The Millennial generation: Entitled or just different?

The Millennial generation: Entitled or just different?

You can hardly peruse Facebook or news sites these days without finding some commentary on Millennials. Some articles insinuate that Gen-Y is entitled and lazy, while others delve a little deeper to look into the challenges many in this generation face.

I recently read an article about how Millennials spend their money titled “Pets, debts and e-cigarettes: how millennials spend their paychecks”. Now I wouldn’t consider myself part of this so-called Me Me Me Generation but according to Wikipedia’s age range I am smack in the middle of it. (Okay, so maybe being born in 1986 puts me about 1/4 of the way in, but I look younger than I am… Right? Right?!?) In case you don’t have time to read the article, here is an overview:

  • A non-scientific case study of six Millennials ranging in age from 23 to 29 was completed to see how they spend their money and how much they earn.
  • Salaries ranged from $0 (one young lady was unemployed) to $130,000 annually, with a median income range of $30,000-$33,000 a year.
  • Each person spent their money in different ways, but both income and spending were self-reported. Their expenses were then broken down into the top five categories.
  • The highest reported expenses were typically rent, food, and student loans, closely followed by things like medications, daycare, and car payments.
  • Of their top expense categories only one person listed hair appointments, one listed cigarettes, two listed gym memberships, and one listed travel.

The question I’m left with after reading this article is:

If we’re spending money on the same things as other generations, why are we being labeled as entitled?

Now let me jump to my own life; if I were to be included in that article, what would my “Top 5” look like?

Capture

Now let’s see how my income stacks up:

Capture2.PNG

Assuming everyone in the article works an average of 40 hours per week, the average hourly rate would be $21.31. In comparison mine is $20.24. With my second job and working about 65 hours per week, my income per hour drops to $19.55.

It looks like I am right in line with others in my generation. I know there are a few in the higher echelon and many more making less than I am, but for ease let’s just go with the numbers we have here. With the average monthly rent payment of $790 and a mean net income of $2,770.83 per month (if we are all in the 25% tax bracket), this means that Millennials, on average, are spending about 28.5% of their income on rent. Completing the same calculation for student loans, Millennials spend an additional  24% on college debt each month.

When other generations describe Millennials as being lazy or extravagant spenders I get a little riled up. In fact, one of the issues my own parents have when it comes to my spending is that they “don’t know where all my money goes”. Even when I break everything down, showing them my budget, they don’t believe me. It seems like a lot of people from Generation X are wearing the same blinders. After all, they paid rent (or a mortgage) and made much less money than we’re making now. So why can’t we save like they did?

There are a myriad of possible answers to this question, not the least of which is inflation, but I’m not going to get into that right now. What I’d like to focus on is student debt. This 2013 article featured in The Huffington Post goes over some of the numbers haunting Millennials. The most relevant point to me is that the average student loan debt of Millennials graduating with a 4-year degree is around $26,600. The article points out:

This can be contrasted to 1993, when less than half of students graduated with debt, and those who did had an average of $9,350 in loans. Maybe we are just bad with our money?

This writer echoes what I’ve heard so many Baby Boomers say: “You’re just bad with your money.” I think all Millennials everywhere throw our hands up and retort right back with me: “Fuck off.” Because it’s not just the fact that we have student loans. It’s the inflation of the cost of a college education that’s really killing us.

I started college in 2004; the tuition there at that time was about $34,000. The tuition at that same school today, 12 years after I started, is just under $55,000. The same education now costs 62% than it did when I started college.

You read that correctly – 62% percent.

In comparison, let’s look at U.S. inflation over the same period of time:

Capture3.PNG
Calculated by http://www.usinflationcalculator.com

 

I’ll just come right out and say it. $42,700 is nowhere near $55,000, and 25.5% is nowhere near 61%.

So the added burden of student loan payments, is it any wonder why Millennials can’t save for a mortgage, pay for a new car with hard-earned cash, or deposit more into their 401k each month?

I think this is part of the reason people my age (or younger) get excited when they hear me talk about buying a Tiny House. They struggle with the same financial burdens that I do. Even if they can’t see themselves living in a Tiny House, it inspires them to think outside the box in terms of living situations and expenses. The people that balk at this idea are primarily members of older generations who do not understand the weight that is student loan debt.

We can’t buy huge houses then pay them off in 10 years (like you did) because we’re paying the amount of your mortgage in student loan debt every month.

I can’t keep banging my head against the wall to conform to what one group of people thinks of as “normal”. My circumstances are different than yours were at my age. My priorities, therefore, must be different.

It’s time for our parents and grandparents to look at us in a new light. It’s time for Generation X to give Generation Y a little break. It’s time for us to look at our futures differently. Because we are different. And like you taught us Mom and Dad,  different just ain’t so bad.

Let us become the swans you always said we could be.

the_ugly_duckling_by_cafevert.jpg

Advertisements

“You Need A Bigger Dream!”

“You Need A Bigger Dream!”

In my ever-fruitful search for more and more (and more) Tiny House information I came across a few posts this weekend that mentioned Steve Harvey. I know him as the host of Family Feud and for his recently botched gig as Miss Universe host but not much more. So hearing him associated with the Tiny House movement came as a surprise to me. Here is the TV show segment where he seems to address Tiny House dreamers directly:

 

Steve Harvey starts by saying that the average American home measures about 2600 square feet. This seems a bit high to me, but let’s see some comparisons.

  • The house I grew up in with my parents and brother was just shy of 1400 square feet. In that house we had 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a dining room we rarely used, and a full basement.
  • My old boyfriend’s parents’ house is 2200 square feet. They have a master bedroom suite plus 3 other bedrooms and 2 more bathrooms, a huge family room in addition to a formal living room, a dining room they used twice a year, and a basement.

Now let’s start to address some of these rooms. I am one person. I rarely have large groups of people over. I’ve only ever used a basement for storage and I haven’t had a garage since I moved out of my parents’ house. How many bedrooms do I actually need? How many bathrooms? Do I need a dining room? Can’t I dine anywhere? What if I want to eat my knock-off Frosted Flakes in bed? Who’s going to stop me? And what precisely is the function of a “formal” living room? Why does it have to be so formal; who is coming over?

Verdict: I definitely do not need 2600 square feet. Nor, in my opinion, is 2600 square feet the average.

Steve Harvey goes on to ask his audience, “Who in here is going to work every day to buy a damn Tiny House?” This is met with audible groans, which I hope were prompted by his team of cameramen and not 100% real. I think I’ve made it perfectly clear that the point of this journey for me is not to work every day to buy a Tiny House. I would like to work less and for a shorter amount of time because of my decision to buy and build a Tiny House. People are retiring later each year. People are living house-poor. People are refinancing their mortgages to afford extravagant vacations with their families.

Verdict: I don’t want to be those people.

Here are my favorite quotes from the clip:

  • “Who puts a Tiny House on their vision board? You need to get a bigger damn dream is what you need to do!”
  • “This is for people who’ve given up… this is for people who ain’t got no dreams.”
  • “[If] you want to live in a Tiny House it’s because you done gave up. You’re stupid.”

I’d like to address these in detail but I don’t have that kind of time. I’ll give you my highlights.

I understand your profession is “comedian” but poor grammar is no laughing matter. Telling me I “ain’t got no dreams” is a double negative; this means that what you are actually saying is that “I have dreams”. Joke’s on you, Steve. Also, calling someone stupid after saying “you done gave up” and “ain’t got no dreams” is well-played, sir. You are clearly the smarter human being in this argument.

Who makes vision boards anymore? Are we in the 4th grade? Don’t you have Pinterest Mr. Harvey? And why can’t my Tiny House go on my imaginary vision board anyway? Stay in your 2600 square foot house and look at your own vision board, nosy. As the charming J.K. Rowling once put it:

I don’t think I’m stupid. I have a near-genius IQ, in fact. I have the ability to make rational decisions and I have put a lot of thought and effort into this process. I didn’t “done give up”. In fact, my Tiny House dream is giving me hope. I worked almost 77 hours this past week between my two jobs. My feet are calloused, my knees hurt, and I have shin splints. And I can rest at night knowing my bills will be paid. But do I want to do this forever? Would you? I doubt anyone can answer that with an honest “yes”.

What keeps me going through seemingly endless shifts of chili nachos and over-cooked cheeseburgers is the dream of my Tiny House. Any time something catastrophic happens during a shift (see: every single night), I’ve told my managers to simply say “Tiny House” to me and I calm down. My Tiny dream puts it all in perspective; these 16-hour work days will eventually end, and sooner rather than later.

I’ve never heard an older relative say, “I wish I’d spent more on my house, done less with my family and friends, and stayed home all the time.” What I do hear is more often along the lines of, “I wish I’d traveled more,” “I wish I’d spent more time with my loved ones, ” or “I wish I didn’t wait until now to enjoy my life.” As humans we seem to be programmed to forget the things that hurt us and focus more energy remembering the good times. Do you still vividly remember the pain from your first breakup? Or do you remember the butterflies from your first date? Do you remember the first time you really got sick? Or do you remember the love and get-well wishes from your friends? It’s been almost 15 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Americans vowed to never forget. And yet here we are, throwing verbal daggers at one another and following Donald Trump’s lead to oust all Muslims and non-citizens from the country. Remembering something for one day each year isn’t paying homage; it’s lip service.

My vow to myself is not to waste these years. Eventually my youth will fade, my knees will give out, and my drive will wane. I would rather spend my 30s traveling the world, eating dinners with family, and drinking good beer with friends. I can’t do this if I buy a 2600 square foot house. I wouldn’t even have time to clean a 2600 square foot house.

Verdict: I don’t expect Steve Harvey to understand the soul behind this movement. I don’t expect him to know my soul. So keep looking at your own vision board, Mr. Harvey. Mine is off-limits.