Youth Futures: Money Without Jobs
Guest Post by J. Z. Colby
Young adults, for a long time now, have only experienced spending money coming from two places: an “allowance” from our parents, or a “job.” Both sources may be drying up.
The first source, in our younger years, is in danger because many parents are having trouble making ends meet. In late 2007, the world economy entered what became known as “The Great Recession.” Adults argue about what caused it even today, but it moved millions of people from the “middle class” into the struggling lower class.
In 2010 we thought we were coming out of it, only to have energy and food prices, rising all over the world, take the steam out of it.
What about a job?
Unfortunately, youth unemployment is worse than adult unemployment. In almost every country, young people are graduating school and finding few jobs, of any kind. With real adult unemployment at about 20% or worse, young people of working age (usually defined as ages 16-24) are finding 40-60% unemployment. These young adults are not happy, and are a major force in the revolutions occurring in the Middle East.
So what to do?
At times like this, we must take a hard look at our assumptions. People have been making money without jobs ever since there was money. Here are some ideas. Every person’s situation is different, and some of these suggestions will be worthless to you. But maybe, just maybe, one of them will help.
Casual labor — Young adults have a long history of doing little jobs for people that would not make sense to hire an adult to do, even part-time. Yard work, painting, recycling, house cleaning … the list goes on. Elderly people especially need these services, an hour here, two hours there.
Value adding — We have become such a throw-away culture that we have forgotten how useful things can be if given a little fixing up. Perhaps you’ve seen grandma scraping out a peanut butter jar, washing it, filling it with something beautiful (but inexpensive, like colored macaroni), and making a gift out of it. We call this the “depression mentality.” Well, guess what! It may be just the mentality you will need to live and prosper in the future.
Bartering — Who needs money? It makes trading more flexible, but if you don’t have any, you don’t have any. What DO you have? Someone who has something you want will probably be much more willing to part with it if you offer something in exchange, even if it’s not something they really need. They might know someone who can use it, even if they cannot.
Marriage — A “team” of any kind can be much more efficient and flexible in hard times than a single person. Each of you is good at different things. When one cannot find any work, maybe the other can. Many of the expenses of living (such as housing) are about the same for two people as for one. But be careful. Most modern societies do not give young people much, if any, preparation for relationships, so there are lots of people out there who have no idea how to be in one. The list of things other people will tell you that you “must have” to be married is very long, very expensive, and, of course, a completely modern invention that only works in good times.
Community — When economic times are bad, one of the greatest assets you can have is a community that knows you. All of the suggestions above contribute to community, but I have one additional idea from Saint Francis of Assisi. When you can’t find a job, no one has money for casual labor, you can’t find anything to fix up, and you have nothing to barter with, just give of your time and skills. If you start doing things for people that they are unable to do (as with elderly people), or don’t have time to do (as with people who have jobs), they will, with rare exceptions, make sure you are compensated. Maybe all they can do is make you a simple meal. If you are hungry, maybe that’s all you need.
J. Z. Colby is the author of the Nebador series, young-adult science fiction stories filled with wit-sharpening and skill-honing challenges, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for 21st century youth: www.nebador.com
Born in the Mojave Desert, J. Z. Colby now lives and writes deep in a forest of the Pacific Northwest. He has studied many subjects, formally and informally, including psychology, philosophy, education, and performing arts, but remains a generalist. His primary profession as a mental health counselor, specializing with families and young adults, gives him many stories of personal growth, and the motivation to develop his team of young critiquers and readers. All his life, he has been drawn toward a broad understanding of human nature, especially those physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual situations in which our capacity to function seems to reach its limits. He finds fascinating those few individuals who can transcend the limits of our common human nature and the dictates of our cultures. In his spare time, he flies helicopters and airplanes.