Michael Houlihan, co-author of “The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built a Bestselling Wine,” says the ongoing rush of adult children, especially college graduates, moving back to the nest can be traced to the fact that many of them aren’t prepared to find their way in today’s cash-strapped, lean-and-mean economy.
What’s troubling so-called boomerang kids?
Business requires resourcefulness, social skills, tenacity, sacrifice and deferred gratification. Many of today’s young people got the idea that you go to school, you graduate, then you get a job, then you get a career, then you retire. They have been pandered to by stories of overnight success, and scores of how-to gurus with promises of instant wealth. Many have grown to believe that texting and friending is relationship building, and that all the answers are on Google. They grew up with the concept that you come up with a business idea, write a business plan, get it financed, establish a “burn rate” and if you run out of money before you achieve cash flow you go for a second round of financing. Many were either supported through school by their parents or just borrowed the money from Uncle Sam (and now face long-term debt). In the process, they may have missed out on what it’s like to earn a living, make do and be resourceful.
How has the world changed for these kids?
Half of today’s college grads can’t find a job. Either the jobs have been eliminated or they have been outsourced to countries where the labor costs are less. Their education may no longer even be relevant. Add to that the competition from many 60-somethings who lost their nest egg and now have to stay employed. Many young people are considering self-employment, but even that has changed. You can’t just get a business plan financed with a growth chart that looks like a hockey stick. Investors want to see you are actually selling your idea. They want to invest in ongoing businesses, not just great ideas. Getting started without a big investment is the new normal.
What’s problematic about texting, emailing and friending?
Virtual communication is not real time. Business success requires real time, face-to-face relationship building. Today’s buyer buys you, not so much your product. The ultimate consumer may buy your product on its merits, but it’s your social skills that get it to them. Your buyer wants personalized attention. If you don’t give it to them, your competitor will. There’s no fire wall. You’ll have to deal with rejection. It may be disconcerting, but it’s necessary.
What qualities need to be cultivated?
Self-reliance, patience and determination, along with people skills, resourcefulness and respect for experience — just to name a few. Many parents may have themselves to blame for handicapping their boomerang kids. Don’t pay for everything. Let your kids help earn their way. By supporting their education with a job they will learn more about cash-flow management, allocation of time and resources, and where the money really comes from than they will learn in any classroom. Encourage them to seek out mentors in their areas of interest and to study the experiences of others who have started with nothing and succeeded.
Michael Houlihan, author