Building Wealth And Being Happy

A Practical Guide To Financial Independence

The 3 Biggest Financial Challenges Faced By (Don’t Call Them Millennials!) Young People

Millennial. I’m not a fan of the word. And if you were born between the early 80’s and mid 90’s, the chances are that you’re not either.

I’m not sure if it’s because most headlines that use the word millennial have negative connotations, or if because labelling generational cohorts seems like a super lazy way to make gross generalizations, but something about the word always makes my eyes gloss over.  And I’m not alone in totally tuning out when I hear the word. So if you’re in marketing or communications, think twice about your plan for “reaching these keedz”.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at 3 of the biggest challenges faced by young people today:


Challenge: A university degree is the new high school diploma. Young people are feeling pressured to take more (and pay more for!) schooling than previous generations.

My advice:  Believe it or not, accounting wasn’t always my passion. Don’t do what you love. Do what you like and can learn to love. In high school, I preferred both politics and history to accounting. Even though it wasn’t my absolute most favourite thing in the world, I picked accounting for the good job opportunities and learned to love it. You might call that Stockholm Syndrome, but it pays the bills and provides interesting and evolving challenges.

Obviously, not everyone can be an accountant, but don’t be afraid to “sell out” for financial security if your true passions are currently underappreciated by employers. You can still do underwater basket weaving on weekends. No, seriously, there will still be time to pursue your passions when you’re financially independent, and outside of your working hours.

Finding a Career or Three

Challenge: Between unpaid internships, short-term contract work, and employers that want 3-5 years of experience for entry level jobs, young people are job hopping, burning out, and sometimes even becoming disillusioned with the job market as a whole.

My advice:  You might have half a dozen careers over your working life, whereas your parents only had 1, and that’s okay. The job market our parents grew up in is gone forever, so don’t waste time romanticizing it.

Experience is key, not only for resume building, but to find out if a job is actually a good fit for you or not. Sometimes that might have to come through working arrangements that are less than perfect. If you decide to go back to school, prioritize programs with co-op job opportunities – anything to get your foot in the door.

The Cost of Housing

Challenge: Young people are wondering whether they’ll ever be able to afford a home at the crazy prices seen in Canada’s major cities these days. Our home hungry culture has led to many romanticizing home ownership as a rite of passage to becoming an adult.

My advice: Home ownership is expensive and that line from your parents about how renting is just “paying someone else’s mortgage” is sometimes only half of the story. Home owners have their own share of non-recoverable expenses: realtors, taxes, insurance, interest –and the list goes on. Rent vs. Buy calculators show renting being cheaper than buying right now in expensive markets like Toronto and Vancouver, so there’s no need to jump into buying a place if you’re not ready.

One of the biggest factors in the home ownership puzzle is length of stay. Moving is expensive because you have to pay realtors, lawyers, and buy new furniture. Here’s a rule of thumb: If you plan to stay in one place for less than 5 years, always rent. Over 10 years? Buy. In between? Well, it can get complicated.

Renting will also allow you to relocate quickly if a good job opportunity comes up. There are non financial considerations to take into account: e.g. school districts for your kids. But don’t listen to you parents or anyone else shaming you – there’s nothing wrong with renting. In fact, it might actually be the smart financial choice.


Of course, I go into a lot more detail about all of these challenges in my book Building Wealth and Being Happy: A Practical Guide to Financial Independence. Did I miss any big challenges you think are worth discussing? Let me know!

Categories: careers, education, home ownership, personal finance

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5 replies

  1. Great points! I’ll have to think twice about using the millennial term. I’m not sure if I totally agree with “Don’t do what you love. Do what you like and can learn to love,” but it’s a great discussion point. Thanks!

    • I totally agree that you should do what you love IF it’s something that allows you to meet your lifestyle and financial goals. Unfortunately, some passions are more easily monetized than others.


  2. Great Post! Looking forward to more as you write them!

  3. To be fair, I’m 26 and will happily call myself a Millennial. I’m proud to be a part of this generation! I think we will do great things in the years to come.

    • Fair enough Gwen! Your blog definitely strikes a more inspiring tone regarding millennials than a lot of websites – thanks for that. I think a lot of disdain for the word comes from negative media stories using it in a poor way.

      I agree, we will do great things! Cheers.

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