Generation Y Independence: Mission Impossible?

“We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

Get by with a little help from my friends

The economy is tough. The stock market is down, layoffs are up, new jobs are at a premium. Many of us are just starting out in the ‘adult’ working world or maybe you’re about to graduate and you’re looking for your first job. A lot of you may be thinking “What am I going to do? How am I going to support myself”? As someone who has been through the initial ‘first job’ hunt – I can attest to the overwhelming level of stress young adults are faced with as they end their collegiate tenure and look to start their career.

As we navigate through the barren wasteland of job opportunities and stare financial independence directly in the face, many are forced to side with the fact that they can’t support themselves. That somehow, either through loans or through familial support, getting some help is going to be inevitable.

Over the past several months I have noticed an ongoing debate 20-something Gen-Yers are faced with. Should you move back in with the folks, or tough it out on my own? What’s more important? Staying home and saving money or achieving independence and being able to say, “I got where I am today entirely on my own”? Is it seen as a sign of weakness to move home and accept support from your parents, or is it just an inevitable stage in the ‘new’ growing up process and a sign of these difficult times? And what about mom and dad? Should they welcome us home with open arms or push us away and encourage (or force) us to take care of ourselves?

A little about my background and situation. I have been very independent (financially and otherwise) since a very young age. When I was 15 I started a job bagging groceries and I haven’t stopped working since (not as a bagger – that was a one-time summer gig, thank God). I’ve taken financial responsibility for pretty much everything along the way. I was lucky enough to get a lot of help with college – the one benefit of my parent’s divorce was that they set up a college fund to dump money into starting when I was only a wee lad. Since graduation last May I have become 100% financially independent – I’ve got an apartment, the whole lot of bills, a car note, you name it – but I’m making it. Comfortably? No – but I’m getting by and doing ‘OK’ for myself considering I’m only 23 years old.

Is it OK to move back home?

All of that being said, I’m not writing this to toot my own horn, but I think it’s important for all of you to know my background to better understand where my perspective is coming from. Personally? I think there is a lot to be said for those people who are able to support themselves, and I couldn’t be happier about where I am today. I tried moving back home after college, but my parents encouraged me to stay on my own, and while I was hurt at the time, in the end, it made me a stronger person and it’s taught me a lot about myself, my personal ‘will’, and how to effectively manage a limited amount of money.

But it’s not for everyone. It’s not possible for everyone. Or is it? There are clearly two sides of this argument. One will say that moving back home is inevitable, that it’s better to not worry about being proud, suck it up, and move home while saving and pursuing your dreams. But others passionately attest to the idea of hard work, making it on your own, earning everything for yourself and not taking handouts from others.

None of us want to be the 40-year-old living in his parent’s basement playing Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, chatting in online sex forums. But many of us are fine with living at home in our 20’s while we ‘get our feet on the ground’. Where is the cutoff? Is there a certain age when it’s ‘OK’ for parents to push us away? Hopefully I will get the perspective of both parents and children here, as there appears to be a clear difference in opinion amongst generations.

So I turn the discussion over to you – tell us your story – what are your thoughts on the concept of living at home vs. being on your own? Should we be able to rely on our parents for financial support while we chase our dreams – or is the real ‘American Dream’ about making it on your own, dealing with the difficulties that come and maybe taking two steps back to take a step forward. Is someone who has ‘made it on their own’ more highly regarded than someone who had to rely on others? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments below.