Teach Young Adults to Balance Lifestyle and Income

By Chuck Kuster

Main Message

Help your young adults balance  lifestyle aspirations with income potential.


Our children get career advice from teachers and friends, especially when they reach high school and start career planning. The “help” often includes some sort of reference to “pursuing your passion.”  That’s great, except when income potential of the intended career is often at odds with lifestyle expectations.

A place to start this dialogue is discussing basic lifestyle aspirations. Ask leading questions such as:

  • What kind of lifestyle do you expect?
  • How much traveling will you do?
  • Where do you hope to live?
  • Will you have a car?
  • Marriage? Children?

Example responses would be:

  • “I really want to live in a big city in a loft somewhere downtown.”
  • “While I’m young, I’d really like to ‘give-back’ – you know – by working in the Peace Corps for a year or two.”
  • “Before I get a job, I plan to bum around Europe. I’ll never get another chance.”

The idea is to get your child to flesh-out his/her thinking. Try not to take a position on whether their intentions are feasible. Instead, try to be a resource and lead the conversation into the income side of things with questions like:

  • What does it cost to live in <fill in the blank>? Have you looked into rental costs?
  • How much annual income will you need to pay your bills?
  • What’s the average annual starting income for your intended career?
  • How much student debt (college or technical college) will you likely have?
  • Do you have a plan-b?

While most young adults will have lifestyle aspirations, few will be able to fill in the financial blanks. A place to start is with a basic budget. You can download budgets at most state extension service websites or the Economic Policy Institute.

Balance lifestyle and income

Young adults seldom make the effort to balance lifestyle expectations with income potential. Failure to do so can trigger financial disasters.

Breaking down individual lifestyle decisions can be the eye-opener, too.

  • Owning/driving a car – Discuss options like buying used versus new cars, hidden costs of insurance, parking fees, fuel, and new tires.
  • Renting an apartment – Talk about location, insurance, utilities, cable/internet, association fees, parking fees, plus commuting time and expenses.
  • College costs – Look up tuition, room-and-board, travel expenses, books and other fees. Most colleges and universities have information on expenses and amount of debt average students carry.
  • Salaries – Then, chat about average salaries for a desired profession.

Money Moment


A young adult contemplating his/her career and lifestyle trajectory opens the door to many Money Moments. What’s most important is getting the person to realize there’s a balance between lifestyle expectations and income potential. 

About Chuck

Chuck is a publisher of financial education materials, an entrepreneur, and journalist.
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