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Ugh, Millennials, the newest generation to think ‘they’ are the first to have it bad. Let me make it clear up front that I’m a ‘Gen X’ and also hold a (rather recent) degree in history so I feel rather confident that when I say the Millennials really don’t have it that bad, I have some first-hand experience hanging with them. Secondly, I have an adult son, he is what we history types are beginning to refer to as having been born into the ‘i-Generation’ of 1995 and later, this is still a somewhat fluid definition, but most popular for now.
The two biggest complaints I hear from the Millennials are: college debt and housing affordability. The first is an absolute, I feel you, but I just can’t reach you. Millennials are whining to a generation that had substantially fewer college choices and were bullshitted into thinking that we could make a good living without college, the short sightedness of our parents’ generation…the ones before the Baby Boomers. It’s not entirely their fault, as the ‘Silent Generation’ where/are the offspring of the ‘Greatest Generation’, you know, the ones that lived through the lowest of Americas lows and then got involved with yet another World War. These folks have strong recollections of post-war boom America, and back then you could afford a modest, yet comfortable living with no education or only moderate training. It was a different time. Here is where I’d like to insert my quick comparison to Baby Boomers and Millennials, two of the same separated by an entirely different generation, Gen-X. The BB’s and M’s love to hate one another which is humorous due to the fact that the elders are quite literally the Grandparents of the younger group and have the same expectations of the world accommodating their every wish and whim, but I digress.
A Millennials argument about college debt is hard for many Gen-X to digest when a respectable share of us have had to either cling on to crappy jobs we can’t escape (with no post-secondary education) or having gone to college mid-life (because our parents were wrong about long term employment opportunities). We have incurred the same debt as you, and coupled with our advanced age, often find our degrees slightly less useless than your own. We are too old to take advantage of genuine physical labor or skilled labor jobs that simply require the strength and wherewithal of a younger person, this is no longer a plausible option for middle aged people. I cannot say why you went to college, but I think too many of you talked yourself into something (or your parents/grandparents did) not realizing the risk versus reward of the experience. A truck driver today can easily gross more in one year than a fair share of college majors will for some time to come. I’m sorry you were screwed, join the club.
Now, housing. Your plight with housing is nothing new, it’s just that when you don’t shut up about yourself you cannot hear other people telling you that it’s not about you. Every generation past the Baby Boomers can quickly pivot on our heels and flip them the bird, it’s not just you that have gotten the short end of the stick, you’re just grabbing a handle already covered with clenched fists. Just think, the ‘i-Gen’ kids are going to be joining this market very soon, it’ll get worse before it gets better.
My spouse and I bought our first house over twenty years ago, saving was nearly impossible, we didn’t have (much) college debt, but our jobs didn’t really pay that well back then either. When you rented it made it difficult to save (nothing new here), so we were told by the bank(s) to keep our expectations low, basically don’t buy what you cannot put at least 10% cash down on. Do banks say that now? They sure did back in the mid 1990s. The then blossoming housing bubble (that ultimately popped in 2007/2008) opened all sorts of opportunities for the very late Gen-X and earliest Millennial buyers, large sums of cash down and any sort of reasonable capital was simply overlooked, some of the purchases I witnessed made prior to the “Great Recession” where really irresponsible by all parties involved. So, what does this have to do with the Millennial? well, pretty much everything. The buying environment now is a reflection of two major phenomenon, the first being the obvious correction of errors spoken of previously, and the second being Americans are moving into the cites and creating a shortage of decent affordable housing for…all of us. Tech jobs, and white-collar work (an educated America as never seen before) directly contribute to rising rents and housing costs, but so is the demand for living outside our means, or at least the appearance of it. Millennials are ill prepared for starting at the bottom and working their way up, unless you’re genuinely wealthy this is how the world works, but its ok, be patient. Unless the massive debt of a huge mortgage (or rent/lease) appeals to you, set your standards a little lower, and demand more from the people in charge of your cities, states, and country…housing is really messed up for many people who are simply forced to over-spend in order to live near their work. 21st century America is reshaping rural America, and that is the game changer from coast to coast.
So please, Millennials, stop whining, I went to college with you, and I really enjoy and respect most of you, so please stop acting like Boomers, we (Gen-Xr’s) have been listening to this crap our entire lives and you guys are better than that. Every generation has its follies and hardships, they’re not fairly distributed, but no generation has been singled out for having had it ‘tougher’ than any other, they all often suck in context of their own frame of reference. We’re all in this together.