The latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll asked Americans to define what it means to be starting out in life—and what milestones mark the end of that early stage of experience. Consistently, both younger and older respondents said that adults could put the “starting out” stage of life behind them only after they had crossed major thresholds, not just taken the first steps toward independence.
(Definitions of the younger and older groups described can be found in the first story of this series.)
When asked, for instance, at what point “people can no longer be seen as getting started” in their careers, only about one-fifth of both older and younger respondents picked working in a full-time job; nearly an additional one-quarter of each group said it was sufficient to “work in a skilled job with benefits.” But in each group, by far the largest segment (44 percent of the older and 50 percent of the younger) said someone had passed the point of just starting out in their work life only when they held “a job that is part of a long-term career.”
Likewise, when asked at what point people are no longer getting started regarding their personal finances, only about one-fifth of both older and younger respondents identified the tipping point as obtaining “financial independence from … parents.” Another 25 percent of older and 27 percent of younger respondents said young people graduated from the starting-out stage when they “no longer live paycheck to paycheck.” But in each case, the largest group (35 percent of older, 36 percent of younger) said people only passed beyond starting out once they “have disposable income and a long-term savings plan.”