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?

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Now let’s see how my income stacks up:

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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:

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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.

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Designing My Life

Designing My Life

I have my delivery date nailed down for my Tiny House and I have some great news to share as well! My builder is delivering the shell himself on March 13th to surprise me. YAY! But the biggest news is the best surprise. My parents have reconsidered their position and are allowing me to store my Tiny House on their property until it’s almost finished.

This makes me feel better since I’ll only be able to get out to my land once a week or so to do the demo. This makes my future home safe, secure, and protected.

Sure, I’ll have to endure endless suggestions from my dad, but honestly suggestions are pouring in from all angles now. That’s part of the problem of going public and of documenting your journey; everyone has an opinion. But it’s also very cool. Some people are pointing me in directions I’ve never thought about before. I’ve talked to a guy building a yurt and a gal who is funding her trailer in a creative way. (BTW, that gal’s name is Melanie and you should read her blog too. It’s called Little House in the Steel City. She is offering to paint small portraits for $15 to help fund her trailer – click here to order yours! She’s an amazing artist. I’ve ordered three!)

Now I’m making decisions about super-fun things, like drywall and insulation. I hate it. I want to keep looking at tile and flooring and paint colors and shiplap (damn you Joanna Gaines…). But instead I’m looking at cement board and radiant heat flooring mats and trying to nail down a budget.

I did make my first fun purchase though. I bought this fireplace from Wayfair.com to heat my Tiny Home. The flames change colors and so do the ambient lights. This won’t be my only source of heat but it will certainly be a fun addition!

I also did a 3D creation of what I think my Tiny House layout will be. I’ve never done one of these before so keep that in mind…

The stairs are all individual cabinets that will open in different directions. Those will have to be custom-made. I also changed my mind for the size of the vanity and shower, but that won’t change the picture much. Here are some of the materials and furnishings I’m thinking of using:

There’s one thorn in my side right now – no news on the land front. The loan is still going through the process so I’m just waiting to hear back.

And The Verdict Is…

And The Verdict Is…

No.

A resounding, echoing, unsubstantiated “no” from my parents. I am not welcome to build my Tiny’s interior on my parents’ 3-acre plot. Far from welcome, I’m not allowed to bring up the topic to them anymore. At all. Ever.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been optimistic. I was. I was full of hope and fire. I’m still in a state of semi-shock, back home in the arctic tundra that is Pittsburgh in February. Back to my routine. Back to life. How could they say no to all of my hard work and dreams? And yet the “no” stands firmly in front of me. Along with one more looming question…

Now what?

I feel like a 7-year-old who just found out Santa isn’t real and Bugs Bunny isn’t coming to play basketball with me circa Space Jam. My generation grew up hearing that we could do anything we wanted so long as we worked hard and earned it. Now here I stand: working 65+ hours a week, saving money, raising my credit each month, paying off my student loans $300 at a time, and working toward a goal… just to hear that fateful “no”. What I hear reflected in their answer isn’t a push toward a goal but rather so much doubt. I’ve never been the person who takes a “no” and sees a challenge. Instead I wonder: What if I fail? What if I lose all my money? What if I can’t do this? And most frighteningly, what if they’re right?

Most of my life (and for as long as I can remember) I’ve struggled with depression. It’s permeated my life with sadness, restlessness, fear, and despondency. In the rare times when the fog lifts I try to get everything done that I ignored while I was nearly bedridden. I clean, I write, I chat animatedly with friends, I visit people, I shop; I live. This comes off as irrational and impulsive at best, bipolar or manic at worst. This is the me that my parents see. This is the me that is being doubted. Is this me?

The problem is, recently I’ve come out of the murkiness that’s muddled my brain for a few months. For the first time in 15 years I feel functional and rational and level-headed. And this is the time I’m being doubted on the biggest decision of my life.

So I made a decision, all on my own and without my parents’ support.

I went for it.

I put my deposit down today for my trailer and I started the process of ordering my Tiny House. There are still a lot of unknowns, including first and foremost where I’ll be working on it, but it feels good to have this first step out of the way. Terrifying, but good.

The Second Hurdle: Dad

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Greetings from sunny Florida! While I’m missing the Monroeville Home Show (where they’re featuring a Tiny House!!!), I am very  happy to be in Florida. Yesterday I went to Universal Studios specifically to experience Harry Potter’s universe. It. Was. Awesome. But you don’t care about that. This is a Tiny House blog after all! On Thursday I presented my Tiny House power point to my parents. Cue the drama. I’ve attached my presentation to the bottom of this post so you can take a look. I took out some of the more personal slides, but you’ll get the gist anyway.

Suffice it to say that the discussion did not go well. At all. At any point. Ever.

I eased into the topic that morning while we were outside (outside – in JANUARY!) drinking coffee and chatting amiably. My dad brought up the topic of saving money and he commended me for doing so well over the past year or so. I casually mentioned that money was a large part of the allure of a Tiny House for me – the financial freedom. I mentioned how I’d love to travel more, read more, paint more, and work less. I currently spend about 65-70 hours per week working, and I know that I can’t keep that up long-term. I turn 30 in August. I want to enjoy my life. His response actually wasn’t terrible. He said he was glad I was thinking about my life in terms of my future before going to take a shower. I was optimistic.

After that we spent the day with their friends. We toured John D. Rockefeller’s Ormond Beach home “The Casements” and went to lunch. Then we went to their condo and took in the ocean breeze. Later on, after apple pie a la mode and a glass of wine, I decided to take the plunge…

My dad was immediately on the defensive. I was a little surprised given our discussion just that morning. He urged me to wait until they got home, but that wasn’t an option for me. (My builder wants to finish the shell and have it delivered by March 1st. Given that they come home February 18th and I wouldn’t be able to visit them until at least February 21st, I need to do it now so I know if I can have the shell delivered to their address or not.) So I booted up my power point and began.

I did have a slide in there with “rules” which isn’t included in the draft below. In it I asked my parents to keep an open mind and hold questions until the end. Neither of those requests were met.

And so I went on, answering the peppering of questions as I went. I outlined my financial goals and how much more feasible it was for me own a Tiny House rather than a “traditional” home. I compared building a THOW now to building a THOW later to renting ad infinitum. I remained calm. I was clear. I was patient.

And I got nowhere. Less than nowhere. I was knocked backward by a brick wall of doubt.

The worst nightmare of how this talk could have gone was playing out before me. My dad blamed me for ruining our vacation. He accused me of blackmail; in his mind, if they refused to help I would never speak to them again. (For the record: this is not true. I have also spent the last two days being extremely pleasant so as to show that this assumption is incorrect.) If there was one positive, he did compliment my power point, saying that it looked professionally done; I chalk this up to the fact that he’s probably never seen one before.

I asked what their concerns were and braced myself. My mom’s were as she’d previously said: what land I’d put it on and the fact that Tiny Houses are illegal in some places. My dad’s were all over the map: my lack of building skills, the fact that Tiny Houses are edgy, my inability to save (wasn’t he just complimenting me on money earlier that day?), that he thinks I’m crazy. Perhaps I’ll delve into why the “crazy” comment hurts so much later, but now is not the time.

I addressed their concerns one by one. I told my mom that the land/illegality issue was the reason Channel 4 is interviewing me next week. I told my dad that I would embrace the challenge of building the structure. I reminded him that I have 7 tattoos and 6 piercings in each ear so technically I am already edgy. I again outlined some of my slides from my power point to show him how financially sound this was.

And none of it mattered. They were upset and so was I, but I decided not to show it. I told them that I would be moving forward with this process with or without their approval (seeing as I’m almost 30 and all). I told them that I would love their support but would understand if they couldn’t stand behind me and I’d figure out another place to put the THOW while I finish the interior if they wouldn’t allow me to put it in their yard. The night eventually calmed down and I stayed with them, so as not to come off as a pouty teenager (i.e. running up to my room and slamming the door).

Some of you may be wondering why I presented this on the first day of my trip rather than later on. Fair enough. The answer is simple – I knew I’d be spending all day yesterday in Orlando alone, so it would give them time to discuss and go over my proposition together and without me, if they chose to do so.

The one glimmer of hope I have is that my dad said he would give let me know if I can work on the interior at their house by the time I leave Florida. That gives them until Monday morning to reach a decision. I am trying to hope for the best and expect the worst, but it’s hard for me not to have hope. Maybe that’s what this Tiny House is for me in a nutshell. My tiny little glimmer of hope.

To quote my favorite musical: The light is getting dimmer / I think I see a glimmer!

Tiny House Presentation (MOD)

The First Hurdle: Mom

I left off my last post talking about how excited I was to begin building my THOW (Tiny House On Wheels). Since I hope that this blog will eventually become a sort of guide to help other Tiny builders and dreamers, I want to recount for everyone who hasn’t been near me the last few months what it’s been like to go from thinking about my THOW to actually getting to a building phase. This post is about something every Tiny dreamer must go through: telling their loved ones about their (crazy) Tiny dream.

I admit – the first time I actually saw Tiny Houses was on a show called “Tiny House Nation” on FYI. (Now that I no longer get that channel I’m in withdrawal. But then I found “Tiny House Hunters” and “Tiny House, Big Living” on HGTV so I feel a bit better… but I digress.) I still haven’t actually been inside a tiny house. Many of you (including my parents) will panic: “How can you live in something that small when you haven’t even been inside one yet?!” Admittedly you have a point and I’d love to tour one. But I haven’t found any in my area and I don’t have the money to travel to see one because I’m trying to actually pay for one! BACK OFF! Okay, okay… calm down…

So here I am, loving this movement and trying to save money, when I mention it to my parents. They are, at best, less than enthusiastic. They think I am jumping on a fad just to be trendy or weird or different. (Maybe?) They think I am opting out of normal life. (So?) They probably think I’m going to turn into a gypsy or something. (Alright, you got me.) They refused to even listen to my ideas without rolling their eyes or changing the subject. After a few months of solid research I finally confronted my mother. It went something like this:

Me: Mom, why do you always change the subject when I start talking about Tiny Houses?

Mom: Because it’s stupid and you won’t ever actually do it. You saw it on TV and you want to do what everyone else is doing.

Me: Mom, you’re going to have to accept the fact that this is real. This is happening. Do you know how much my take-home pay is?

Mom: *guesses incorrectly*

Me: *corrects her* For me to buy a house in this area I would have to be married, become a landlord, or have roommates. Since I currently live alone, wouldn’t these all be steps backward? Between mortgage, taxes, and utilities we’re talking about $1,300-1,400 per month. My current rent, including utilities, is $650 and you think that’s too much.

And then it happened: she listened. I carefully explained the financial ramifications of a mortgage as well as how miserable I’d be if I were tied to such a large payment for 30 years. One of her biggest concerns was what I would do if I got married someday. Hear me now: I do not consider myself a raging feminist. However, I think it is ludicrous in this day and age to ask me to put my life on hold until I find a man who can buy me a house. What do I do then? Bake cookies? Knit? Make homemade jam? Tuck our beautiful and oh-so-normal 2.5 children into bed? (For those of you who don’t actually know me, laugh. This is a ridiculous vision of my life.) I want to be financially independent on my own. I know this is probably hard for her to hear at 60-something, but I am finally my own person. And this own person wants a Tiny House.

(Please note: I don’t suggest you talk to your parents/siblings/friends/co-workers/dog/neighbor/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/parakeet like I had to speak to my mom. I fully expect you to be respectful and well thought-out. I am, however, quite emotional. So this is the route I took. I am following it up with an informative power point presentation, but I can’t take back my first interaction. C’est la vie.)

For those of you who wonder why I haven’t brought up my dad, yes, he’s in the picture. He’s still married to my mom and they just celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary (pretentious bastards). But he’s someone I need to talk to in-depth about this and he’s just not a phone person. But I am spending 5 days with them this week and I’ll answer all his questions. I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest Tiny House news after my power point presentation. I sure hope this doesn’t ruin vacation…