A young person starting out at this sketchy period in American history is very fortunate. I'll get a healthy share of opposing arguments for making this claim, but that won't get me to budge from feeling that if you are young right now, in 2009, you could have the problems of my generation licked. That's why I've begun my public talks to students, not with good humor, but with hope. My high school and college talks go something like this-
Great news! You boys and girls are not in debt. Well, maybe some of you are, but I'd say that if you are in debt you have, maybe, a couple hundred down on your late '90s model pick-up truck. That's nothing. Pay it off now. Do not gather any more debt.
You say you have college loans? All right, handle 'em, and don't start racking up credit card and other bills for things you don't need.
You don't need to have a cool apartment first time out-you can rent one with a few roommates and split it three ways; one in the bed, one on the couch, one on the futon.
I moved to New York City when I was age 29; I slept for two years on an air mattress in a hallway that led to the bathroom. My two roommates would hop over me on their way to shower in the morning. My share of the rent was $300 a month, a pittance. It wasn't my favorite living situation, but I look back now at the monetary savings, and overall experience, as an integral part of my career journey. Remember: the journey, not the destination, is the real thing.
You don't need a fancy late model car. If you know what to look for, you can get a solid and safe older used car for a couple thousand bucks; it will last you a few years if you take care of it.