Millennials are experiencing their life crises between the ages of 25 and 33 in ever increasing numbers, so much so that the situation has been dubbed “Quarter Life Crisis.” Symptoms of this crisis include a sensation of being trapped, feeling disconnected from the people and situations around them, and an overall sense of failure. Millennials experiencing quarter life crises tend to feel left behind by their peers, not on top of their money, or behind the career curve by the time they reach the age of 30. If this describes what you’re going through know that you’re not alone, and there is a way through.
Doubting if you’re following the right path in your career or doing the right things with your money is normal. Part of the solution to getting through this time in your life is to determine how you can use that doubt to make a positive change and, if you are in fact behind, get back to where you need to be. Another key to shaking the funk of a quarter life crisis is to stop comparing yourself with others. Too often, Millennials compare their accomplishments (or lack thereof) to those of their parents, older siblings, or people who have been working longer. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle! Everyone has their own path, and yours won’t look exactly like anyone else’s. Be patient with yourself, don’t judge yourself too harshly or measure yourself against others; just focus on your core strengths.
The traditional career path has changed in recent decades, no longer resembling climbing a ladder toward one specific goal. Today, the Millennial career path is more likely to involve a series of pivots. You may start out with a degree in political science and the goal of holding public office one day, only to discover as you begin to pursue that goal that you derive more personal satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment from motivational speaking, teaching, or writing. As long as you continue to move forward and persistently pursue your passion, you’re making progress no matter how many times your direction may change.
When it comes to avoiding a financial quarter life crisis, there are definite steps you can take to get a handle on your money and gain a sense of financial control. Your money will do what you tell it to do, so take a pro-active role in money management by:
• Structuring a budget that takes care of the necessities and allows you to live well with less stuff to manage, and still have some “fun money” every month.
• If you’re married, consider living on one income and saving all or a large portion of the other income (it IS possible!) for a home purchase, to pay off student loan debt, or to invest for your future. You may have debt to pay off (most of us do!) but your debt does not define who you are as an individual, so don’t let the thought of it overwhelm you or cause you to become paralyzed into inaction.
• Take life one day at a time and celebrate each positive step in the right direction.
Finally, why not use your quarter life crisis as your call to action? The reality is, the life you want costs money. That’s true for all of us, regardless of our generation. Procrastination is not a good financial plan, neither is waiting for a windfall to wipe out debt. To avoid a financial quarter life crisis takes a plan, and diligence to follow that plan. Learn the value of delayed gratification and avoid credit card debt like the plague. Minimize where possible and if you do have high interest debt (read: credit cards), consolidate those balances and pay them off with a lower interest loan. Living a little leaner now can result in living large later, and you might not need as many material things as you think to live a rich life.