What do young adults need after graduating college?
A steady, well-paying job would be nice -- but as we all know, such entry-level positions have been few and far between these past few years. With companies increasingly relying on interns, independent contractors or outsourced labor, getting one's proverbial foot in the door has never been more difficult.
Parents are, understandably, concerned about their children's futures. After spending five or six figures on college degrees that come with no guarantee of gainful employment, there has been an epidemic of kids moving back home after graduation with no real plan to make their way into the world at large.
What should parents do?
It's tempting to do one of two things: throw your child out of the house completely, or simply accept the fact that with a lousy economy, the path to adulthood simply isn't what it used to be in years past. Fortunately, there is a third and better option as well.
Begin by asking yourself what do young adults truly need to start their journey in the world? Some basic tenets include:
Housing: Parents have many choices here. After college, encourage your child to be independent and to look for a job, complete with their own apartment. Have a meeting with your child to go over the basics of life, including setting up a budget, the do's and don'ts of credit and debit cards, and discuss the need for a liquidity account to handle life's emergencies as they pop up. Encourage your son or daughter to not only think independently, but to take the steps to build a truly independent lifestyle.
Insurance: It's no secret that medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. Many young adults feel that they're invincible, or that paying for medical care on an "as-needed" basis beats paying a monthly insurance premium. Not only is this unwise -- but, financially speaking, it's downright dangerous. Getting slapped with a five-figure hospital bill, if not higher, can add to the already record level of debt our young adults are carrying with them as they exit college. So, if there is any ongoing expense parents should help pay for, health insurance is the most important one.
Budgeting: Sadly, colleges and universities don't teach even the most basic tenets of personal finance. How much of one's income should be spent on rent? What's more important: taking advantage of an employer's 401(k) contribution, paying off debt, or building liquid savings? And finally, why is it so important to pay off credit card balances in full each month? While young adults are among the most educated generation in history -- at least in the academic sense -- they often lack the necessary, practical knowledge to make sound financial decisions after graduating from school. A visit to a financial planner might be in order, or at the very least an accountant, to better understand what's in store as your son or daughter faces handling building wealth, while dealing with the IRS.
As bleak as the situation for young adults may seem, there are ways for families to cope. Encourage your son or daughter to take advantage of paid internships, contract work and freelancing opportunities to build their network and gain valuable post-graduate job experience. They may be pleasantly surprised to discover that such opportunities could in fact pay better than traditional full-time positions, at least on an hourly basis.
Urge them to resist enrolling in pricey liberal arts graduate programs which may not provide the kind of ROI that admissions departments claim they do. Being saddled with a six-figure student loan debt and little to no job experience won't do your son or daughter any favors. They also may be bitterly disappointed when they can't find a job upon completing the program.
With the proper necessities and additional counseling, young adults can still forge an independent and fruitful path in today's volatile and unpredictable world. More than anything, parents need to remember that just because their son or daughter has a Bachelor's degree, that doesn't mean they're fully prepared to take on all the responsibilities associated with adulthood.
It's up to parents to pick up the slack -- and help our children grow into the successful and independent adults we know they were born to be!