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Evelyn_475's avatar

How do you survive in this world, during these times?

Asked by Evelyn_475 (787points) October 18th, 2012

First of all, I consider myself a pretty “reasonable” and logical person. I went to school, got my education, was very active in any extracurricular I could gain knowledge and experience from. Now find myself: 2 years post graduate school wondering how the heck I am going to be able to even move out on my own. I’ve cut nearly all “extra” expenditures, I analyze my financial situation on a regular basis, and it makes me cry. My student loans are killing me, I’m paying down the miniscule amount of credit I accrued during school, and in most people’s eyes I have a stellar job. It is still not enough to support myself. I’m feeling a little hopeless. I find myself looking around saying, “How do people do it? How do people survive?” I’m starting to become so jaded that it is affecting my mindset of whether or not I will even be able to have children in my lifetime because I don’t see how I will ever be able to afford it. Maybe I am just young and impatient to “make it to the top,” but I am really starting to get depressed. Obviously I am not going to breakdown my finances here, but my issue really is about the big picture. Am I normal? Is it just the realities of the society we live in, the times? Why do I feel like I’ve worked so hard for so many years for nothing? Constructive words of wisdom, not hateful rude comments would be much appreciated.

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27 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Is your job in your field? Are you on track to grow into a decent job and salary?

Your education will pay off over the life of your career.

Hang on. Shop for clothes at thrift stores, books at used bookstores or better yet check them out from the library (they have ebooks too.)

Do you have a roommate? That might help you cut living expenses.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Evelyn_475 I remember an older banker I worked with telling me things didn’t get easy for him til he made it to X dollars when I was a year or so into my first job. At the time, I was making about $5 grand less than X and I was struggling. I worked hard and did well and got to X. He was right, it got much easier. Hang in there. It does happen.

YARNLADY's avatar

I find it interesting that you consider your education to be nothing.

What you need to do is make a list of your positive attributes and work up from there. We are currently experiencing a severe depression. Read what you can on the various sites that are designed to help people find work in difficult times.

CWOTUS's avatar

Without any breakdown at all of your finances, it’s hard to sympathize much, especially if you have anything like a “stellar” job. People survive pretty well (and often with significant debt from many different sources) with much less than “stellar” jobs. I’m wondering – without asking – what kind of mortgage or rent you’re paying, what you’re driving and whether that’s “basic transportation” that’s paid for, or another debt, how often you entertain or eat at restaurants, that sort of thing.

For my part, I don’t have any debt aside from my mortgage, I do have a decent income and I live alone, but I’m still not extravagant, so I agree that times can be tough. But if you’re able to pay the debt, however much it is, pay the bills every month, and set aside anything at all, then you’ll do okay… especially once inflation kicks in and reduces your “actual” debt, by allowing you to pay it off in ever-cheapening dollars.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

We are relearning the lessons of the depression. Do not listen to the older generations who tell you just work harder everything will be fine. They lived in abundant times and have no idea what it is like. They have no idea what people under 40 are going through, and don’t want to take responsibility for the world they have created.

Take care of those around you. Make as many friends as you can, don’t let the stress make you introverted, most good jobs are gotten by knowing somebody.

You do not need to move out on your own. Find a buddy or two to move in with.

Buy a crappy car. Take a sales or cashier job until you get something in your field, it will help with your soft skills. Surf your bills month to month, only pay the repo or cancellation ones. Very few people under 40 have good credit and you are not going to buy a home for awhile.

Remind yourself that with the stock market going up, people are feeling comfortable retiring again. Once the baby boomers start retiring, there will be a labor shortage.

poisonedantidote's avatar

You can’t play by the rules of the system and expect to win, the game is rigged.

Don’t you find it to be just a bit of a coincidence that a months salary is only enough to survive a month, if that.

Education is a good thing, but you can’t think that just because you are post grad that everything is going to be ok.

The rules say that if you work hard and study hard you will be a success. This is a lie, as are many other things you have been told in life.

A dishonest greedy cheat that has mastered the arts of deception and manipulation, will almost inevitably always win over the honest guy with the education.

I survive because I lie, I cheat, I break the rules, and I do so in a well planned, premeditated and calculating way.

Always ask what is in it for you, and make sure you don’t get caught cheating the system.

wundayatta's avatar

I love what @Imadethisupwithnoforethought tells us. He tells us that the depression was a time of abundance. He tells us that those older than 40 don’t want to take responsibility for the world they created. He tells us that anyone older than 40 can’t possibly understand the world they currently live in because… what…. not sure I get it? They are in denial about their own history?

Well, never mind. Those who can’t be bothered to learn about history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. That’s a good thing. Right? I mean, since you are young, the world is different and history has nothing for you.

The world is truly different now. We live in a time of poverty now. You should have seen how big the TVs were back in the old days. And the smartphones they used have make the ones today look like dumb phones. And the fact that the average house size now is hugely bigger than it was 50 years ago is just… a fluke. Right?

And you should have seen how many miles per gallon cars got in the old days. And how fast they went. And how safe they were. I don’t know why people don’t protest these days. We should be allowed to have what they had.

Well, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought. You’re welcome to the past if you can get there. I’m staying right here.

@Evelyn_475 How do you survive? You do what we all did. I grew up in a middle class household, but when I graduated from college, there was a recession on (1979), and there were no jobs. So I had to go home. Only my parents wanted nothing to do with me, and kicked me out.

So I moved to NYC, and I lived in a really nasty neighborhood with two other guys in a one bedroom apartment, and I ended up with a job going door to door selling ideas. I made less money than anyone I knew. Yet, I did ok because I lived with several other people (in a different apartment), and my job promoted me and I got to use a car, and eventually I went back to grad school, and then I was unemployed for a year and finally I got a job, and slowly I built up some savings and now, after many years, I have some retirement savings and it looks like I can put my kids through college.

Amazingly, along the way, I paid off all my student loans and credit card debt and even my mortgage. I started with a negative net worth, and now I have a decent net worth. I didn’t even work all that hard. I just worked steadily, when I had work, and I didn’t live very lavishly at all, and saved as much as I could.

That formula will work for everyone. The times don’t matter that much. We may have high unemployment, but we still have more than 90% of the people who want jobs have them. They might not be as good as you want, but it’s a start. Better things will come. Just stick at it.

When I got out of college, I think I expected that employers would come banging down my door. I was actually kind of shocked that I had such a hard time finding a job. I didn’t get a job in my field, in fact. Like I said, I was the lowest paid of all my friend for all my career. I never made more than any girlfriend or my wife.

Pretty much an abject failure, wouldn’t you think?

Well, if that’s how you think, then yes. I’m a failure. But life is not about getting to the top of the heap. Not if you want to be happy and survive it. Life has nothing to do with the heap, in fact. These notions of the rat race and status and all that are not helpful. Maybe they motivate a few people to over achieve, but that kind of success is generally unhelpful, and it usually never makes people happy.

I think you could benefit from changing your ideas about what life is about. Life is about smelling roses, not growing prize rose bushes. The prestige of your job only matters if you are a shallow, insecure person. I know. I was one. It nearly killed me. I hated feeling like shit about myself because I didn’t make any money. I hated feeling like a failure because I wasn’t some big politico or world saver. But that’s what I thought.

I never ended up becoming a success by saving the world. I ended up a success by realizing it didn’t matter. These standards are totally arbitrary. They come from society, but it doesn’t have to be like that. We can choose to be grateful for what we have instead of coveting what we don’t have. If we are grateful, happiness follows. Hard to believe, but, well, what do I know. I’m over 40. So don’t take my word for it. Reinvent the wheel all by yourself. Then, when you’re 50, send me an email to let me know what you think, then.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@wundayatta I know you were born on 3rd and think you hit a triple. Based on your hard freakin work.

I know you are pitching a pissy little fit right now. It’s cool, I am used to baby boomers. I will calmly wait for you to tell me that things are much better for the middle class than when you were in your 30’s. And when you can’t think of anything, I will calmly think you another whining bitch of 4% gdp growth and go on with my life.

Pandora's avatar

It happens to a lot of college students today. How you make it, is by planning. My daughter went through the same thing and once she was out on her own she had to work at adjusting her spending to make ends meet. Now she is finally able to start saving. She had to struggle also. First she took a job in her field that just was slave labor and poor pay. She had to rent an apartment with 3 other people. After a year of exhaustion and getting no where she came back home. Then she had to take at a store because no one else wanted to hire her without having a service oriented job and there was nothing in her field. Then she had to adjust her desires and take another direction with her career. Luckily after applying hundreds of places she was able to land a good job and prove her skills and learn more. Then she was finally able to get a job she really wanted. It took her 3 years but she finally got a job that would allow her to go out and live on her own.
My point is that it doesn’t happen overnight. You are just getting impatient and I’m sure seeing that bill month after month is torture. But think of it this way. We all have bills that will never end. This is just one more. You will always have to pay, either rent or a mortgage. You will always pay taxes, you will always have to pay utilities, you will always have to pay for food. We are all always in constant debt.
Your only other option is go deep in the forest. Cut down some trees, build yourself a house and live off the land. Oh, wait. Forest are usually government land, so that isn’t even an option. Just consider you are not alone and this feeling will not last forever, nor will your situation. Life is constantly changing. But things can only go in one of two ways. Worse in which case you will wonder what you were worried about before. Or better.

wundayatta's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Your ability to listen with an open mind is a model for us all.

Shippy's avatar

I guess the time when one realizes that we are all grown up can hit us as different times and through different things. At the moment it sounds like you are doing OK. You have a job, a good one, and you do have a place to stay, if I understand correctly? Some start out life with bigger and heavier responsibilities, have no education (tertiary) and sometimes small kids. We can even land in this position later on in life. Meaning the Cinderella theory, get married have kids, find a decent guy with a great job, find our own middle of the road job and carry on. But even this system can fail us. Again we can be wondering how we can afford to pay for our home, and or loans.

Thinks of the positives. You have an education. Your salary will improve at a rate better than most. You are on top of your debt, and you only have you to worry about?

Get out there, enjoy life, before tougher responsibilities occur.

ucme's avatar

Being an eternal optimist, I just laugh a lot.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“These times” are a hell of a lot better than they were a hundred, two hundred years ago.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Please do not worry so much friend. From the description, it sounds as if you are taking all of the necessary precautions and thinking long-term. That is more than many people do at your age, no matter what generation they are from.

Starting a career with college debts can take many years to pay off, and yet it is done all of the time. It requires living a frugal lifestyle, but there is no harm in that, as long as you stay healthy.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@wundayatta If you served in Vietnam, Korea, or World War II, I apologize sincerely.

If you are over 40, and under 70, you experienced the greatest boom time the world has ever known. You likely started voting around 1970.

I often think about all the wonderful social improvements and accomplishments the baby boomers have given us between 1970 and the year 2000. Like putting men on the moon, and Universal Healthcare, and the wonderful the internet. And then I remember, they didn’t do that, and all my electronics were made offshore.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought There may be some confusion here. The baby boomer generation was brought up by depression-era parents. It took years to finanically recover from the effects of WWII. Even if we grew up with a father parent who was in a well-paid job, many of them maintained the frugal spending habits. Plus, most people were having multiple children at early ages, so their lives were not lapped in luxury.

The inventions you mention may have started during the baby-boomer generation, but it was a a decade or more before they became household items. As for putting a man on the moon, yes, that was exciting. It didn’t pay the bills though. And I’m not sure what you mean by Universal Healthcare. The last statement is also unclear: Who is the ‘they’, and what didn’t they do?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought :( I’m about 8 years younger than your description, and the door to the prosperity that our parents enjoyed seems to be slamming shut just as I’m getting to it.

wundayatta's avatar

Sigh. Like I said. Since we are the age we are, it is clear that you think we have nothing to say, and no wisdom and we didn’t learn a thing. Obviously, you time is totally different, and we are too stupid to understand that. Go ahead and believe that if you want. I’m not going to preach at you any more. You’ll learn your lessons on your own…. or not at all. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and blame us. That will really help you get what you want. Very creative thinking, too. I bow before your superior wisdom.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I apologize. Let me be clear, I define the boomer generation as people born between 1946 and 1964. The bulk of whom were starting to vote in the late 60’s and enjoyed the longest period of economic prosperity the world has known from 1950 until the end of the Clinton Era. People born early in Generation X have experienced some of that, but I know when I worked my way through college as a cashier I had person’s with masters degrees working for me. None of the great social programs that the 20th century is known for actually happened when baby boomers were voting in bulk. Even Health Care reform did not pass until Gen X and y started voting in numbers.

Sigh. CWOTUS told the young lady she should work harder, and he had no sympathy. I indicated to the young lady she should expect none from those who have never had to work for anything. I don’t blame my young children for not knowing the rules. I don’t expect baby boomers to understand what struggle means. I don’t blame you, I am just patiently waiting for you folks to retire, and advising others to ignore your complaints about how it was so very hard it was for you.

CWOTUS's avatar

Really, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought. You got “work harder” out of anything that I wrote? Did I make a stealth response that I can’t even read any more?

When I was your age we could parse sentences for actual meaning from plain words, not attempt divination of intent from words that don’t appear. Ah, youth.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@CWOTUS You are correct sir, maybe I did read in a little. I apologize if I mischaracterized your intent. I think I was just concerned with your “lack of sympathy” comment more than anything, and wanted to assure the questioner, I am in fact, very sympathetic to her plight.

CWOTUS's avatar

Okay then. I mentioned that I was going to reserve sympathy until I knew a bit more about her plight. Many people with “stellar jobs” think that the new status (of the job) entitles them to a certain lifestyle: nice car, great house in a “stellar” neighborhood, frequent parties, restaurant meals, etc.

I started out once, and I know that starting out can be tough. If you don’t do some strict budgeting and planning, then Dickens’ old quote becomes very apt:

From David Copperfield: Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

wundayatta's avatar

Also, I’m not saying work harder. I’m saying just keep on trucking.

But @Imadethisupwithnoforethought, you are deluded if you think that things are harder than they used to be. You just haven’t been paying attention, or worse, are ignorant. Technology, all by itself, has been making things easier generation by generation. But you take that stuff for granted, and have no idea how it affects your life because, of course, you are too young to know what it was like before cell phones and computers and cars that are run by computers.

We have so many more labor saving devices, but does this make you happy? Apparently not. You want… what? A million dollar salary? For what? What makes you so valuable?

My feeling is that is we are valuable, someone will pay us. The fact that we aren’t getting paid what we think we should be paid means we aren’t as valuable as we thought we were.

When I was fresh out of college, I made less than everyone I knew. I mean seriously. In 1979, I made less than $7000. Everyone else was making a good deal more. But while it seemed pathetic back then, and I was working in an unbelievably crappy job, it turned out that the job taught me a lot of things I used the rest of my life. And it turned out I didn’t need to make much money in order to be just fine.

You can complain all you want. No sympathy from me. I have sympathy for the OP, because she hasn’t figured it out yet, and she’s doing a number on herself, just like I did. But somehow I don’t think she’s going to dismiss people’s experience just because of their age, the way you do.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@wundayatta yes I am deluded. I keep bringing up facts, you keep talking about your feelings. Arguing with baby boomers, is in fact, identical to arguing with a child.

wundayatta's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought You have aptly chosen your name.

CWOTUS's avatar

There is a very real thing about today’s economy (and by “today’s”, I mean a condition that has been getting more and more common since @wundayatta and I were children, and is continuing to gain momentum) that makes it harder for young people starting out in Western economies. That is “globalization”.

A lot of people seem to hate globalization because they think it “exploits” people in poorer countries (particularly Asia, Africa and parts of South and Central America), while simultaneously impoverishing marginally skilled (and young and inexperienced) Americans and Europeans of modest means. But the reasoning there is faulty.

What’s happening is that the rest of the world has decided that they would also like to be middle class just like we have thought ourselves to be. The fact is that “middle class” in the USA since the end of WW II has been such an exalted state compared to most of the rest of the world that though we have lived like royalty (and I admit and I understand that we have), we seem to take it for granted that “middle class in America means that we should live like royalty”.

The rest of the world has other ideas. They want a piece of that, and they are working their asses off to attain a relatively similar status, first in their own countries and then by “world standards”.

So what happens? Jobs get shipped overseas to people who want to be ‘exploited’ ... to have a relatively high-paying (for the local economy) factory job for the first time in their lives or their parents’ lives. Those marginally skilled American workers who would have expected to have those jobs in the past have to settle for less. Consider that United Auto Workers assembly line workers who did not much more than bolt a bumper onto a chassis could expect to make upwards of $40 K per year. They’re not paying that in Korea. (I have nothing against a union worker making as high a wage as possible. Good luck to ‘em, I say. But a job is not a birthright.)

Similar stories play out all over the country and all over the world. It’s not just “greedy and exploitive and evil capitalists” moving the jobs overseas. Consumers demand it because of the prices that they will pay… and will not pay. Suppliers have to continue to search for lower production costs – wherever they can around the world – to satisfy “greedy consumers”.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

It does mean a relatively long period of equalization. Factory workers in Japan, for example, who used to be as badly paid (and treated) as those in China are now on relative par with the USA and Europe. Korea is getting there. India, China and Indonesia have a long way to go, and that means that there is no immediate relief in sight for American, European and similarly situated workers. They have to continue to compete in the world economy the best way they can, by improving their own skills, making their own best buys and economic choices (including the public policy choices they choose to support – “protectionism” only saves jobs temporarily and hurts whole classes of consumers, for example, but it’s commonly popular in localized areas where a particular industry is starting to see the work dry up) and competing on the same stage as the rest of the world.

So, yeah, I do understand, and I do have reserves of sympathy for people who are so affected. (My own job, for example, includes “training Indians and Chinese how to take over my job”. Fortunately for me, even at the end of my career I am continuing to improve my own skills and abilities to stay ahead of the sometimes hungry young guys that I’m helping to train.) But my sympathy isn’t a blanket of comfort to be waved at everyone who complains that “I’ve got it tough in my life.”

My own career was not handed to me on a silver platter, even though I recognize that “compared to the world” I have had it pretty easy. Compared to others in my class, I’ve had to struggle, budget, scrimp and sacrifice as I started out and raised a family… just like everyone else I knew who was in the same boat.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@CWOTUS You have said what I am trying to express. I do not resent baby boomers for the world they lived in.

I again, apologize for reading into your words. I just have a short fuse for comments that imply young persons today are spoiled or lazy. My generation, and those after me, have not lived like kings. And older generations are still in place in many mid and senior management positions at fortune 500 firms. Imagine for a minute how baby boomer managers with their touchy-feely talk look to guys like me.

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