Are you just starting out in this strange time?


The times are strange. Your university, college, or school, your parents, and those you take advice from know one world — but you live in another.

The world they know is one of relentless, unending inflation. One where racking up debt to study, then to “get on the real estate ladder”, was the right thing to do.

But you live in a world of deflation. Debt is your enemy, because money is worth more every day, and debt parts harder to repay.

So here’s the necessary steps to prosper in the world you actually live in.

First, if you owe, make it go. Every penny of debt must be retired as fast as you can. Live cheaply, plough as much as you can to take that burden off your neck.

Second, be very cautious around buying real estate. It will be illiquid when you want to sell, and the mortgage and condo fees will choke you over time. Landlords will try to churn units to raise rents (they, too, are being choked by their mortgages) so ride it out. The less you owe, the easier it’ll go.

You can buy when and if you see a period of stability for yourself — if you do, accelerate your payments and get out from under as fast as you can, and don’t pay for space you don’t need. Four child families were comfortably raised in 900 sq ft bungalows sixty years ago. That’s a lot cheaper than the 3,000+ considered “essential” for a family that large today.

Third, be employed. If the best you can get is flipping burgers or pouring coffees, accept it. some income is better than none. A year later, at least your résumé says you don’t quit.

Fourth, consider the pressure to keep going on — Master’s, Doctorates, certificates galore — with a cynical eye. These are the remaining profit centres in higher education (which hires sessional instructors now rather than tenure-track staff). What do you get out of it? For a solid answer, go. For speculation, avoid it: it’ll still be there in a few years and they’ll take you part-time to get your money when you go back (if you do).

Accept that no degree comes with a guarantee of employment. No, not even engineering, medicine, or the like. (If you’re in high school and reading this, study what motivates you, and pay cash. Seven years (study one, work the next) to do a Bachelor’s degree will become “normal”. Working until you’re 21, then going, not only let’s you go with cash, it brings you in as a mature student — one they’ll back off a lot of rules for.

This period is likely to last most of your life. You may do twenty different things before you finally stop working, as employers downsize or frat merged out of existence. Be adaptable — and always be working.

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