Five things for the week of June 3.

Hey there, June. I’m excited to see you. In fact, I’m so excited, that I hopped a plane last Thursday night and spent a couple of days in (Do people still say that? #tryingtobecool) and now I’m relaxing with some of my favourite people in Belleville, Ontario. It’s quaint and cute, and that suits me just fine.

Here’s what’s been on my radar this week.

1. This American Life. I’m a more than avid listener to both CBC Radio and CBC Radio2. Some of my favourite programs include The Debaters, Definitely Not the Opera (DNTO), Randy’s Vinyl Tap, Wire Tap, Under the Influence and The Vinyl Cafe, to name a few. Oh, and don’t forget Jian on Q. I could probably recite the daily programming schedule by heart. All that being said, when I’m south of the border on a road trip, I like to dial into NPR to see what’s on talk radio there. Recently the Contrarian pointed me to This American Life, and I’ve been listening to previous episodes while at work. Worth a listen if you like CBC, especially shows like DNTO.

2. What would you do with 2 extra hours? Let this beautiful chart help you dream up the possibilities.


3. The demise of guys (via TED). Listen, I’m not sure what the solution is, but there are some interesting social issues that have been starting to bubble up within Gen-Y and the next group of kids that are just entering their 20’s. Moreover, it’s the boys are suffering the most. As Philip Zimbardo put it in this video, “I’m here to alarm, it your job to solve.” Watch this, and for more info check out the follow up on Amazon: The Demise of Guys.

3. Speaking of the guys, it seem that the women will run the world. Check it out (via the Atlantic).

5. Tattly temporary tattoos. I’ve been toying with the idea of inking myself with something permanent  (Hiiiii Mom! Please ignore this section; I’m kidding), but in the meantime while I waffle of what I’d get, I found an awesome selection of Tattly temp tattoos in Inkwell Boutique recently, and I just *had* to pick one up that fit perfectly with my newest interest: bicycling! I think I’ll save it for sometime this summer.

Do you know what they’re saying about Gen Y?

Gen-Y (Millennials) are a hot topic, as usual. And, in the past few weeks I’ve had many interesting articles come up in my RSS feed, email and through word of mouth. I’ve summarized a few of the more interesting ones below, so check them out and let me know what you think!

Young and Poor in America.

On average, Millennials are comparatively spending less than Gen-X. And that’s bad for the economy, folks. On the other side of the coin though, there isn’t the earnings to match – many millennials are out of work, or working in lower-wage jobs as their education doesn’t match the job market.

Factors impacting their pockets are  fewer jobs, lower earnings, poorer job quality in terms of benefits, higher debt, and higher costs for education, rent and health care.  The data is a clear warning to marketers counting on discretionary dollars from young adults to jumpstart their industries out of recession. It’s not gonna happen.

Read more here

5 Millennial Myths, debunked. 

Thank goodness this article is helping to shed some light on the misconceptions that have permeated mainstream opinion on Gen-Y in the workplace. The five myths and a quick summary:

  1. Millennials don’t want to be told what to do. (In actual fact, Millennials, like to inform themselves of the easiest way to get to the right result, so employers should take the opportunity to give great direction to employees).
  2. Millennials lack organizational loyalty. (Research shows Millennials have the same level of commitment as Gen X. So there. In actual fact, the rate of job changes are consistent through various ages across generations.)
  3. Millennials aren’t interested in their work. (To quote the article directly, “It isn’t that millennials aren’t motivated; it’s that they’re not motivated to do boring work.”).
  4. Millennials are motivated by perks and high pay. (According to the facts, perks are great (and millennials love them, don’t get me wrong), but they won’t change how dedicated someone is.)
  5. Millennials want more work-life balance. (Okay, there is some truth here. But, it’s more of an overall societal shift, and Millennials just happen to be at the forefront. So sue us.)

Read more here

Yes, we’re poor.

The Globe and Mail recently did a live chat with author Rob Carrick (who has a new book out called How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents: The Young Person’s Complete Guide to Financial Empowerment – If there’s a literary agent reading, I’d be happy to accept a freebie….). The Q&A transcript has a lot of useful information on battling student debt out of school.

Read more here

Generation Why Bother.

A rather dark take on the trend of risk-aversion that’s seemingly attributed to Gen-Y’ers.

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother. The Great Recession and the still weak economy make the trend toward risk aversion worse. Children raised during recessions ultimately take fewer risks with their investments and their jobs. Even when the recession passes, they don’t strive as hard to find new jobs, and they hang on to lousy jobs longer. Research by the economist Lisa B. Kahn of the Yale School of Management shows that those who graduated from college during a poor economy experienced a relative wage loss even 15 years after entering the work force.

Read more here + A likeable response

Money Month: Young people need a better education on personal finance.

Did you know that money is often cited as one of the leading causes of stress?


Where does our relationship with money begin? And, how do we develop how we think about money?

I’ll tell you this: I have a bone to pick with the Canadian education system, because I don’t think they prepare young people with enough knowledge about basic financial information before they graduate high school.

There, I said it. It’s off my chest.

I know that how we are brought up has a huge influence on how we come to know what money means, but that should never be the only way to learn. Most of our parents’ generation have massive debt. This is not a great example!

I remember my dad teaching me about money through regular heart-to-heart chats. He liked to tell me that saving money was important, and that if you want something big, you’ve got to work hard to earn it. Pretty basic stuff, but it’s stuck with me.

I also remember my grandparents dealing only in cash. Yep, no credit cards to be seen, and before there were debit cards, it was literally just cash. They made going to the bank part of the daily routine, which is something I can’t imagine doing today. How we bank and what we do with money has drastically altered over time.

Case in point, just watching and learning doesn’t always benefit you. I didn’t know much about credit until I was racking up my student loans and had my first credit card as a student. I still don’t know much about how I should be investing for my future, and folks, I have a Bachelor of Commerce! 

Getting back to the root cause and how to solve it, I have a short list of topics that I think the education system should be teaching kids about all through elementary and high school. They’ve cut so many programs over the years, that I have no idea where this would fit, but the national household debt level (among other information) tells me that a basic finance education is an absolute necessity.

1. Credit is not “free” money. Most people learn this through trial and error. Why not explain the types of credit and what they can do for you, instead of letting kids end up with credit cards and student loans without understanding what happens when it’s time to pay them off? Interest rates and payoff plans matter.

2. Saving for your future. Pensions have seen their day, and I doubt that many gen-y employees will stick at any one place to actually reap any benefits if they do exist. However, RRSPs and RRSP matching are easy to understand and should be capitalized upon. In fact, if young people started a fund earlier (say at the age of 16 when they get their first job), they’ll build habits that stick, and be able to make a massive jump ahead in their savings.

3. Budgeting and forecasting. Seriously. This is so simple, but so overlooked. I like budgets because I like numbers and that’s me, but not everyone learns this skill before it’s necessary and needed to get back on track from overspending.

4. Investing can be more than GICs and Mutual Funds. This is more about understanding your personal risk profile, but if you don’t take basic high school economics or learn this from a family member who is very adept and interested in the stock market, you might have to learn this one on your own.

5. Build a relationship with your banker. I think the first meeting I had with a bank was about my student credit, and my dad had kindly set everything up so all I had to do was sign the paperwork. Thinking back, I wish I had been taught to form a relationship with a financial professional earlier so that I could talk about my entire financial profile at once, and start building a relationship with a financial professional I could trust. It’s kind of like going to the doctor – you don’t always want to go, but you should go because you know it’ll be good for you. And banks are getting better at customer service, so it’s not so scary after all.

What finance lessons do you think should be taught to young people and the next generation? 

Five things for the week of February 20.

Here’s what’s up for the week of February 20.

1. [Blog] Portugal decriminalised drugs, and it worked. I read a fascinating post over at Contrarian this week about the decriminalization process that Portugal undertook a decade ago. Well, the stats are in, and surprisingly enough, it worked! Addiction is down, and although the docs are happy, the do give the caveat that this probably isn’t the only factor at play. What a fascinating case study! This Forbes article states that drug abuse is down 50% ten years into the change.

2. [Article] Adulthood, Delayed. Did you know that the societal norms of adulthood are drastically shifting? A lot of the research is focused on the US, so the recession plays a bit role, but it’s already very clear that the Millennial generation isn’t like the previous generations. So, the question is, when exactly does Adulthood kick in? This Atlantic article says Millennials are at least 5 years behind, and the shift is most likely permanent. Heck, I’m 25 and I’m not sure I’ve crested “adulthood” … begs the question, what deems “adulthood”, anyway?

3. [Site] HitRecord Project by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Who didn’t love JGL in 3rd Rock From the Sun or 500 Days of summer? One day Google brought me to, and I learned about this amazing company that he founded about two years ago. The premise is online artistic collaboration and any of the projects that make a profit will split the returns between the company (re-investment) and the collaborators of the project. Check out JGL’s YouTube updates for more info, or just to listen to the sexy sound of his voice, for reals.

4.  [Fashion] Banana Republic Dress that I just had. to. have. I am supposed to be on a very strict self-imposed shopping ban, and mostly, I’m doing okay. I’ve stopped buying unnecessary items or making impulse purchases, and I limit actual clothing purchases to replacement items or items that I need (e.g., work pants). Need of course is relevant, and I think that’s how I came to own this amazing dress from BR today. I was actually on route to Sephora, but that’s another story. How could I pass up a wrap dress that was both on sale and was also amazing!? It fell into the “need” category on the basis that I buy dresses that fit and look good because they are hard to come by and they are literally my favourite thing to wear, because it involves only one choice and no matching tops and bottoms. I only own one other wrap dress (that I love) so I’m happy to own a new one that was not only on sale, but also was subject to another 25% reduction!

Good choice, right?!

5. [Happening] Family Day Holiday. It’s not a holiday where I am (Nova Scotia), but happy Family Day to all those in the provinces that do give this one as a freebie. I miss getting this as a day off now, as it’s the perfect holiday to get you through the winter slump. Nova Scotia keeps talking about adding a “Joe Howe” holiday at this time, but I think it’s mostly a pipe dream….

The Month of Love: Learning to love yourself.

A few years ago, I got sick with mono and gallstones at the same time I was trying to finish my undergrad degree, recruit for a job and figure out what  I was going to do with my life after graduation. It was a deathly combination all at once. Although it wasn’t fun,  I did deal with it all and move on. One upside: I have some hilarious stories of attempting to stay awake during inopportune moments to fall asleep!

More than a year later, after moving to Toronto for a job opportunity, I began suffering from homesickness and job-related stress. I wasn’t happy, but, thanks to a few good friends and the support of my family, within the year I found a solution and relocated to Nova Scotia to be closer to family and to seek out a new career path.

We all have unique periods of ups and downs in our lives – stress, family issues, deaths, births, moving, job changes, personal relationships. And, we all deal with these different stresses differently.

While we all deal differently, one commonality is that the most fundamental relationship we each have throughout our lives is the relationship we have with ourselves.

So, if you ain’t happy, you’d better fix it. I believe the solution always starts with you.

When I was in Toronto, trying to figure out how to fix the situation I was in, I had a conversation with a near and dear friend of mine. We no longer live close by each other, so we stay in touch on the phone. She’s in social work, a far cry from the business world I live in day to day and one day on the phone she mentioned the concept of “self care.”  I didn’t really know what she meant, but after we hashed it out on the phone (à la therapist) it was much more clear to me that each of us owes it to ourselves to care well for ourselves.

So figure out what gets you up when you’re down! For me, I’ve come to know it’s a mix of yoga classes, massage, or downtime with the people that matter. Sometimes I just need a night in on the couch with a bag of chips and a chick flick. Other people need different things; we all have different ways of taking care of ourselves and feeling good.

And in this month of luuuuve we not only need to care for ourselves, but we need to learn to love ourselves more.

Somewhere between mono/gallstones/Toronto I slowly learned what it means to care for yourself, and most importantly, how to love yourself. Once I chose to move, change careers and cared more about what I wanted and needed, I became a much happier person.

So for better or worse, Generation-y shows signs of understanding why it’s important to be cautiously self-centered, some of the time. We all should know our own pain points, our strengths and weaknesses, and most of all we need to understand how to love ourselves.

Loving yourself doesn’t mean becoming a narcissist. It means knowing who you are, and being both proud and comfortable with who you are.

Because if you don’t love yourself, you can’t and wont love another person with the real love you both deserve.

The new 20-something benchmarks for life, in general.

How do you measure your life?

You know what I mean. The successes, the failures, the wins, the losses; the things that we use to benchmark ourselves against our peers.

In the past, marriages, kids, buying houses, cars and material things were used as the true “benchmarks” in life. Just look at our parents – a mix of boomers and Gen-X’s – who measured things by getting married at a certain age, having kids at a certain time and making sure that they picked the right neighborhood and schools for their kids and did everything on the pre-defined “life” checklist at just the “right time”.

We can’t – and don’t – measure life that way anymore. There’s simply too much variety, choice and change.

Not only can’t we measure this way, but what’s the point of trying to do so, anyway?

I know I don’t want to be perceived as a “failure” because I’m 25, unmarried, living in  bachelor apartment with student debt that prevents buying a house.  I want to be recognized by my personal achievements – whatever they may be – and celebrate the life I’m creating for what it is: uniquely mine. And for those I know in my age bracket that have the aforementioned things, I don’t judge, but I do applaud. They’ve make choices based on their life, and I’ll continue to make choices based on my life.

But, I wouldn’t be a Type-A if I didn’t want some way to measure. Don’t you want to know what the new benchmarks are?

If I had to make a new list to replace the marriage, having kids, buying houses list, here’s what I think fits the current generation.



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Gen-y: the instant hot chocolate generation?

In 1997, long before I had ever heard the phrase “Generation Y”, I was a grade 6 student at A.G. Baillie Memorial Elementary School. At that time I was a stubborn kid who always wanted to know the right answer and I was already showing signs of Type-A personality; complete with control issues, impatience and constant competitiveness.

In one specific memory I was in Mrs. Smith’s science class, provided with the following supplies: one d-cell battery, two pieces of wire, one flashlight bulb, and a piece of paper, divided into, I think, eight sections. The only task that day was to find your own quiet spot in the classroom and figure out how to make the light bulb light up, eight different ways.

Within 5 minutes, someone else had yelled out “Success!” (Actually, it was more of a fist-pumping “yessssssssssssss!”). Meanwhile, at the same time that I heard this cry, I was stuck and as the seconds ticked by I was getting more and more frustrated. Within 10 minutes, 80% of the classroom had at least one solution, and once you have one solution, the other possibilities are just as easily found and documented. Some kids had the time for fancy artistic drawings while I was busy blowing steam out my ears in frustration! By the 15 minute mark, I was still without success, and close to tears. Mrs. Smith, knowing of my desire for success and my certain impatience, made me continue on my own for nearly one whole hour until I had finally taken enough time to cool down, and solve the problem with logic, not frustration.

I can remember two key things from that experiment:

1) It pays to figure things out on your own, but getting to success can be time consuming and requires patience (a trait I’ve always lacked).

2) When the experiment was over, Mrs. Smith had dubbed our class, or in her words at the time, “our generation” (who knew what that meant at that time?) the “instant hot chocolate generation”.

Surely she was a forerunner on generational gap trends, or she was and early adopter of the idea of Generation Y and the traits Gen-Y encompass, or maybe it was just my standoffish impatience that typified us all. I do remember that that phrase was often used throughout the rest of the school year in our classroom, whenever anyone displayed any signs of wanting the instant answer without any of the work.

I’d like to flip that assumption – instant success with little work – on it’s head, because as much as I think calling Gen Y “the instant hot chocolate generation” is cute, accurate and funny, I think it’s a good demonstration of the generational gap at work: we like things fast, uncomplicated, and we don’t like to re-create the wheel.

Generation Y works differently than Generation X, and those differences are becoming increasingly apparent. I see it in the way my parents do things that I do differently. I see it in the way companies are trying to market to Gen-Y from the Gen-X perspective.

Today we’re reading more an more about generational trends and  as time goes on, we are learning more about what it is that defines Generation Y. I’m happy to know that our dominant characteristics seems to be stronger family values, a clear desire for balance in our lives and more time to pursue personal interests, no matter how we are perceived by the generation that has gone before us.

And for me, it’s the defining moments in my life, such as this one, that keeps me learning and writing about what makes my generation – this generation – so interesting.