Generation Y: What not to do with your college degree

By Emily Hutto

ProducersWEB


I’d like to preface this blog by apologizing for throwing my friends under the bus. No names of course, but you know who you are. You’re my friends to the end, but your stories are just too relevant to not share with the ProducersWEB audience. Please forgive me.

In his article “A modern-day depression: The current secular market cycle mirrors one from the past,” ProducersWEB writer Dave Scranton cites the statistic that more than 46 million Americans used food stamps, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in April of 2012. According to The Food Research and Action Center, SNAP is effective in lifting people out of poverty. “For struggling families,” says the Center, “SNAP is making a huge difference on their economic well-being and health.”

I agree. But what about the individuals who abuse SNAP?

I’m friends with one of them. He has a college degree and is currently working part-time as a skateboard instructor, but only when he feels like it. He’ll occasionally do some freelance work, too — if he’s in the mood. He lives in low-income housing and uses SNAP to buy his groceries. He’s also notorious for going to the hot bars at grocery stores, eating his meal on-site and leaving without paying for it. Whenever I see him, he’s drinking a beer, or intoxicating himself otherwise.

SNAP, says the Food Research and Action Center, is an important lifeline for many people struggling with unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate in the United States in June was just over 8 percent.

Unemployment, reports an article on MSNBC, has hit Generation Y (often recent grads with degrees in art history and classic literature) the hardest. BLS reports that unemployment of people between 20 and 24 years old has been above 12 percent for the past two years, and the unemployment of people ages 25 to 34 has been between 8 and 9 percent. Many Gen Y-ers are unemployed because they graduated and couldn’t find jobs with their specialized degrees. That’s one story. But what about the young people who have been laid off and are abusing unemployment benefits? That’s a different story.

Consider another friend of mine, who also has a college degree, in addition to experience from several different internships in her field. When she completed a fixed-term internship, she filed for unemployment benefits instead of looking for another job… and she actually got it. What’s more, her parents still pay her rent, provide her with health coverage (she’s still under 26 years old) and do her taxes for her every year. She spent the summer traveling.

The last friend that I am shamelessly outing in this post was laid off from his job, and received unemployment benefits until they expired. Under the pretense of job seeking, he spent his time buying discount sporting goods and re-selling them for profit online. Apparently that serves him well, as he hasn’t attempted to find a job since his benefits expired. And, you guessed it — he has a college degree.

I’d like to speak highly of my generation. We’re a well-educated, tech-savvy group, and I’ll argue that during this recession, we’ve all gotten a lot more resourceful. I, for example, became a professional dog runner during my post-grad unemployment, and still freelance, in addition to my full-time job, to pay off debt. Many of my peers, though, have gotten resourceful in ways that I don’t think are economically or politically responsible. It’s not a sign of intelligence that we can milk the system; it’s a sign of laziness.

Generation Y is ill-equipped to handle their financial futures, many studies say. At the risk of losing a few friends here, I’ll take that one step further and argue that we aren’t equipped to handle ourselves very well, either.

Perhaps instead of considering how our current actions will affect our retirement, we should backtrack just a bit and consider how our actions are affecting our communities.