Generation Debt: Hope for Echo Boomers in Trouble

The children of Baby Boomers have many nicknames: Echo Boomers, the Millennial Generation and Generation Y. With birth dates ranging from 1978 and 1994, Generation Y makes up 60 million of America’s 300 million population.

They’re demanding, technically savvy, ambitious, question everything and, as a group, are in financial trouble. No group has ever started adult life so deeply in the hole, thanks to mounting college costs, dwindling financial aid and credit-card debt. Here’s how Generation Y became Generation Debt, and how they can turn things around.

1. Cushy Upbringings
Raised by Baby Boomer parents who wanted a better life for their children, Generation Y was pampered, nurtured and given everything they needed or simply wanted. It’s no wonder they grew up with a sense of entitlement.

2. Easy Access to Consumer Credit
Consumer credit companies handed out cards to Generation Y like candy, allowing them to instantly gratify their desires with the latest iPod, laptop or phone upgrade. As a result, Generation Y now faces a median credit-card debt of $8,200.

4. College a Must
Many Baby Boomers were the first in their families to earn a college degree. It was only natural they expected their children to follow in their footsteps. A recent survey found 70 percent of Generation Y felt a college degree was a necessity to compete in the shrinking job market.

5. Financing College
Many entered college just as tuition inflation set in and college loans became more difficult to secure, resulting in an average college debt of $20,000.

6. Poor Financial Skills
While they’re technically savvy, many of this generation are financially illiterate. The education system hasn’t kept pace with the increasing complexity of financial products and the easy availability of consumer debt. This attitude is reflected in the 52 percent of Generation Y who say, “Loans were always expensive; I’ll worry about them later.”

7. Necessity of a Degree
High school graduates face fewer jobs and a more-qualified workforce than ever before. Many employers, faced with an overwhelming number of applicants for each job posting, weed down these numbers by requiring a minimum of a BA or BS for even rock-bottom entry positions.

8. Unemployment Statistics
Roughly one-in-five young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 is unemployed, compared with a 7 percent unemployment rate for those over age 30.

9. Poor Debt Financing
With an entire generation facing underemployment or unemployment, many have turned to the bank of Mom and Dad or borrowing from friends to keep their heads above water.

10. No Bail Outs
Recession recovery programs rarely address Generation Y financial concerns. 80 percent of those still in college think the financial bailout won’t provide help with tuition or student loans.

11. Taking the Easy Out
When debt payments become insupportable, many Generation Y members think bankruptcy will provide an easy out. People between ages 25 and 34 make up 22.7 percent of all U.S. bankruptcies. Unfortunately, college loans aren’t forgiven through bankruptcy.

So what’s a generation to do? For those trapped in debt and struggling to get on top financially, Coupon Sherpa offers the following five strategies.

1. Adjust Expectations
Although the challenges facing young people are real, out-sized expectations are a large part of the problem. For example, most people historically don’t buy their first home until they’ve reached financial stability, in their late 20s and early 30s, yet many GenYs took on mortgages at a much younger age.

2. Track Expenses
There’s a reason the rich are rich. They treat their spending like a business and know exactly where each penny is spent. Create a budget and record every expense according to category. Are you eating out too often? Cell phone carrier bill too high? Tracking expenses allows you to see where it’s possible to cut back.

3. Use Online Financial-management Aids
• Yodlee helps you create a budget, track spending, monitor online accounts, create expense analysis charts, and track your net worth.
• Mint is a free money-management tool that allows you to analyze spending, savings and other financial habits. Best of all, Mint offers suggestions for improvements, including showing users how much money they could save or earn by using a credit card with a lower interest rate, earning higher interest from a bank account, buying a less expensive cable service, and more.
• Wesabe combines social networking with money management and tracking capabilities. Users can join groups, set financial goals, and share tips and information with each other.  Wesabe also allows users to create tags for expenditures and automatically label store purchases.

4. Finance College With Minimal Debt
The recession has made it more difficult to obtain private student loans, but government loan programs now offer more loans, more money, and better rates, while increasing tax breaks for parents. An expanded tuition credit for households with up to $160,000 in adjusted gross income could trim as much as $2,500 in taxes. Go Frugal offers five public and private ways to finance college.

5. Face Up to Collectors
Avoiding collectors’ calls or letters will just delay the inevitable and usually make things worse. It’s important, however, to know your rights. Collector may not harass you; falsely imply they represent the government or that you’ve committed a crime; or suggest you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay up.

6. Chip Away at Debt
Aggressively pay down your highest-rate balances while making on-time minimum payments on the others. Your budget will dictate how much you can devote to paying down your balances each month. If possible, use any savings, bonuses or overtime pay to buy-down debt.

7. Educate Yourself
There’s a lot of free help on the Internet. Financial Guru Suze Orman, MSN’s Money Central,, and, of course, Young Money are excellent, unbiased resources that don’t push specific products.

8. Don’t Give Up
You didn’t get into debt overnight and you won’t be able to climb out quickly. It takes time and patience, but you’ll find it worthwhile in the long run.

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