Millennials are talked about a lot these days, and most of the chatter it isn’t good. All too often, “those Millennials” are the butt of a joke or deployed as the reason the status quo is disrupted. I suppose it is a rite of passage to take these jokes on the chin, sip your coffee, and go back about your business working some shitty job with shitty pay under the direction of an older generation, who won’t relinquish control of his position within the Company and retire. Let me pause there. It’s not that he refuses to retire. He can’t retire is actually what I mean to say. Why can’t he retire? Because of the American dream the Baby Boomers conjured for our society. In this dream, you can have everything. You can do anything. Just simply fill out this application to see how much you qualify for, buy now, and just pay it later. Sounds great! Just show me where to sign.
Yea I get it, Millenials are quite different than any other generation America has ever seen. We dream big and have high expectations. We make really dumb decisions, and hate the consequences. We adventure to the areas we were told to avoid. We are so engulfed with our own lives that we often miss the big picture. I’m pretty sure we also invented sarcasm, and if you are a millennial reading this you probably just caught all of that.
How are any of those things different that the previous generations? Yes, we are responsible for the explosion of social media, memes and Unicorn beverages. Guilty. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to participate. But today I want to rant about this American Dream and something we did not invent. Debt.
Borrowing money through credit cards, student loans and 30-year mortgages were practically nonexistent a century ago. When you wanted something, you paid for it- then and there. It was shameful to owe someone money. In today’s world if you want to fill up your new apartment after leaving the nest, just put it on a piece of plastic gaining interest at 15-25%. And now the bank owns it, but you get to use it in the meantime! You want a house? No problem! At 4%, you can have a house. Congratulations, you will be a homeowner in 30 years! This is a culture we did not create. We were simply born into it. Unless you had parents who saw the flaw in this mindset and preached basic financial principles, you more than likely adapted this culture as your own.
And then there were student loans. Raise your hand if this sounds familiar. “You can’t get a real job without first going to college. If you have good grades, you may be able to get some scholarships. This won’t cover everything, but if you fill out the FASFA, we can see how much money you qualify for. Remember, it is an investment in your future. You know college graduates make substantially more than those who enter the workforce without a degree.” Great. Let’s borrow for this investment, land that 80K job, and just pay off the loans.
Let me give you the reality of that scheme. “Great, let me start my early adult years in debt, land some crumby job maybe paying 40K, and be a slave to my lenders for the next 20-30 years under some graduated plan that has me paying over twice the original amount when all said and done.” But it doesn’t end there. Wow, you graduated with a degree in X, well so does everyone else. You have to set yourself apart, so why don’t you go through some more school? Just defer your other loans while you go through more school. Simultaneously, tuition rates are increasing at an unprecedented rate, and all of your deferred loans are growing to an even higher final price.
We are not responsible for this mentality. Our elders may have taught us great life lessons and cooked great holiday meals. But when it comes to teaching us how to handle money, they missed the boat on that one. Maybe it’s because they are all too caught up in trying to get themselves out of their own financial mess to teach us these principles, much less save some coin to help us with college later. It is commonplace to just borrow now and pay later. Our grandparents started it, are parents followed suit, and now here we are at the bottom of this hole. You don’t have to like us or understand where we are coming from. I mean, don’t get me wrong…
But regardless, it would be a lot cooler if you understood that these complaints you have about our age group- we didn’t create them. The older generations molded this world for us. And with all do respect, the things you don’t like…those are your fault:
If nothing else, try to understand that we are doing our best in less than ideal circumstances.