Yes young people are in debt – but it’s not our fault

Yes young people are in debt – but it’s not our fault

The head of Britain’s financial regulator has warned that young people are facing crippling debt to cover basic living costs.

This may have been shocking news to some. But for those of us in the millenial generation? All we can say is “no shit”.

The ‘grown-ups’ might mutter that young people don’t know how to manage money; that if we spent less on avocado on toast we’d be able to get our act together. But as studies are showing time and time again, it’s not us: it’s the economy.

Our savings are ransacked long before we’ve even had a chance to build them up. The cost of student accommodation is astronomical, and those living outwith Scotland have eye-watering fees to pay each year for the privilege of having a degree.

Almost all my course mates (and we did have the good fortune to be born into the Scottish education system) had part-time, or even full-time jobs just to get by. Many never made it out of their overdrafts, and several did take out a dreaded payday loan, a financial burden no twenty-year-old should be undertaking.

Yet we accept this debt, on the proviso that it will only be temporary. We work hard and get the grades because having a degree to your name brings the promise of well-paying work.

Except it doesn’t. Graduate jobs are few and far between, and even the lowliest professional position requires screeds of experience. We work for free, we do internships, and we work two jobs to fund our hope of a better future.

And if we’re lucky? Like, really lucky? We’ll land a job paying £20k. Only if you live in London though. (And the crippling living costs of London is a blog post all of it’s own!)

But we’re not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. While our grandparents may have been able to squirrel away big chunks of their salary to buy their £2,000 house, young people are spending half (or even more) of their salary on the rent of a house share. What’s left is swiftly swallowed up by substantial travel costs and ever-rising food bills.

‘But what about all those holidays?’ the oldies argue. ‘Why are we spending all that money when we could be saving?’ The truth? It’s not even worth it, mate.

Putting money into a savings account in the 1980s could easily provide you with a 10% return. These days, we’ll be lucky to get an extra 0.25% of what we put away. Don’t say we aren’t working for our money: our money isn’t working for us.

So yes. Young people have debts. We’d love to pay our way, really we would. But until rent caps are put in place, our work is valued by employers, and wages are brought in line with true inflation costs then we just don’t have a choice.