Millennials failing to launch

Why twenty-somethings are having trouble becoming financially independent.

Ashley Redmond 21 November, 2014 | 6:00PM
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November is financial literacy month in Canada, an initiative that's backed by the federal government and supported by numerous companies. The goal is to help consumers increase their knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions. There's even a Twitter hashtag: #FLM2014.

This year's overall theme is Strengthening Financial Literacy through Collaboration, but during the second week of November there was a specific focus on Generation Y, also known as the millennials, called Failure to Launch -- a small rip-off from the movie of the same name.

Millennials are reaching the age when they should be achieving financial autonomy and independence, but unfortunately many aren't. According to this 2011 report by Statistics Canada, 25.2% of young adults between the ages of 25 and 29 live at home with their parents; by comparison, in 1981 only 11.3% of the same age group lived at home with their parents.

So, why are millennials having so much difficulty landing a job and living independently? According to a survey commissioned by Credit Canada Debt Solutions in partnership with Capital One Canada, this generation says its biggest obstacle to financial success is the lack of earning power and unemployment, followed by a lack of budgeting, planning and saving.

Lack of earning power

"Take an entry-level job if you can find one and make the most of it," says Shane Holdaway, president of Capital One Canada. Don't focus on the short-term; instead focus on gaining experience on the job and adding to your resume. "All of this will help with your career growth."

Holdaway says that maintaining a long-term focus of where you want to be will help you persevere through those minuscule paycheques. The bottom line is to be proactive, not stagnant, which increases your chances of getting a better paying job.


The economy is not great for millennials trying to find a job. According to the Young and Jobless report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, as of September 2013 the unemployment rate for Canadian youth between the ages of 15 and 24 was 13.5% to 14.5%, falling well above the national unemployment rate of 7.2% at the time. Holdaway says the best thing to do if you can't find a job is to volunteer in a field that interests you.

Lack of budgeting, planning and saving

"Three out of 10 Canadians are struggling to meet bill payments and pay off their debt," says Jane Rooney, who earlier this year was appointed as the country's first financial literacy leader. This problem isn't specific to millennial; it affects Canadians across the board.

Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions, says the best way to attack this issue is to make a budget. If you use an advisor, speak to her about creating one; if you take care of your own finances, use online tools like the Canadian government's budget calculator.

Paying off debt is the number one priority, ahead of saving some money. Campbell says a great way to stay on track with your budget is to make realistic goals and to check on them every month. She also warns that you don't want to be a slave to your budget. For example, if you enjoy shopping, it's probably best to keep $100 a month in your budget for clothes instead of cutting it out completely. "Remember, when you are making a budget you need to spend some, share some and save some," says Campbell.

Turn it off

The rise of social media is also playing a role in the failure to launch trend, with nearly one third of Canadians under the age of 30 claiming that pressures from seeing their friends' lives on Facebook directly impact their ability to reach their financial goals.

"It's this generation's version of keeping up with the Joneses," Holdaway says.

"Unfortunately, social media can be emotionally taxing for many young Canadians trying to achieve financial success," Campbell says. "And if social media is affecting you and your finances, then you may need to get off of it and give yourself a reality check."

Campbell suggests taking a break from social media if you notice a correlation between being on social media and compulsive purchasing or a complete disregard for your bank account.

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Ashley Redmond

Ashley Redmond  Ashley Redmond is a Vancouver-based freelance writer.

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