Sometimes I feel like giving fatherly advice, but since my son is a year and a half old the best advice I can give him is to not put his finger in the electrical socket. If I was able to offer guidance to an impressionable Gen Z’er this is what I’d tell him.
Don’t take financial advice from anyone over 50. Your deal and their deal are different. You might as well be a different species. They are so marinated with post WW2 wisdom that very few of them can offer you any financial advice that will be worth a good god damn. They will tell you to “just get a college education” “pay yourself first” and that renting is “throwing your money away”. This advice was accurate in their time of growth, when the USA was the financial engine of the world and most of Asia was riding wooden bicycles.
You have to prepare yourself to deal with a turbulent economy for most of your working lives. You are going to have to be very intentional with every decision you make. I believe the 40 hour week with 26 pay periods is going to less common than it is today. More and more people will be temps. White collar workers will have irregular income patterns similar to construction workers. Everyone will have to have multiple moderate and diverse income streams if they’d like any semblance of stability.
The less financial commitments you make the better. I heard a girl on the Dave Ramsey show today who had 80K in student loan debt for an unfinished journalism degree. This is not going to cut it in the world you’re inheriting, it barely cuts it in mine now. Hopefully the student loan scourge will be greatly reduced by the time you reach your go time. If you are going to take out big student loans you’d better be certain it is going to pay off. You have what it takes to be a specialized cancer rocket nanodoctor? Take a loan. Majoring in bong rips and body shots? Don’t take a loan.
Same goes for buying a house. There was a story on yahoo recently talking about how buying a house is a guaranteed investment loser. Owning a house is not necessarily a bad choice but it is certainly going to be a shaky investment for years to come. Don’t be afraid to rent, even after you’re married with children. Previous generations were all gunning for the atomic family with a house and a yard. It was just what you did. This made buying a house a less risky. All you had to do was keep your job, not let it fall in to disrepair and you could be fairly certain your investment would hold it’s value, if not incrementally increase. You will have the risk of not only having to keep your job but of your investment value going down.
Be careful with the partying. Partying your face off in your youth is an American right. Everyone looks back on their younger partying days with nostalgic bliss. Most people partied pretty hard, fucked up really bad and still came out fine on the other side. DUI’s back then were comparable to a speeding, if not a parking ticket. Regular people routinely got arrested for drunken goofs. Those innocent days are quickly evaporating.
Stupid drunken mistakes are going to follow you throughout your life, unfortunately. A DUI on your record may prevent you from getting the job you are otherwise qualified for. It will raise all sorts of fees on you. In some states, you may actually go to prison, which will almost completely bar you from gainful employment. Got drunk and mooned someone? Back in the day it would have resulted in little more than a war story told when friends got together. Now, you’re sex offender.
Another thing, and I feel old saying it, is the drugs are a lot harder these days. Back when your parents or grandparents were partying the hardest drugs were cocaine, heroin and a limited supply of prescription pills, few of which were physically addicting. The chances for a regular Joe to start booting heroin was slim. They had to be hanging with a sketchy crowd for the opportunity to arise. Now, there is heroin in pill-form that is readily available at every house party and bar.
The designer and synthetic drugs that are popping up everywhere are no joke either. Taking this exit will pretty much guarantee a shitty life. These things will make you scratch your face off and act like the tasmanian devil. All the prescription drugs are super addictive and will mess with your chemistry something fierce. Do yourself a favor and leave these things alone and avoid people who don’t.
It’s awkward to see myself typing this advice out. I partied REALLY hard in my day and hold the opinion that all drugs should be legal. But the fact is there is a convalesce of a “tough on crime” law enforcement mentality with a readily available hard drug party scene. It’s a bad combination and getting caught in the middle is going to equal bad news for you. Being thoughtful with your partying is going to be a key factor of making it in your world.
Learn a trade. Any trade. This doesn’t mean you have to forgo college to become a plumber, although in a lot of situations it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Everyone, both guy and gal, should have some working knowledge of at least one kind of trade. This could be anything from the traditional trades like electrical and HVAC to coding to cutting hair. A rule of thumb is know something commonly needed someone would be willing to pay you for, preferably under the table.
In my State getting your electrical license is a major commitment of both time and money. It is equivalent to getting a college degree. This is not the path for everybody, but knowing how to use a multimeter or troubleshoot a household appliance is going to be very valuable. Know how a lot of different things work. Know how to measure, how to cut and how to use basic tools. Knowing the basics of cooking is imperative too.
If you are good with your hands a trade is a great career path. I can’t imagine a world where a good car mechanic isn’t needed. If you are really good with your hands than becoming a skilled craftsman is an awesome career. Trades can definitely be a grueling way to make a living, and if you have other skills more applicable to a cubicle by all means go with them. But trades can lead to side work and income streams and like I said before, multiple income streams is something you are going to need.
Another great thing about trades is a lot of them rhyme. Once you know one good you’ll almost instantly know a little about all of them. There is no reason an out of work plumber wouldn’t be able to lend a hand cutting 2X4′s on a side project for some extra cash. Trades are the best way to build redundancy into your work life. Do not go about life with out knowing something about them.
Don’t expect much help. Not only are you going to face a challenging work and life environment, you are probably going to receive little help when you’re there, be it from the State or other people. I would immediately forget about receiving any sort of support, either financial or moral, from Government. Discounted loans, tax write offs, helpful grants, subsidized anythings are going away fast. In fact, the State is most likely going to be a major impediment to you. They are going to tax you to support the ill conceived promises made 40 years before you were born. They are going to implement assine policies that chase business abroad and stifle growth at home, all of which will limit your opportunities.
Another possibility is that older coworkers may be hesitant to mentor you out of the fear that you’ll become competition for their job. The job market is going to be ruthless, thus, the people looking and holding those jobs may become savages. Losing guidance from experienced coworkers can be a major disruption to your development. Make sure you observe everything you can, offer to help and never go about your business in a careerist way.
The way things are shaping up is pretty crummy for you. Your career progress will likely be stymied by older workers who hang on an extra 5 in order to pad their 401k, and then when they finally do leave, you’ll get to subsidize their retirement. Such is life in the decline.
Keep doing what you’re doing. You youngins are almost completely removed from the post WW2 world of network television, newspapers, record companies, publishing companies, and other value sinking middlemen. You are used to getting your information, entertainment and influences from new media. While most of the stuff you consume is trashy nonsense, in my opinion, you’ll grow out of it and when your tastes become more refined you’ll move on to higher quality stuff.
The establishment will do all it can to turn the internet into a platform for the continuance of it’s withering power, doing all it can to replace the dying television and print monopoly they previously relied on. They will try to pass restrictive laws that allow them to control the flow of information, but as the recent SOPA episode showed, the younger generation is not going to sit back and let old farts take away their memes so easily.
You’re informational instincts are good. Continue to hone them, and never allow the older generation to shape the future of technology. Drop the mindless fluff sooner than later, and never turn into the generations you see before you.