Are teenagers out of touch with reality?
So yesterday on Moneyville, Madhavi wrote an interesting article called “Teens think they’ll earn $90,000 a year by age 30.”
According to the National Report Card on Youth Financial Literacy (.pdf), high school graduates seem to be extremely disconnected from reality. Especially when you consider the results from a survey of over 3,000 recent Canadian high school graduates:
- The average survey respondent expects to earn $90,735 in 10 years; roughly three times the average income of 25 to 29 year‐olds with post‐secondary degrees ($31,648).
- The median survey respondent expects to earn $70,000 in 10 years. However, the median income for a 25 to 29 year‐old with at least a high school diploma is $26,000. Even among Canadians between the ages of 25 and 29 who have a post‐secondary degree, the median income is only $29,000.
- Nearly 3‐in‐4 (73%) expect to own a home within the next 10 years, and according to estimates by Statistics Canada, only 42% of 25 to 29 year‐olds are homeowners.
- A large majority of respondents (81%) believe they will be financially better off in life than their parents.
Now check out some comments from Madhavi’s Moneyville article:
- “These kids are in for a very rude awakening.”
- “Sure, if minimum wage is raised to $45 an hour!”
- “Realistic? I think not. Since when have teens been known to be realistic about their expectations, in general?”
- “I’m not surprised. They have a sense of entitlement and the problem is, they now get coddled in University as well.”
- “For that kind of money you either need to be a stock broker, sling crack rock, or have a wicked jump shot. Welcome to reality kids!”
- “This is a generation that has been sold a bill of goods: Get a University education and you shall write your own ticket. Most have never been denied a single thing, gotten everything they’ve asked for and so much more. Fifteen year olds with $200 sneakers and $75/monthly cell phone plans. Inflated grades for mediocre performances. It’s no wonder their expectations are so unrealistic.”
Teenagers are optimistic – and they should be! I don’t want to live in a country where youth are being told that they have to aim low, because what they really want in life isn’t going to happen. Those Moneyville comments angered me. Are these the people our youth are looking up to? How inspiring and motivational to be told that life sucks, it will never be what you want it to be, and to stop trying to accomplish anything. Sure, eventually most teenagers won’t earn anywhere near $90,000 by the time they’re 30. But I think we should be teaching them that if the really want it, and are willing to work hard for it, they can achieve anything they want in life.
I’m 29, and while I don’t make $90k, I’m close. And I expect that next year (the year I turn 30), I will hover around that $90k mark. It’s something I never expected, and I’m extremely grateful for it. But I have also had to work incredibly hard for that money and for my career – probably harder than most people who bring in that kind of salary. Nothing has come easy. But in my teens and into my 20’s, every time someone told me I couldn’t do something, or that my expectations were unrealistic, that lit a fire in me. I wanted to prove them wrong so badly. And if I can do it, anybody can. Truly.
Last week, I was talking to my boyfriend about careers, and that I think we are growing up with a huge sense of entitlement. We expect great jobs and great salaries to be there waiting for us, we expect to climb the corporate ladder quickly, and we want everything yesterday. And that’s the problem. I think that the disconnect between high school dreams and the reality of the real world comes from the fact that there are many students who never apply themselves – maybe because they don’t think they have to. There are definitely teachers and parents out there who sugarcoat what reality will be like after they finish their education. So some students never pushes themselves to achieve more, yet there is an expectation set in them, and they feel like they are entitled to the same thing as those who do work hard.
Related: How I saved for my down payment
I am hopeful that the teenagers who are entering University and starting adulthood keep thinking optimistically about their future, but to be realistic about their expectations. I hope that they truly understand that nothing gets handed to you once you graduate. The job market is extremely competitive, and if you want a great salary, that car, a house, and a comfortable (debt-free) life, you need to earn it.
To the youth of today: you can truly do great things with your life and with your career – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But you have to want it more than your peers, and you have to want it more than those who already have it. Be hungry. Work hard, don’t take anything for granted, and create opportunities for yourself.
Do you think teenagers are out of touch with reality?
Author: Krystal Yee
I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.