For recent college graduates, the post-recession economy has meant a challenging job market, lower earnings, and a greater chance of moving back home with parents. As they progress through their 20s, it also means they're more likely to push off traditional milestones such as getting married and starting a family.
A new survey from Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging young adults on economic issues, found that eight in 10 young women between the ages of 18 and 29 living in Florida say they've delayed "key life decisions" because of the weak economy. Three in 10 specifically mentioned starting a family as something they will either delay or possibly skip altogether, and two in 10 said the same about marriage.
Respondents also listed a variety of other life events they're skipping or putting off: vacations, attending weddings or family reunions, buying a home and saving for retirement. In a statement, Generation Opportunity executive vice president Amber Roseboom noted that young women's "careers and dreams have been interrupted."
The survey echoes similar national findings of both genders. Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center found that almost one in three young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 say they have delayed marriage or parenthood because of the economy. About half said they have taken jobs they don't want to pay bills.
When it comes to the biggest life decisions -- when and whether to get married and have children -- money undoubtedly plays a big role. But it's possible to find ways to make both events more affordable. Marriage can even help couples save money, especially if they combine expenses they previously paid separately, such as food, housing and transportation. Couples with very different salaries, or where one spouse earns a lot and the other earns little or nothing, can also find themselves paying a lower tax rate post-nuptials. (The opposite is often true for couples who earn similar amounts.)
Babies are a little trickier. They are expensive, and getting more expensive all the time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that babies born in 2011 will cost their parents $234,900 before age 18, which was a 3.5% increase over the previous year. That's because child care, education, transportation and food prices are all rising.
But as with marriage, there are ways to generate savings: Children can share bedrooms, parents can buy or borrow secondhand clothes and toys, and buying and cooking food in bulk can keep grocery bills down. Parents might even find that some pre-baby costs, such as restaurant meals and vacations, naturally go down with their new child-centric lifestyle.
Still, there's no avoiding the fact that marriage and parenthood often introduce new expenses into one's life. Based on the recent surveys, young adults appear to be keenly aware of that fact. Delaying either event can be the smart move for 20-somethings still struggling to find their own financial footing.
But for those intent on moving forward, either down the aisle or into parenthood, there's usually a way to make it happen without breaking the bank.