Pull Up To the Next Window, Please

I’m a Millennial with a B.A. in English. Would you like fries with that?

I was taught that a college degree was necessary if I wanted a good job—and then the Great Recession hit and I didn’t know if I could even get a position manning the deep fryer. I may as well have majored in basket weaving. At least that’s a trade.

Fortunately—and surprisingly—my post-collegiate career path has been a good one. I actually get paid to write and can go to the dentist twice a year, which constitutes a Tiny Tim-esque miracle given today’s economy.Other members of my generation aren’t faring as well, though. And according to Michael Wood, Senior Vice President of Chicago-based TRU, the global leader in youth research and insights, such economic struggles play a key role in Millennials’ housing decisions—both in college and beyond.

“Traditionally reliable types of investments have fallen short for them,” says Wood, who will provide the keynote address, “Youth Truths: The Millennial State of Mind” at the 2013 NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition, Feb. 27, at ARIA, Las Vegas. “They’re questioning whether they should buy a home, go to college or enroll in a 401(k).”

(Frankly, I sometimes question whether my yoga pants could pass as business casual.)

As a product of the Great Recession, Wood says today’s youth are incredibly practical—a trait that may surprise other generations.

“In the 1980s and early 90s there was a sense of showiness and bling and conspicuous consumption among the younger generations,” Wood says. “Young people today do not place the same importance on showiness. In fact, the opposite is true—young people are proud to show off the ways in which they are cutting back.”

I know this to be true because I purchase 75 percent of my clothes at a store with the slogan “dress for less.”

In addition to buying $12 pairs of jeans, part of cutting back also means sharing an apartment or room with several other roommates—or not leaving home at all.

Although Millennials’ hesitancy to buy a home is a plus for the apartment industry, living with Mom and Dad is not.

Still, Wood says there are many opportunities for housing providers who are willing to offer more flexibility and look beyond traditional housing options.

By the same token, I believe there are many opportunities for Millennials who are willing to look beyond traditional career options. So rest assured, young ones—there’s a place for you in this world.

It just may not cover dental.

For more on the next generation of renters, check out “Youth Truths” in the January issue of units, which mails Jan. 10.