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Why the plight of Generation Y has readers fired up

Dating is tough when you're broke.

That was one of the more poignant details contained in a letter e-mailed to me last spring in response to a series of columns on the economic challenges faced by the young adults who make up Generation Y. It was an unusually gutsy and honest letter. A bewildered 29-year-old who thought he did everything right in school finds he has zero traction in the job market. He describes the impact on his life, right down to the seemingly remote prospect of marrying, buying a house and having kids.

We published the letter in full on our website and the reaction was a crush of online comments and e-mails from readers. Twentysomethings and thirtysomethings wrote to tell me of their troubles in the job market, some angry and some in despair at their inability to get their careers going. Baby boomers offered sympathy in some cases, but also scorn for what is seen in some quarters as a soft, spoiled and entitled generation. Finally, several people in the business world contacted me to offer their assistance to the 29-year-old job seeker.

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In daily journalism, we immerse ourselves in a topic briefly and then move on to other things. So it was with this young man until a few weeks ago, when his letter resurfaced on a social news website called Reddit and started generating traffic on our website again. That made us curious: How was this guy making out nine months later?

If you read the Q&A with him that was published this week, you'll know that he recently turned 30 and still hasn't found full-time work. There have been short-term contracts along the way, but nothing on which to build a career. Something else that carried through from the spring was intense reader interest in the plight of this member of Gen Y. Web traffic was huge for both for the Q&A and for an accompanying letter from another young adult, this one with a good job and a view that that all is not lost for Gen Y job seekers.

Protests by Quebec students over tuition hikes got me onto the story of Gen Y's struggles in the economy. Some news coverage of the students cast them as self-centred malcontents who refused to accept that Canada's lowest tuition rates had to rise. I wondered if the students' actions reflected legitimate anxiety about not only the cost of education, but also the prospects of turning a postsecondary degree into a decent-paying job.

Using readily available economic data, I concluded in a column last year that today's young adults have it harder than I did when I graduated in the mid-1980s. The response to that letter from the 29-year-old job seeker – no, make that 30 years old – just adds to my conviction. Now I have to start thinking about what we can do about it.

Rob Carrick writes on personal finance, business and economics for The Globe and Mail. Join the 20,000+ people who subscribe to his Facebook personal finance community for talk about investing, retirement, real estate, banking and other financial matters. He`s also on Twitter .

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About the Author
Personal Finance Columnist

Rob Carrick has been writing about personal finance, business and economics for close to 20 years. He joined The Globe and Mail in late 1996 as an investment reporter and has been personal finance columnist since November 1998. Rob's personal finance columns appear in The Globe on Tuesday and Thursday, and his Portfolio Strategy column for investors appears on Saturday. More

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