Dear Straight Talk: My boss keeps telling me young people have it easy today. But I’ve worked 40 hours a week at $12 an hour for eight months and have been unsuccessful at saving money for college. I ride a bicycle six miles to work, do not own a car, and share a house with four roommates. I cook and am careful with spending, yet I still cannot save. Am I doing something wrong, or is my boss out to lunch? — Almost 20, on my own in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Justin, 26: I live rent-free with my parents and work 30-40 hours a week making $20 an hour. But with full-time college costs, I barely break even. I haven’t bought an article of clothing in over a year, haven’t eaten out in months, and am too broke to ask a girl out for fear of having to pay her half. I’ve given up trying to pay off my maxed-out credit card until I graduate.
Greg, 21: I commute on a bicycle, make $12 an hour, and have three roommates. I attended college last semester, but the money didn’t stretch and I had to stop. I even sold plasma twice a week to help cover food. Yes, your boss is out to lunch.
Brandon, 21: California is wicked expensive. Here, in rural Maine, my girlfriend and I pay $550 a month (total) for our two-bedroom apartment (including utilities). The community college costs only $1,100 per 12-credit semester. I work and go to school quite comfortably, affording “necessities” like fast Internet. I don’t have a car, but my girlfriend does, and I’m saving for one. I can’t agree that young people have it harder.
Lennon, 26: It’s pretty rough. I’m a college graduate who landed what’s considered a “good” job. My girlfriend has a better job, yet we are far from being able to support a child or family. With the things needed to be competitive (smart phone, Internet, computer, car), every month, after expenses, I’m left with about $300. I do save 10 percent for the future, and, luckily, have no debt. Most young people getting traction have help from their families.
Dear “Almost 20” in Santa Cruz: Your boss is misinformed. For the ratio between wages and cost of living to be equivalent to, say, 1968 — minimum wage would need to be $10.50 an hour, not $7.25. You are trying to launch on 30 percent less “wallet fuel” than your parent’s generation. Raise that number for living in California where the cost of living is higher.
To our older readers: The myth that young people “have it easier” abounds. If you know such young people, consider ways to help them gain traction. Your generosity is good for them, you, and the economy. — Lauren
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