Why Renting is the Better Choice for Millennials

Why Renting is the Better Choice for MillennialsYou’ve probably heard: student debt is over $1.3 trillion. And, according to a report by CNBC, it’s “growing faster than the average salaries for recent graduates.”

For a borrower aged 20-30, the average monthly student loan payment is $351. That’s quite a bit, especially when the median income for millennials remains relatively low. As reported by BusinessInsider.com, “In 2013, the median annual earnings for millennial women working full-time, year-round were $30,000,” states the report, “compared with $35,000 for their male counterparts.” A $351 payment can seem steep, since it accounts for about 12% of income for males and 14% of income for women.

Coupled with other expenses, from car loans to credit card debt, from housing costs to food, student loans are a heavy burden for many millennials trying to scrape by.

So, if you’re a millennial with a lot of debt, listen up. The following are things to consider before you buy a house. Like many others, you might find renting the better path.

Stability

Houses are sought for their stability. Even as markets change, a locked-in mortgage rate won’t. But the stability of a mortgage requires stability in life. Before you house-hunt, begin at step one. Think seriously about how stable your job is, your relationships, and career path. Are you expecting a promotion, or a change of scenery? Do you see yourself in the same job or relationship in five years? If not, a house probably isn’t your best bet.

Especially if you don’t plan to stay in a house long term, you should consider the payoff of picking up and relocating that an apartment provides. The assumption of many homeowners is they’ll be able to sell whenever they want. That, tops, it’ll take maybe a few months to close a deal. But as many learned during the housing crisis of ’08, when interest rates skyrocket, the equity of your house diminishes. The stability of a mortgage is a double-edged sword. There’s nothing to protect your home from future devaluation by the market. This isn’t a decision you should rush into.

Cost

Unexpected losses aren’t just restricted to market change. Other costs to home owning can also set you back significantly. The best thing to do is create a hypothetical budget. As HousingWire.com suggests, “Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25% to 30% of your gross monthly income.”

To place the costs of owning in further perspective, imagine that, after you budget, you have $500 every pay period left over. One day you notice your refrigerator isn’t working. You have to buy a new one. You get the new refrigerator and it turns out that the issue is with the electrical wiring going to the refrigerator. You have to pay an electrician to come out, and it turns out your entire kitchen was poorly wired and needs updated. If you don’t have deep savings or a friend who happens to be an electrician, your bills can become, very quickly, too large for a budget with little room for error.

Conclusion

When it comes to renting, however, apartment complexes take care of all major maintenance issues, and many minor issues as well. And, though rent prices might be higher than mortgage prices in some areas, apartment complexes provide amenities that you’d usually have to pay for if you own a house: pools, weight rooms, clubhouses, etc.

If you’ve acquired large amounts of student or credit card debt, it might be a wiser choice to rent an apartment for a few years while you climb out of debt, and stash away some money in savings in the meantime. That way, if you get a house, you’ll be ready for unexpected issues and they won’t break your budget.

How Millennials are Happy and Productive in the Workplace

How Millennials are Happy and Productive in the Workplace“67% of millennials are likely to share personal details [at work]…while only one-third of baby boomers do the same,” found a 2014 study by LinkedIn.

The work/life balance is an unspoken rule among working people. What happens at home shouldn’t be brought to work, and vice versa. This has long been the idea undergirding “professionalism.” But millennials have challenged this distinction in a very simple but powerful way.

It goes without saying: there are many reasons to keep the work/life distinction afloat. The workplace is not home. And a certain level of professionalism is required to maintain an efficient organization. This is true without qualification.

But what millennials have done, writes Sarah Landrum of Forbes, is widened their investment in the workplace. Work isn’t just an investment of time for them; it’s also an emotional investment. And this isn’t a bad thing. The attempt to roadblock the emotional aspect is not only a misunderstanding of science (the brain is interconnected in unimaginably complex ways), but a recipe for unproductive habits.

How Work + Happiness = Productivity

Many of you, like myself, may think making friends at work would impede upon productivity. But friendships at work aren’t like friendships at home. They don’t involve hanging out, but are held together and formed by self-disclosures in conversations. What does this mean? Simply put: it’s talking about how you feel about what you do, about how the weather is, about your weekend, more than about what you do, Landrum points out.

In Psych 101 you might have learned the simple difference between an acquaintance and a friend. Acquaintances talk about facts. They say to each other, “It’s sunny out. It’s a nice day. I have work to do.” But they don’t go further by disclosing any information about themselves like, “It’s sunny out, I think I’ll go to the park after work because there’s a good area to fish.”

Just to understand this from a millennial’s perspective, think about it this way: If you’re not self-disclosing sometimes to people you talk with every day, you’re basically working with acquaintances. And that means you never learn more about anyone, even after 20 years of work.

In 2014 Censuswide and LinkedIn joined to conduct a survey on 11,500 working professional that spanned 14 countries. They found that “57% of respondents indicated having friends at work made them more productive.”

Conclusion

Millennials get the most out of work by relating to those around them. This doesn’t keep them from being productive. In fact, it makes them more productive. And one reason just might be because they don’t feel like they are working in a world of acquaintances. The emotional investment is a powerful piece to the overall work experience. And it might be the key to productivity in a world where everyone is more and more alienated by technology.

And there’s another benefit. Apparently friendships at the workplace make companies more valuable to employees. As Landrum reports, “When asked whether they’d swap camaraderie for a larger paycheck at a different employer, 58% of men indicated they wouldn’t make the trade. A whopping 74% of female professionals concurred.”

The work/life distinction has a valuable place in a professional setting. But it doesn’t necessarily deny the possibility of self-disclosure. And self-disclosure just may be the key to happiness and productivity in the workplace.

How to Break Old Habits and Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

How to Break Old Habits and Adopt a Healthy LifestyleNow the holidays are over, and the New Year’s resolutions are kicking in, it’s time to think about sustainability. Whether you are resolved to eat healthier this year, exercise, or even learn a new instrument, you’ll have to think long and hard about how you’ll accomplish your by-the-end-of-the-year goals. The good thing is you’re not alone. Gaining traction on your New Year’s resolution is a matter of forming a new habit. So it’s important to understand how habits work.

Habits are like Cycles

In an interview with NPR, Charles Duhigg discusses his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. Everything we’ve made into a routine, from exercising to cooking, from brushing teeth to cleaning laundry, begins with the same “psychological pattern.” This is called a “habit loop.” It’s really simple, actually: every habit begins with a cue, proceeds by routine, and ends with a reward. That’s it!

Let’s look a little closer. A habit begins with “a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold.” Then the routine occurs, which is the behavior itself, or the habit. Lastly, the reward is “something that your brain likes that helps it remember the ‘habit loop’ in the future.”

The interesting thing is habits are formed in the part of the brain that has a major influence on “emotions, memories and pattern recognition.” It’s called the basal ganglia. Why is this interesting? Because it’s a separate from the region of the brain responsible for decision making – the prefrontal cortex. And, as a result, when automation kicks in, when habit loops initiate, the prefrontal cortex goes into hibernation.

This is readily available knowledge, at least by quick reference to experience. Think about how difficult the very basics of reading and math once were. We learned by rote memory, by memorizing the alphabet and times tables, and this period of learning required intense concentration. But after a while these things became second nature. It’s because, like any other habit, our focus, determination, and persistence eventually formed habit loops.

Lessons from in the Loop

Because all habits begin with a cue and end with a reward, it’s important, especially if you have big plans for your health this year – to exercise three or four times a week, to cut out sugar from your diet, etc. – to figure out some sort of consistent pattern to follow when you eat, go to the gym, or whatever you may do.

Maybe before a trip to the gym you listen to music you really like as you prepare, and afterwards you treat yourself to some yogurt. When some people crave a sweet snack, they cut up some apples and eat those as substitutes instead.

With new habits, especially healthy habits, old habits are broken. And this means the power of the reward system established by the old habit loop becomes more and more powerless. As you exercise more, your desire to lay around all day will weaken. And as you stay away from sugar, your cravings will diminish.

For more information on habits and the science behind them, you might also be interested in Scientific American’s podcast episode where Dr. Art Markman discusses things like “How to know you have a habit,” “How to work in league with your psychology to from new habits,” and “How we are more likely to succeed when we view failure as part of the process.”

Conclusion

But, most importantly, remember that habits are like cycles: as you reinforce them, they eventually become as automatic and predictable as the sunrise in the morning. Don’t be discouraged by failure. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to change, and an opportunity to become better at what you are trying to do.