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Just a stereotype

In reality, most younger Americans are currently in the workforce or in school — or both.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the youth labor force (those between the ages of 16 and 24) grew by 2.2 million (10.4%) between April and July 2023 alone — the period of time when high school and college graduates search for summer jobs or permanent employment.

At 23, Josh is nearly at the tail-end of his tenure of the “youth” category. However, he refuses to get a regular 9-to-5 job, blaming his struggles to hold down a job on his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis.

An estimated 8.4% of kids and 2.5% of adults have ADHD in the U.S., according to the American Psychiatric Association, which researchers have linked with negative employment outcomes.

However, Josh’s lack of steady income hasn’t prevented him from spending money.

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Debt-fueled spending habits

In the span of one month, Josh earned roughly $1,000 after working only three days as a golf caddy. That doesn’t even cover his rent of $1,200.

“I’m surviving via 0% APR credit cards and I don’t want that debt to snowball,” he told Hammer.

Promotional interest rates are a common trap for many Americans. A study by TransUnion found that roughly 50% of Gen Z has a credit card, while Bankrate found that 16% of this cohort have already engaged with a debt management company to mitigate their debt burden.

However, even credit cards are not enough to plug the gap in Josh’s spending habits. Hammer estimated that Josh’s total expenses in the previous month were $2,750 — nearly triple the amount he earned. Josh’s mother covers some of these expenses with frequent money transfers to his bank account.

Nearly 47% of Americans with adult children are spending an average of $1,384 every month to support them financially, according to a study by Savings.com. The rising cost of living is forcing many to turn to the so-called “Bank of Mom and Dad.”

To be fair, Josh had aimed to graduate with a cybersecurity degree, which should have enabled him to boost his income while working from home in a job that gives him the flexibility he desires. Unfortunately, his strategy for getting this degree wasn’t well-planned.

Seeking a scholarship

Josh has already accumulated $11,000 in student loans after a few semesters of study in New York at interest rates ranging from 4.5% to 5%. In an effort to avoid accumulating more student debt, he now plans to join a community college that may give him a scholarship for his esports experience.

According to Scholarships260, some universities and colleges offer scholarships for esports.

Josh claimed he’s a “high-level Overwatch player” ranked 220 on the national league. However, in order to sustain his position, he needs to spend several hours a week training.

He admitted he spends more time playing the game than working. Hammer believes this is a risky investment because there’s no certainty of a scholarship at the end.

Instead, Josh needs a more practical long-term plan which involves working a steady job (even if it’s in an unrelated field), paying off debts and eventually transitioning to a role that offers the compensation, flexibility and intellectual stimulation he desires.

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Vishesh Raisinghani Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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