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Sustaining your passion: why money matters

Sustaining your passion: why money matters

Money matters. Pretending it doesn’t is counterproductive to achieving your career goals. Sustaining your passion prevents the emotional pain and stress that can arise from ignoring financial reality. Not convinced? Read on.

I am reminded of a quote by 19th-century American cartoonist and humorist ‘Kin’ Hubbard:

“When a fellow says, “It hain’t the money but the principle of the thing”, it’s th’ money.”

If we replace the word ‘fellow’ with ‘Gen Y’, and ‘principle’ with ‘passion’, and we suddenly arrive at a representation of Gen Y at work - at least according to recent surveys. In this article we will observe the conflicting messages that hyped media barrage us with, and then look into why money matters to Gen Y, using real-world statistics and examples. Finally, we observe some good news and look at three approaches, to help you identify the correct approach for sustaining your passion in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Passion vs money ?

Mismatched messages abound in the media surrounding what motivates Gen Y in the workforce. A study by Manpower Research reveals that two thirds of Americans and Canadians would “overwhelmingly rather ‘pursue their passions’ than ‘make lots of money.’ And a survey by USAToday revealed that Gen Y places a higher value on “self fulfillment” and care a lot about “work life balance.” 

On the other hand, a study by Dr Dave Brookmire, in a report for Generational DNA, showed that Gen Y’ers overwhelmingly chose cash-based incentives as their main motivator at work. Look at the stats: Cash bonus (89%); Base pay increase (86%); All expenses paid trip (64%); Job promotion (61%); Additional vacation days (55%); and Flexible work schedule (53%). So which message is correct? 

They can both be correct: fulfillment and work life balance are important, but young people need to be able to sustain themselves and their careers. Discovering why this is important could make the lives of many Gen Y’ers easier.

‘Y’ money matters

“They’re called Generation Broke by the media”, proclaims Suze Orman, author of The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke. “20- and 30-somethings are in a financial mess,” says Emma Johnson for MSN Money. The average Gen Y’er, statistically, faces real-world financial hurdles that must be leapt over before embarking on a crusade of passion. These are real numbers, of real people, and can be a little unnerving.

The debt monster

Debt is a form of invisible currency. For Gen Y, credit card debt and education debt can easily be forced to the back of the mind, yet this invisible debt remains a constant reality:

  • Credit card debt: The average credit debt of low- and -middle income people 18-34 is $8,200 (MSN Money)
  • Education debt: The average education debt for recent graduates is more than $20,000 and rising (National Center for Education Statistics)

Weighty concerns

Graduate twenty-somethings are entering the workforce for the first time. They are dealing with a lack of jobs, rising rental and housing prices, and even the threat of going under are ongoing concerns for many young people:

  • Lack of jobs: Employment prospects are the major concern for 63% of Australian Gen Y’ers, ahead of the economy (54%), the environment (39%) and rental and housing prices (both 41%) (Commonwealth Bank)
  • First time home buyers: The average first-home buyer is 32, and puts down a $30,000 deposit, facing higher interest rates, mortgage insurance, monthly repayments and greater risk than previous generations. (National Association of Realtors)
  • Threat of bankruptcy: 25-34 year olds make up 22.7% of all U.S. bankruptcies, despite making up just 14% of the population (MSN Money)

The good news

Look beyond the gloom scenario and some good has come from the downturn, even for Gen Y. According to an in-depth study by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, young people are learning some valuable lessons about understanding why money matters:

  • Appetite for debt dwindling: Ross McEwan, Group Executive of the Commonwealth Bank's Retail Bank, said the results from the study suggest that Gen Y’ers are losing their appetite for debt, with over 20% more participants (64%) in 2009 indicating it was a concern than previously (43%).
  • Budgeting on the rise: 92% of 18-24 year olds in 2009 said they were saving to fund their aspirations, compared to only 76% in 2006; and 74% were now budgeting for day to day expenditure, well ahead of the 54% budgeting three years ago (Commonwealth Bank).

Three approaches

Here you will find three targeted approaches to sustaining yourself whilst pursuing your ideal career, depending on factors such as your personal situation, financial position, timeframe and calibre of job you are seeking. Based on personal experience and the advice of a good friend, we can call these approaches salt-mining, coal-mining and gold-mining.

  • Salt-mining is the low-risk, low-reward option. If you need money to survive now, this is the best option for you. These are the jobs you could get in 2 weeks, if you needed to. Often these jobs are in retail and hospitality, but you may have strong skills or contacts that guarantee you will get this job. Salt-mining is a short-term solution that guarantees you do not incur debt, whilst searching for higher-level jobs in the interim.
  • Coal-mining is the medium-risk, medium-reward option. You have some money saved up, and can get by for the next 2 months without income. You would be pursuing entry-level jobs that serve as a launching pad into your ideal career. They may not pay as much as you would like, but you can afford to take on a job like this now, knowing that it will lead you in the right direction to a fulfilling career. This is a medium-term solution, and ensures you can pay your bill, whilst pursuing your ideal career from the bottom up.
  • Gold-mining is the high-risk, high-reward option. You are not in a big hurry to get back to work now, your bank balance is strong and your expenses are not a big concern for you right now. Perhaps you have gone through the salt- and coal-mining stages to get where you are, and you’ve done the groundwork to prepare for your ideal career. Now is the time to take some risks, dip your toe in the deep end or plunge right on in. You are looking for the ideal job that pays the monetary and non-monetary rewards you seek. Your mind is completely focused on a specific organization, position and ensuing skills, knowledge and experience necessary. This will require a full-time, long-term commitment: and you know it will be worth the wait.

So, which approach sounds right for you? Are you salt-mining, coal-mining or gold-mining? The WorkLifeGroup career transition toolkit will help you identify which paths to take, and guide you all the way to your ideal career.

Guy's photo

EARLY CAREER: Gen Y, Graduates and Early Careerists

Guy has worked as a business journalist, urban planner, slow food chef, denim salesperson and digital media manager, and shares original insights on diverse Gen Y career experiences.

Guy holds a B. Urban Planning & Development (Hons), has worked in 5 different industries and knows what its like to face the challenge of graduate transition. New career choices, personal branding and balancing passions with money are all part of the mix.

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