Before I went to university, I read an article about “young adults” who had to endure the humiliation of returning home after they had graduated, because of the huge debts they had racked up while studying. They owed money in the thousands. I was staggered. Their plight made me think only one thing: what losers. There was no way that was going to be me.
That was six years ago. Now here I am, 25 years old, three years out of university and – oh the shame! – living off my parents. I earn money on a sporadic basis, but they pay for pretty much everything I do, eat and sit on, and I am unable to support myself in the way I had envisaged as an idealistic 19-year-old.
My parents are shelling out just over £600 a month for me. That’s not to mention what they’ve already spent on university, holidays, clothes. I have come away from university with the tiniest of debts compared to others I know, but, as a currently unemployed graduate, I am aware that I am eating away at the finances my parents once hoped they would be spending on themselves.
In the past five years there have been many surveys examining why young people are still living at home with their parents. They have recorded a growing number of 20- to 35-year-olds seemingly still unable to cope in the big wide world without help from “the bank of Mum and Dad” – one finds that a third of men in that age group are living with their parents – and the reasons range from debt and poor wages to convenience and laziness.
A 2005 corporate responsibility survey for the Prudential sheds some light on the sorry state of the personal finances of my generation – and there is some cause for alarm. Fifteen per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds thought an ISA was an iPod accessory, and one in ten thought it an energy drink. I know nothing about mortgages, am struggling with tax forms and actually don’t know how much my overdraft limit is.
Another survey identified the “kipper” phenomenon (Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings). Catchy. It found that four out of ten parents were still helping their “adult” children, at a cost of £20bn a year.
Perhaps more worryingly, a survey by BBC2’s Money Programme found that one in seven parents who had an adult child at home had remortgaged or taken out a loan to help their offspring.
I’m in a similar position to most of my friends. Some have plans and are saving up for a flat, while others are still paying off debts from university and questioning their career choices. To a large extent these are all things that are being done at the expense of our parents’ ability to enjoy their retirement.
Last year, Reform published a report entitled Class of 2006: a lifebelt for the ipod generation. That’s not an Apple iPod, it’s an IPOD that stands for “Insecure, Pressured, Overtaxed and Debt-ridden”. The report described the “carefree baby-boomer generation” as increasingly living life like teenagers.
Well, isn’t that supposed to be what you do once the children have grown up? The report’s prediction that my generation will shoulder a 48 per cent tax burden is not something I look forward to. For now, though, we young adults still in the nest could ask ourselves: do I really need that iPod, those skinny jeans, the nights out, the holidays? The answer, for now, must be: No, not really.