Today, I was reading news articles and I came across a few that talked about how the Millennial Generation is ruining major industries. The media also likes to say millennials are killing things. If you type into google “Millennials are causing”, you’ll get an array of different articles about millennials causing major changes in the world. Here are a few article headlines for you to get a feel of what exactly is being said about millennials. “American Millennials aren’t having enough babies”, “Why millennials are entitled”, “Millennials are killing marriage”, “Millennials aren’t going to the doctors”, “Millennials are killing chain restaurants”, “Millennials aren’t buying houses”, “Millennials aren’t saving for retirement”, “Why Millennials aren’t buying enough cars”, “Millennials aren’t buying bar soap”, and my personal favorite, “Millennials aren’t buying enough diamonds”. All of these articles put millennials in a bad light, making it seem like my generation is selfish, financially irresponsible and have no concept of planning for their futures.
Before I go into defending my generation. Let’s take a step back and take a look at what exactly a millennial is. For someone to be considered a millennial, they need to have been born between 1981 and 1997. This means the oldest millennial is 37, while the youngest just turned 21. The media has a habit of portraying millennials as children or those in their early 20’s to late teens. This just isn’t the case. We are no longer children and a good portion of us have graduated college and are starting to make a life for ourselves. We are older than most people think and we most certainly are more mature as well. The reason why so many industries or social standards are failing is simply that times are changing. The thought process behind making huge choices is changing.
I am a younger millennial, I am 24 years old and I’m finding my way in the world. However, like most millennials, I’m finding that the golden age that our parents told us would be available to us when we grew up is simply not there. We were told from a young age that we need to go to college, get a stable good paying job, get married and start a family. While this sounds great, it isn’t as easy to do as it once was. There is even a large chunk of millennials who simply do not want to follow that path, they want to make their own path. I think this is what scares the older generation the most. We are questioning the social standards and we want to see things change. We aren’t okay with the way things are, and we want to change it. Change isn’t easy for a lot of people, especially those who belong to the generations before.
Most of the articles I’ve read about millennials destroying the birth rate, or ruining some kind of retail industry seem to ignore the factors that are causing these problems. They all put blame on millennials saying that they aren’t planning for the future or simply say millennials are selfish. In my opinion and from personal experience Millennials aren’t purposely destroying anything. A lot of these article put millennials in a vindictive sort of light. As if we are all trying to get back at our parents or our grandparents. We are apparently rebels that don’t want to go with societies rules. While that last statement is somewhat true, most of the time these statements are false.
Millennials grew up in the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression. While I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to experience The Great Recession personally, I was able to experience it through my friends. In case any of you forgot, or you were too young to know what the Great Recession was. The Great Recession happened between 2007 and 2009. During this time, the housing bubble burst. The Great Recession resulted in people losing wealth, massive job losses and the lack of business investments. If we look back at the birth dates that make up the millennial generation, the oldest millennial would have been 26 years old and the youngest millennial would have been 10 years old. I was 14 years old at the beginning of The Great Recession. As I said earlier, my family wasn’t as affected as some families were. I saw my friends lose their homes, my neighbors lose their homes, I noticed that people didn’t buy as many things, the malls became less crowded and where I lived a mall actually closed. It closed down because no one was going. During the Recession I also noticed how the downtown area of my city started to fail, it was empty and you could tell people were struggling.
I believe this affected millennials in a lot of ways. We witnessed how easy it really is to lose the money you earned, and I believe this has made us all frugal. However, we are also frugal simply because we do not get paid enough. While there are plenty of millennials out there who make a decent to a large salary, there are just as many of us who are struggling to get by.
Which brings me to my next point. As I mentioned earlier, growing up we were told that all we had to do was work hard and get a college degree. After that, we’ll get to have a good paying job and we won’t have to struggle as much as our parents did growing up. Our parents wanted nothing but the best for us. However, the job market wasn’t and still isn’t ready to pay us a decent wage.
It is common knowledge that wages haven’t grown in America for some time. This wouldn’t be an issue if inflation wasn’t a factor. Wages aren’t keeping up with the fact that prices of everything have gone up and that buying power has changed. A lot of the people who say millennials are complaining too much about their wages being low are those who are making a good amount of money. They worked hard to get to where they are but they have forgotten how hard it is to get by when you aren’t making a lot.
Many people who say millennials need to be patient and work hard don’t realize just how hard working millennials are. I don’t know a single person my age who doesn’t work. I’m unsure as to where the notion that millennials are lazy and asking for money when they don’t do anything came from. Most people I know, have a full-time job that barely pays them enough so they end up getting a part-time job as well. There are also those I know that have two to three part-time jobs. Both groups work extremely hard, but they are both struggling to get by. I’ve never met a millennial who is lazy or trying to get more money than what they feel like they are worth.
Some of you might be thinking “Why do they need to work extra jobs if they have a full-time job?” That is because we simply are not making enough to get by. Inflation has caused our dollar to have a lower buying power than a dollar in the 1980’s. Let me give you a couple of examples. In January of 1980, $20 would be equivalent to $63 today. $100 in January 1980 would be the equivalent of $318.60 today. For kick and giggles, I wanted to see what the buying power of the price I pay for my current apartment would be. Are you ready for this? I pay a total of $900 for my apartment if I paid that in the 1980’s it would be the equivalent of $2,873.73 in today’s amount. The next question is, can I buy a time machine? Because what I make now is amazing for the 1980’s but is not okay by today’s standards.
This brings me back to the earlier topics of how millennials are killing industries, not having enough babies and aren’t saving money. We don’t have the funds to have a lot of babies, save money or buy diamonds. That being said, a lot of us already have babies but aren’t having anymore because they can’t afford it. A lot of the people I know who had babies young had help from the government and with a lot of these government programs being cut, a lot of people realize they can’t rely on the government for help. I’m on the other side of the fence, I do not have children and even if I wanted to have a child. I would not be able to afford one with my salary. I can barely buy things I need, let alone what my child would need and I know a lot of millennials have that mindset as well. Why would I want to bring a child into the world when I won’t be able to give that child the best life? Love is great for children, but you also need to have the finances.
There is also the fact that health care is so expensive and that having a baby is expensive in America. The average non-complicated vaginal birth in America is about $10,000. While an uncomplicated cesarean section is about $15,000. These prices are massive. Even if you have health care, you still have to pay your deductible before they will cover everything. For me, that deductible is $5,000. That is a huge amount of money to spend when you can barely spend $100 a week on groceries. Not only is the actual cost of the birth outrageous, but so is the cost of the health insurance. Insurance premiums go up anywhere between $100 to $500 when you add a child to your health care policy.
Then, for millennials who are women, we have to worry about maternity leave. While maternity leave is available to some people it’s not available to all. America is one of the only 1st world countries that do not have a mandate on maternity leave. Which means employers can decide if they want to offer it or not. There is a law in place called the FMLA that protects a woman’s job while they are on maternity leave for up to 12 weeks. However, it doesn’t require employers to pay their employees during this time. If an employer does have maternity leave, more than likely it isn’t paid and you have to purchase short-term disability insurance in order to get at least a small amount of your pay.
Millennials aren’t having enough babies simply because we cannot afford it. Just like we cannot afford diamonds, eating out every night, buying a house or even a car. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to buy a house or a car or have babies, it just means we cannot afford it. If you take in the finances of the average millennial you’ll see that we aren’t murdering industries or causing the birth rate to fall because we want to. We are murdering industries because we cannot afford them.
I’m honestly tired of hearing all these baby boomers, and generation X people complain about millennials. We are trying our very best to get to where we want to be in life. We went to college and got our fancy degree. Once graduated we tried to get a job in our field. Some of us weren’t able to get a job in our field because there weren’t and still aren’t enough job openings. Those of us that did get a job in our field are underpaid because a lot of companies don’t value a degree as much as they used to. While the people who weren’t able to get a job in their field are working service jobs, retail or other odd jobs.
When I bring up the conversation about wages, I always hear the same thing. “When I was your age, I made $10 an hour and I was able to afford a house.” If that person who said that statement was born in the 1980’s. $10 was like $31 in our current economic situation. I know a lot of millennials, including myself, who would love to make that much. However, we simply don’t. We have college degrees that don’t mean anything anymore and we are trying to figure out what to do about that.
I hope this gives some insight into the mind of a millennial as to why these industries are dying. Most of the time it’s because we can’t afford these things. Sometimes it’s because these industries need to die or be recreated. However, being stubborn about the fact that millennials want things to change is not going to make thing easier. Millennials are hard working, dedicated, strong-willed people who want to make a decent living and not have to worry about not being able to afford basic things like a doctors visit.
We don’t want millions of dollars, though it would be nice, we aren’t expecting it. What we do expect is a decent living wage, where we don’t have to worry about how much groceries are. Where we don’t have to budget super tight to be able to pay all the bills yet have nothing left over for emergencies. Where we can afford to start a savings account that would actually be helpful. I don’t understand people who think millennials are anything other than hard working and passionate people. We will make changes to the way things are done, and we will do great thing. All while laughing at the crazy articles about how millennials buy avocado toast instead of saving for a house.