During my allotted time, I was able to talk about some challenges that have beset the millennial generation. I also mentioned some of the fun projects that we have been up to here at Gold Millennial over the past month or so, like our book club. Last week, we hosted our first book club discussion via Livestream on our Facebook page, and have since posted a follow-up on our blog.
We are doing projects and hosting events like the book club because we plan to turn this blog into a real, thriving online community of millennials. We dream of a day when GM will be more than a springboard for our stories, but will be a safe haven where millennials around the world can come to air our grievances, rejoice together in our triumphs, and live life out loud.
And there is much to discuss. Throughout the podcast, I referenced several articles that I have pinned on our Pinterest board, We Are Millennials. This is a list of relevant, recent articles that I have spent hours reading and curating. It is easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of following one article or thought to the next, to the next, to the next. Kind of like that Wikipedia game we used to play when we were procrastinating writing our research papers in college. Oh, was that just me?
Problem 1: Inflation Has Eclipsed Wage Growth
According to my observations, research, and personal experience, finances are the biggest source of anxiety amongst millennials today. Ah money. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. The bane of our existence is paradoxically the boon of our times. Although we may have reached a point where the GDP of our country has never been higher, our middle class has never been so encumbered by debt.
In this Washington Post article from August, Heather Long states that “Cost of living was up 2.9 percent from July 2017 to July 2018… an inflation rate that outstripped a 2.7 percent increase in wages over the same period.”
It is becoming increasingly impossible for average Americans to make ends meet, and so we live on credit. And so we drown in debt. It’s nice that we have a cushy buffer of credit to keep our heads above water, but it does not come without a cost. Although we are seeing a national decline in the number of actual bankruptcies filed each year, this is a reflection of statistical trends since the crash in 2010, and not, I think, a good measure of what is actually going on in the hearts and homes (and wallets) of the American people.
I am not an economist or an accountant, but I do utilize money and credit just like the rest of us, so I speak from my own authority as a member of the American middle class. And I can tell you that the struggle is real. I cringe every time I have to stick my card into the reader at the grocery store. Thank goodness it is so quick or I might have a mini heart attack every time I went grocery shopping. Needless to say, sticking that card in still feels like the prick and pull of a needle drawing out my blood. And I do not do well with giving blood.
I think part of the problem is that we have grown so accustomed to living a certain lifestyle. We have been raised to believe that we all deserve The American Dream, as if it were a birthright. So we spend according to how we think we ought to live. In many cases this constitutes living beyond our means.
Problem 2: Student Loan Debt is the 800 lb Monster in the Room
Nothing defines millennial money more than student loan debt. Countless articles, books, and first-hand accounts have been published across the internet that speak to the immense depth and breadth of this topic. This story in particular hit me right in the feels. For that reason, my primary comment on student loan debt in the podcast is that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface.
In 2018, the price of college has now increased almost eight times faster than wages, leading many Gen Zers to wisely forego their “opportunity” for higher education. Unfortunately, this national awakening occurred too late for most of us millennials, who were not only encouraged to go to college no matter what the cost, it was simply expected of us.
And thanks to this well-meaning expectation, we have been saddled on monsters – a lifetime of guaranteed debt. No entry-level job can keep up with debt payoff, and working one’s way up the corporate ladder has almost become a passé pastime of our parents’ generation, in favor of more progressive, noble pursuits where we can change the world, and “make an impact.” 67% of millennials dream of starting their own businesses, if we haven’t done so already.
As a result, millennials are left struggling with an oft-meaningless paper degree on our walls, an insurmountable debt colored in red in our bullet journals, and a cascade of side effects that keep us up all night. No wonder there is so much anxiety among millennials.
Problem 3: We Have Been Stereotyped
Forget the fact that millennials have accumulated more personal debt than any generation before us simply to live our lives, we are lazy because we live in multi-generational households. Forget the fact that we are only doing so because we flat out can’t afford not to. Millennials have been negatively stereotyped as lazy, entitled, and technology-dependent.
This is nothing new. It is normal and natural for every generation to have some complaints about its predecessors, and about its successors. In the podcast I mentioned these briefly, and admitted that there is some truth to some of them.
83% of millennials sleep with their phones next to their beds, and I am no exception. Of course this isn’t the healthiest behavior, but I think what is overlooked is that our society is so deeply entrenched in social media, and we do so much business over the internet, that we actually do become disconnected from society when we put down our phones.
In the Spring/Summer of 2016 I lived for 2 months without a smart phone. I hardly went on Facebook at all, and since I don’t have an “old-fashioned” point and shoot camera, I couldn’t take pictures. During those 2 months I thought I would feel recharged and refreshed. To my surprise, instead I felt shrouded in a veil of depression that was only lifted when I got an iPhone again.
It only took me a few days with a smart phone back in my hands to realize why. When I didn’t have a smart phone, I was literally disconnected from my friends. Especially since we had just moved to New York and I didn’t have any local friends. The friendships I had online were my only lifeline to social sanity. So getting that connection back was the instant cure to my mid-summer malaise.
Since then, I fully appreciate my smart phone as a tool for keeping me connected with friends and loved ones. Of course it can be abused. But we must not forget its value. I also do things on/with my phone like read on my Kindle app, shop on my Amazon app, meditate with the Headspace app and Pandora and Youtube, research answers to all of my children’s many questions, check the library website, check my email, catalog my coupons, and grow a community of millennials via all our Gold Millennial social media platforms!
The Best is Yet to Come
I am grateful for my experience speaking for millennials on a podcast, and I hope to do so many more times in the future. It was fun to sit in person in the studio here in Colorado Springs! In the words of Pinkie Pie, I was nervous-cited. But I steeled my nerves and I think for my first-ever podcast “appearance” it didn’t turn out too shabby!
Prior to, I really did not know how to prepare. I did a lot of research and printed out all these articles I’ve been talking about and did a lot of free writing on these topics, but I still did not know fully what to expect. I didn’t want to have every word I was going to say written out because I didn’t want my performance to sound scripted. Next time, however, I think I might prepare more in that fashion.
Let me know in the comments what you think of my podcast spotlight, and these other awesome millennial podcasters. Let me know if you know of any others, or any other podcasts for which we would be a good fit to guest speak.
The best is always yet to come.