Living Independently

October 13, 2015

Hard to do with big debts to pay

Many, many years ago as a young man in my early 20s and recently discharged from the U.S. Army, I moved into my own apartment for the first time. While serving in the military I shared quarters with dozens of fellow soldiers — hardly what you would call independent living. Prior to that I was a teenager living with my parents. I went back to my family’s home for a short time after my return from military service. But as soon as civilian paychecks started rolling in, I moved out.

My first apartment was a long way from fancy. Nonetheless, moving in was exhilarating. It’s not that I didn’t get along with my family, it’s just that I got a chance to do whatever I wanted when I wanted and get home at any hour without disturbing someone’s sleep. Best of all, it proved convenient to a young bachelor who cherished, well, you know, private time with a girlfriend!

I got to thinking about those long ago days upon reading so much about how many young people nowadays cannot afford to live on their own. According to the PEW Research Center, more than one out of four persons between the ages of 18-34 now are living with their parents, the highest percentage in memory. Many of those who do live outside of the family home are compelled to share an apartment with one or more roommates, usually in extremely tight quarters.

In many markets, especially big cities, rental costs are very high. That’s one reason why so few young people can afford their own apartment. Yet even those with good jobs often are forced to share living space because so much of their income goes toward paring down student debt. The average student debt load in 2015 has been pegged at around $35,000. Many college graduates owe much more. It’s nearly impossible to pay rent on an entry-level income while also making debt payments.

I’ve mentioned this before in this blog but it bears repeating. The skilled trades actually PAY YOU while you are learning the trade. Even an apprentice can usually afford his/her own apartment as long as s/he is not seeing so much income eaten up by student debt. If you learn a trade at a vocational school, you will pay a small fraction of the tuition charged by most colleges. What’s more, some employers will pay the bill for promising trainees who take vocational classes in their spare time.

Student debt also is preventing many young people from buying cars, getting married and owning their own homes. Imagine trying to play basketball with lead weights around your ankles. That’s what it’s like trying to get ahead in the world while burdened with big debts.

Take it from me, independent living is a blast for a young person. Enjoy it while you’re still young.