I’ve read about Generation Y being the new lost generation, with its members unable to find work and rising costs negating any meaningful improvement in standard of living. Increasingly, it seems to me that we are moving towards that reality, if we are not already there. Generation Y is expected to have less income, a greater cost of living, less free time, and more healthcare costs than any generation before it. How are we supposed to be happy with all of these issues and costs weighing us down? Ideally, we need to focus on fixing healthcare costs through reform, encouraging colleges and universities to cut education costs instead of passing them onto the student, and focusing on working to live versus living to work.
Fix healthcare costs through reform
We need better healthcare and we need it now. We should never be faced with having to go into debt to pay off obscene medical bills. We currently pay double the amount that other countries with “socialized medicine” pay, yet we receive no better care than them. If we do not rally for reform and repair the healthcare crisis, the healthcare industry will win again and we’ll be forced to accept rapidly inflating administrative costs such as insurance company CEO bonuses.
Encourage colleges and universities to cut costs
Colleges and universities have no incentive to cut costs, as their goal is to create a better, more thought-provoking campus and learning environment in order to attract the brightest students. The problem with this objective is that colleges tend to be notoriously disjointed in their spending. Each major department purchases the same materials without taking advantage of bulk discounts, departments purchase IT-related equipment and software without IT support, and so forth. These costs add up, and result in wasted spending that could be used to reduce tuition costs. Colleges do not just need to make small cuts here and there; they need to conduct a major overhaul of educational budgets by incorporating measures that other successful businesses use every day.
Some colleges have recently begun cutting costs due to the economic recession, but it really shouldn’t take a recession to make them do it. The yearly budgeting process should include an evaluation of spending as an entire college (not just by department) to weed out needless expenditures.
Focus on working to live
In these economic times, it is important to keep a steady head and understand that, counter to what many of us were raised to believe, living to work is not in our best interest. A person is not defined by their career, but by their personality and charisma. No one can force you to work 70-hour weeks (though you may sometimes feel like you have no choice), and the longer someone works those hours, the more likely they are to put work before family, recreation and even their own health. We will always need to provide for our families, but it’s just as important to spend time with them as it is to provide for them.
Generation Y may be the lost generation today, but things do not have to stay this way. Rather than accept our fate, let’s work to improve our current situation so that we can enjoy the better quality of life that we deserve.
Health Care Spending in the United States and OECD Countries, Kaiser Family Foundation