A few weeks ago, I was out in a local bar where I had the chance to meet some young professionals in their mid 20’s. At first, I wasn’t able to hide the fact that I felt awkward and somewhat annoyed with the noise – loud music and chattering of some who seem to have lost their minds from the alcohol. I just realized I haven’t been to these kinds of places for quite some time so I was adjusting.

Break Even

About half an hour had past, I was talking to a guy whose name is RJ (Renz Jose), a 25-year old banker. With some social clichés, he offered me a drink. He and his company have been there for a couple of hours or more and the alcohol made them a bit “loose”.

I asked RJ some questions like: “What do you do for work?”, “How is it?”, “How long have you been there?”

This line of questioning is most common whenever we bump with new people, rapport building as what others usually call it. Consequently, I got common answers too. After then, we found other interesting ideas to talk of – the banking industry, finance, investments and how his company just went public this year.

Then he was completely shocked with the next question I’ve thrown him: “How long do you intend to work at your current job?” He started to become personal and somehow, sentimental. He supports his mother, a former employee but is now retired. He pays for her medical expenses while he shoulders household bills. He expressed how insecure he feels financially, living in a “break even” situation month after month. Often times he has to borrow just to get by.

Once he felt that “whip” of reality, he started to wonder why he was telling me all these things. I saw the concern in his eyes and sensed the weight of the situation, that he feels very much burdened. It seemed to me that he was about to be taken over by his emotions. So I assured him that he is not the only one. A lot of young people today especially those who belong to what they call the “Gen Y” or “Millenials” have their own share of stories.

Surprisingly, he went on; shared his thoughts and hopes for the future and how he is frustrated with his current situation. “How could I possibly start my own family with this kind of situation?”, he blurted. Again, I popped another question: “Why don’t you try doing something new? Something different?” He stopped; lost in thought. We both agreed that it is not too clever to work for money alone. That almost his entire salary goes to his day to day expenses – transportation and meals; expenses that never had incurred otherwise if he’s not working at his current job. He shook his head as if it was the first time he thought of it.

He wasn’t able to answer the question clearly. He said he’s waiting for a promotion or a salary increase. He also considered working overseas but he doesn’t seem to know where to fit in. He thinks once he has more money, all his concerns will be solved. We ended the conversation as he handed over his business card and promise to keep in touch so we could work with his future “plans”.

As I left the bar, I realized that many people today struggle with somewhat identical situation. I’ve seen a lot of them, from a minimum wage earner to a professional who earns a six-digit income a month. Regardless of their positions, they seem to have a common concern. I’m glad RJ took the first step – to recognize his situation and asked for advice.

To me, living in a “break even” scenario, meaning, the expenses are the same with income, is very dangerous. Others have some small savings which is actually a good thing. It’s better than having nothing at all. But I wonder where it could take you if something unexpected happens. I’ve seen them… And I tell you, it is such a heart-breaking experience.

PS
For those who find themselves on the same page, let me hear your thoughts.

It is my sincere hope that you got something new today.

Warmly,
Miguel

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