In exploring the financial future of my Millennial Generation (1981-1996), a few headlines come pre-seasoned like “Millennials could afford a home if they did not spend ‘lavishly’ on avocado toast!” “Millennials are the poorest generation in generations!” “Millennials are screwed!” They say the western dream of financial stability and home ownership, for us, lay smashed, broken, burnt, and soured. But is it true that our financial health has become tied to the price of avocado toast?
We are well aware of the increased levels of inter-generational debt our parents are sliding across the dining table to us. Yes, at my age (30), I have relaxed my expectations for home ownership, three cars, and kids of my own to keep my parents busy. Yes, Dad, I have heard you recount how you walked hundreds of kilometers daily through jungle trails, traversing rivers and fighting wildlife to get to school while I grew soft in the safety of a public bus. Sorry, again, that you had to go through that!
Today, if you are between the age of 25 and 40, you fall in the broad category of the most intellectually-equipped generation in human history. The next generation will undoubtedly surpass us, for it is only natural in human progression.
Our generation is sensitive. We are demanding and we want feedback. We crave workplace flexibility, paid sabbaticals, autonomy, and inclusivity. Personal growth and branding are paramount to our identities. We stay up late to keep “Woke” — to be aware of all things, at all times. We campaign for critical issues like mental health awareness, gender inequality, and race. We proudly raise our banners of acceptance. To us, these things are bigger than big salaries and cars.
While past generations have been tested through conquest and war, we too, have earned our stripes in resiliency. Since 1981, the start of our generation, we have met five global economic crises head-on: The Iran/Energy Crisis (1981-1982), The Gulf War (1990-1991), 9/11 Attacks (2001), The Great Recession (2007-2009), and COVID-19 (2020 – ongoing).
Like previous generations, we want to achieve the classic dream of owning a home, paying off debt, and someday retiring from a fulfilling career. But we also have a desire to travel, to live abroad, and to pursue our passions.
“The secret to happiness is to lower your expectations…that is what you compare your experience with. If your expectations and standards are very high and only allow yourself to be happy when things are exquisite, you’ll never be happy and grateful”. – Charlie Munger, Billionaire.
We have an old line of code running in our brains that connects our sense of worth with a number in our bank account. Our anxiety climbs when we worry about not being where society tells us we should be. From this perspective, comparison is truly the thief of joy. Our generation is dreaming bigger and better, and while we are confident, we will fulfill our dreams, we need help figuring out how to fund them to take off.
Financial literacy has never been more important. We need to fund our own pensions, develop our own investment strategies and find a way to leverage ourselves out of boatloads of debt to simply accomplish what previous generations took for granted. We cannot afford to be ignorant. We must not just be hypervigilant about the world around us but masters of our own economic future as well. Our future depends on knowing more and acting with greater wisdom. And I have confidence that we are up to the task.
If I’m wrong, there’s always avocado farming!