school.  Thankfully, I did get some grants but because my parents make a decent living yet did not contribute to my education, I had no choice to take out private loans to cover the difference.  If I had realized monthly payments would be so high (I know you can extend the time-frame of your payments to make monthly payments lower), I’m not sure what I would have done. What do you do if you don’t go to college? I hadn’t even considered taking a gap year after high school. College is the very reason my parents came to this country.  So that my siblings would have a chance at securing higher education (and we were sold on, therefore having a better future).  Instead, I feel like I’ve committed financial suicide.  Stuck.

  • Liz29

    I’m completely not where I
    “was supposed to be” in life, but my story HAS a light at the end of
    the tunnel.  I’ve learned that perspective helps in this economy, and that 21-year-old idealist generally incapable of
    making the right long-term decisions for a 29-year-old, my age now.  I had different goals then.  It took six years, multiple states and colleges, but I finally took a step towards getting real.  I
    got a job that was “supposed” to be temporary.  I was an embarrassed
    to be a 27-year-old barista and didn’t want to tell anyone what I did for a living.  I sometimes free-lanced, but all-in-all I have barely
    used my six-figure Interior Design degree. 
    But here’s the light:  now, I am a
    salaried manager with the same restaurant company with a secure job and future.  And that’s anything but temporary. 

    I still stick to a budget, chase student loans, and I will be a renter for a
    long, long time.  I appreciate this discussion topic very much; I wouldn’t take
    the time to write in if I didn’t understand what it is like to watch friends
    buy new televisions for every room of their house because they can, while I
    don’t even dare dream of getting cable, let alone a TV to watch it on.

     

    But I encourage us to be
    careful!  Let’s not create an environment
    within this discourse where we all end up depressed. 

     

    I’ve translated my design
    skills and education in organization, planning, and environmental awareness to
    a whole new field.  And now I’d take it
    over a cubicle any day with confidence and zero shame.  Are you looking for people to follow and
    track?  To see if in a few years, they’ve
    dug themselves out of “stuck”? 
    I can tell you right now all of them are capable, but not as many

    of them will succeed as
    anyone of us would like.

     

    Thank you, anyone, for
    reading this.

  • AnonymousMedStudent

    23 year old first generation to go to college, first generation American. Graduated with a neuroscience degree from a university known for cutting edge paralysis research. I work about 84 hours a week (just on the clock) and my student loans are projected to reach $420k by 2015. My work day starts at 5am and goes non-stop until 7pm, then I go home and work on presentations and projects for about 3 hours followed by reading up on my cases for the next day, which can take me anywhere from 4-6 hours. I need to know them like the back of my hand because my boss grills me on the specifics of the cases. for those of you doing the math at home, that means I average between 1-4 hours a night. I don’t get weekends off and I have to do this for another 7 years before I can begin to make enough money to START paying off those loans I talked about.

    Yes, this is not what I pictured. You’re right that the reality is vastly different from the “American Dream”, at least in the eyes of the outsider looking in. Taking a step back and looking at my life I realized that this is exactly what the “American Dream” is supposed to be. You’re supposed to work hard, to get out what you put in, it’s not supposed to be easy to make it in this world. The thing that separates the moguls from the managers is the willingness and the drive to push an ice cream cart for $7/hr in hopes of one day starting the next Ben and Jerry’s.

    Oh yeah, and in my job you’re never supposed to talk about money, you’re
    supposed to be fueled by people’s smiles and the warm sense of
    satisfaction you get from helping others; so any time anyone wants to
    bring it up they get shunned by a society who thinks we’re privileged,
    that we have no right to complain.

    Funny thing is I’m not complaining; I’m happy to have the opportunity to work, happy to have had the opportunity to get an education, to enrich myself, to gain life experience. I’m happy to not be on the Jersey Shore.

    • Lisa Tobin, WBUR

      Hi AMS,  

      I’m a producer on this series. Your story is really interesting, especially considering that you are first-generation and we are focusing a lot on the idea of the American Dream versus the reality. Would you be interested in doing a blog post about your story? Our email is stuck@wbur.org

  • Jon

    I just turned 30..  I have a law degree.  I passed the bar in 2009.  I am working RETAIL.  I am drowning in debt.

    • Lisa Tobin, WBUR

      Jon, I’m a producer on this series. Would you be interested in doing a blog post about your story? It sounds like an important one. Our email is stuck@wbur.org

  • TRC

    About to Turn 30. BS in Network Engineering making $75,000. I live around Boston so cost living is very high. My student loans are small but I still have negative wealth (more debt than assets). I was only just able to buy a car after saving for years.   Buying a house anywhere near the Boston area is completely out of the question. Doing well overall, but still stuck in the debt/rental spiral.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686519255 Daniel Healy

    23-29? How about 59? So, we’re looking far back enough so we don’t feel bad? Crazy. Let’s just skip over that Viet Nam Era generation. It’s been done more than a few times.

  • Wyatt Kirby

    Just turned 24, Bachelor of the Arts in English Literature. In debt but lucky it’s not too much. Blessed (and cursed) with a severe allergy to credit cards. Distrustful of banks, sick of politics dominated by politicians, and a proud child of the internet. I make a decent living now, but only because computers have been a hobby since I was 11 years old — the lit degree is just a pretty piece of paper on my shelf.

  • matt

    Why are there people whining about not being able to buy a house in their 20s? Get over yourself. If you actually have a job and you can actually pay your rent then you are doing better than a lot of people. The American dream was not about being handed life on a platter. You are entitled to nothing. ” well i have an ok job and an apartment, but its in JP, and im just not happy” honestly, go buy a puppy ’cause he’s the only one thats going to care. This is for the Masters grads still working minimum wage or liberal arts majors living month to month on the verge of being evicted. Thats the true story of our generation. Not the one where you had to buy a Corolla instead of a BMW.

    • Elisabeth

      I think the point Andrew was trying to make was that the idea of the American Dream with the job, house, 2 cars and kids by your mid-20s was a potential reality for our parents’ generation, but not ours, and that we need to adjust our expectations to fit the current climate.

  • Andrew Jacob

    I agree on that, Matt. I think one thing most people need to recognize is that our generation is not our parents’ generation, in that the vast majority of us won’t be able to get married, buy a house, buy two cars, and hold a long-term/well-paying job all by age 23. It’s just not in the cards these days. A bachelor’s degree back then was such a rarity, but now almost EVERYONE has a one.

    I think the bigger problem with our generation is that we have been pressured to go to college immediately after high school. When you’re 18 years old, there’s a 99% chance you have absolutely no clue what you want to do with your adult life. That’s why it’s smart to take a year or two off before college to explore and figure out what you really want to do. Since this is certainly NOT the norm, the pressure comes into play when they see that almost all of their friends aren’t doing this, causing us to make a premature and ill-advised decision. This then causes most kids to rush into some major in which they really have no genuine interest, making their degree essentially worthless when they graduate. Getting a bachelor’s degree in Communications or Art History is going to get you nowhere in life. These kids might accumulate $80-$100K in college costs before hitting a figurative brick wall when they actually graduate. They move home, can’t find a legitimate job, and can’t pay off their $1000/month bills, causing both their credit and the overall economy to suffer even more.

    This is a perpetuating cycle that needs to stop. Finding out your niche in life is not something that happens when you’re a teenager, and kids need to know that. Parents and educators need to encourage these kids to figure out what want before throwing time and money at an unwanted degree.

  • http://twitter.com/Jimba_juice Jimbajuice

    There are lots of great stories here. Some identify and others disdain the idea of a “stuck” generation, which really represents the larger underlying story. Sure, some 20-somethings are doing just swell renting in the area and soaking in a decent revenue from their post-graduate exploits. Others might find themselves not so lucky. The real story is about the decreased average value of a generation’s contributions to society. Apart from illustrating the culture shock of graduating into a recessionary market rivaled only by the one we all read about in history books, the stories of the “stuck” generation represent the individuals who as a whole will be that little negative dip on the GDP graph that we will be reading about in years to come. The economy will recover, the graph will start to point back upwards again, but sadly many people will be left behind as a fresh new generation graduates into the workforce and years of contributing low utility in employment outside their training leaves a generation “stuck” with little room for advancement.

  • Cauldrons22

    Stop buying into the lies of the university industrial complex. Full time grad school will not pay off. Do the math. Most jobs realistically pay $50k to $75k. Calculate the full loan payment and don’t forget to calculate the compounding interest rate. Compounding…

  • Kenshawwjeanne

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  • PJM

    Generation stuck is a self-filtering pessimistic view of what it means to be in your 20′s today. I would appreciate a broader view and stories from a wider swath of this generation. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t: What approach is society willing to award and what is discouraged? Where is sweat equity paying off? How is chance determining outcomes? Who are the iconoclasts and pioneers paving their own way? These are much more interesting questions from my perspective.

  • BK

    The contempt some people have for my generation is really astounding particularly from people actually in my generation. Yes, you worked hard to get that job, but you also had some luck and it’s time to acknowledge that not everyone has the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time while also having impressive qualifications. Certainly there are entitled, lazy brats that really have no reason to believe they deserve a stable and lucrative full time job except that their parents sheltered them from responsibility and constantly showered them with praise. I went to school and have worked with some of these types and they are, in fact, the worst. HOWEVER, some of us have worked extremely hard and done everything right but are still getting passed over for those individuals that happen to have connected families or parents that will pay for them to do unpaid internships for years just to have work in the field. Some of us have come from modest means, worked multiple jobs at a time to scrape by while also excelling in school, competed for and worked internships that actually caused MORE debt just to gain experience, got accepted to ivy league graduate programs despite the extraordinarily high selectivity due to a flood of additional applicants in down economic times, networked like crazy, and graduated with honors still to find nothing more than part time work. Not all of us are being unrealistically entitled or denying the fact that life can be hard for ANY generation. However, it’s not always possible just to make a career happen even after doing everything right, keeping extremely disciplined, and forgoing the fun parts of young adulthood- socializing, dating, traveling, etc. in exchange for the hard work necessary to unwaveringly pursue career aspirations. Unless you’ve really been in a position where you can’t point to any specific wrong turns or bad decisions but still can’t find anything even remotely close to the jobs you were promised upon starting undergraduate education, it’s not fair to dole out such harsh and unfounded judgment. Everyone is just doing their best with what they’ve been dealt, and prejudiced insults are not helping anything.

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