Young Adults and the Economy

Image of yound woman holding a credit card

Today's young adults have a decided advantage over their predecessors; they witnessed the fall of the economy from a very unique vantage point. Sure, they were affected in one way or another by the recession, but they weren't in a position like the millions of Americans who had to rethink their entire retirement portfolio just a few years before they were planning on retiring. They know the mistakes that were made and they have the ability and the intelligence to stop them from happening in their lives.

Why do Young Adults Have a Savvier Outlook When it Comes to Finances?

The average undergraduate tuition in 1976 for a 4-year institution is listed on the National Center for Education Statistics website as a shocking $ 2,577. When compared to 2006's average of $18,445, it's no wonder that some young adults are doing everything they can to save money. Faced with the knowledge that they will undoubtedly be in debt after graduation, young adults are making moves to try to ensure they have a future after college that doesn't just include trying to pay for their education.

The value of the dollar may have decreased over the years, but it doesn't make them any easier to earn. With the downfall of the economy came the downfall of available jobs. College graduation no longer means the promise of a job - for some, it means having to consider moving back in with Mom and Dad. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate in 2012 for young workers under the age of 25 was at 16.2 percent. This data makes a clear case for why it's a challenge for these young adults to get jobs post-graduation.

The overall rate of unemployment today is at 8.8 percent (EPI). With a hoard of new college graduates being introduced to the job application process each year, both young adults and those adults who have been in the workforce longer, face fierce competition and slim chances at getting a job in their field. What's the result? College grads and adults alike are forced (by their need to pay their bills) to take the first job they can get. This most likely involves working for a wage that does not reflect the pricey college degree that adorns their bedroom wall.

  • 49% have taken a job to just pay the bills
  • 35% have gone back to school due to unemployment
  • 24% have taken an unpaid job to gain experience
  • 24% have moved back in with their parents due inability to purchase a home
  • 22% have had to postpone having a baby due to lack of funds
  • 20% have postponed getting married due to lack of funds

Not So Lazy After All...

Young adults, defined as those individuals between 18 and 34 years of age, have often been categorized as "lazy" and "entitled." But this designation could simply be a matter of perception. Young adults can be perceived as being lazy or entitled because their motives for doing certain things have been misunderstood. Most of these misunderstood actions, however, are often done out of necessity. Living with parents, taking any job they can get, and putting off raising children are seen by some as actions of a person who's just too lazy to get their stuff together and "grow up". However, The Pew Research Center polled 808 adults between the ages of 18 and 34 on this very subject. The results of the survey paint a slightly different picture of the motivation of today's young adults.

How to be Proactive in an Economic Downturn

No matter what the economic situation looks like today, or in later years, it's important to give yourself several options on how to earn an income so that you can avoid making drastic sacrifices. Dan Schawbel, a Gen Y career expert and founder of Millennial Branding, says that one of the best things you can do to offset a poor economy is to create other sources of income for yourself. What he means by this is that we need to have a "Plan B" when it comes to supporting ourselves in this economy. Jobs these days aren't always permanent and, with layoffs having taken place in large quantities in recent years, you can never be too cautious. Schawbel's advice to us is to use websites such as to increase your income. is a freelance website that allows you to create work for others while generating revenue for yourself. Not one for freelancing? Another way to supplement your current income is by way of the website Etsy is an online marketplace where you can sell handmade goods to online users. If you've always had a hobby, such as woodworking, quilting, or knitting, for example, and people have always said "you should try selling that!" put your talents to work. Creating goods to sell can be an extremely rewarding experience because it allows you to showcase your skills while making extra money doing something you love. But the biggest reward may be that you're doing everything you can to support your family and save for your future.