Millions of parents lose sleep over their concerns for their kids. It’s always been so, yet America’s recent economic cycles have compounded concerns and confounded parents who want to nudge their kids in a good direction.
Long-term, double-digit unemployment is a financial plague and extending the antithesis of financial independence: adult kids living at home with their parents. Whether “kids” are Millennial, Gen X, Gen Y or another post-baby boomer classification, they are at a perplexing crossroads of long dependency and tremendous opportunity.
America is staring at massive transitions as millions of aging elders relinquish many of their responsibilities of the past, either purposely or due to the forces of nature. There is significant opportunity for younger generations to step up to accept the torch of responsibility in corporations, communities and families. Generally, they’re not prepared, as America bypassed financial education and life-skills training over the past four decades during its unparalleled economic expansion.
Now, with two significant economic contractions over the past 10 years, young Americans are playing catch-up to enable them to survive and position themselves for a decent long-term lifestyle, at a time of radical social and economic change. Can they do it?
The simple answer is “absolutely” — and let’s give credit where credit is due. Although there are many storms on the horizon, our younger generations have developed adaptive skills, technology skills and collaborative skills, which have become essential in rapidly changing work, social and economic environments. Many of our country’s greatest inventions and success stories were born from difficulty as young minds struggled through tough times. How do many break through to success, when others languish on the slow road to nowhere?
Self-sufficiency trumps spoon-feeding. A hallmark of our times is to dote on our youths, yet they’ll fail to develop skills given the handouts they expect. Interestingly, the same concept applies to the corporate environment, as many of our best ideas and improvements come from hungry youthful eyes, left to wander a bit and “bump into” opportunities. Micromanaged or coddled employees fail to rise to their true potential when they are held back or artificially promoted. The human mind and its psyche are immensely powerful, when allowed to process complex variables in a natural way, particularly when working through struggles and failures.
Motivation springs from a need and the sense that one can make a difference, rather than an inspirational presentation or lecture. As increasing media and social influence dilute the ability to precisely guide their flock, elders are best to accept this lack of control rather than battle it. To point, we need our next generation to be more adaptive, given an unthinkable pace of change that shows no sign of slowing down.
Young adults saddled with the last generation’s intellectual equipment are woefully unprepared to survive, let alone lead their families, communities and companies into the great unknown. Parents and leaders who relish youths’ differences can learn from their experiences and grow right along with them. Such an approach provides encouragement and acceptance, which thrills and motivates. Such motivation will carry young adults through the tough times and help them prepare for the great promise on the horizon.
Financial competency is a successful ingredient, which is sorely lacking in America. This threatens personal financial independence and stresses our nation’s solvency. I encourage young Americans to take classes, read books and implement the fundamentals of money, catching up on this life essential.
They can avoid the missteps of prior generations if they embrace the guiding principles of financial success: Protect employment income with dedication and a passion to serve others; spend less than is earned; own far more than is owed; assume tomorrow will cost more than today, and save accordingly; and build and monitor a plan to keep things on track.
Elders often mischaracterize the next generation, as their lifestyles, vocabularies and attitudes create a perception gap. Gaps are natural with each generational transition, as younger people strive for distinction, while dealing with variables, which did not exist when they were born. People in their 20s and 30s will amaze us, if we let them. Embracing differences, while continuing to encourage fundamentals, is the key to family and corporate harmony and the ultimate facilitation of inter-generational success.
Paul Nourigat is a leading national consultant who advises thousands of families and corporate leaders regarding their financial management, family financial dynamics, and company succession planning. He is the author of nine financial success books for kids, teens and young adults.