As you already well know, you can't model your life after your parents'. The economic system they lived under is gone now, and today's millennials need a new set of skills and tools to ensure success. Here's what you need to know.
1. A second income
No, I don't mean you and your eventual spouse will both need to work. That's (probably) a given, and your parents did that too.
I mean that you, Mr. or Ms. Millennial, will need a second income to make up for the lost wages that comes with being a member of this generation. Often called a "side hustle," this second income includes anything from selling crafts on Etsy, to flipping used books and second-hand clothes, to starting a creative business such as wedding photography.
As a millennial, don't expect an employer to give you a raise. You're going to have to earn your cost of living increases by yourself.
2. A quick international phone number — for any country
What have we learned, by being millennials? That sometimes you have to go abroad to get work done. Whether you're taking advantage of financial-sector jobs in Southeast Asia, or simply holing up to begin your freelance writing or photography career in a country with a much lower cost of living than the United States, you need quick access to multiple international phone numbers so that both parents and clients can call you without having to dial confusing country codes.
If you're working abroad and managing your own freelance or small business, a service like Toll Free Forwarding provides multiple international numbers for you, all rerouted through its central hub. Let potential freelance clients assume you're in America, or get your Bangkok number all set up for your Thai business partners.
3. A willingness to start over
Our parents got jobs and began climbing up the ladder. They met people in high school or college and married them. They paid off their loans in lump payments, with summer work.
We, on the other hand, have to take unpaid internships in industries like law and journalism that are dying around us. Then we have to regroup and start over at new jobs. We're in a dating environment where people are encouraged to maximize potential rather than settle down — read The Atlantic's A Million First Dates to understand why so many relationships tend to only last around six months. When we make student loan payments, the interest and fees swallow up every penny we paid. Every time we get somewhere, we have to start over again.
Don't look it as failure — look at it as part of life, and a chance to gain new experiences. Our parents never got to live in four different cities, or shuffle among so many roommates. Nor did they get to explore as many offices and industries.
4. Egg-freezing services
Every subsequent generation puts off childbearing just a little longer, meaning our generation is unlikely to have the financial and social support to start a family until we're well into our 40s. Ladies, time to talk to your doctors about egg-freezing options. It may be the only way to ensure fertility when you're ready to have children.
Someday, you may find that full-time job in your career field, or get married, or pay off your student loans, or buy a house. Or, you may not. Your life may take unexpected turns, and as Cheryl Strayed notes, you can still live a big life even if you make monthly payments to your student loans until you're 80.
That means you need a bit more patience than your parents had, and a bit more willingness to go with the flow and see where life takes you. Our generation has experienced more technological, business, and social change than any other in history. That means that a large part of our lives involves waiting to see what happens next.