It wasn’t that long ago that every media outlet out there was referring to millennials as the “Me Me Me Generation“, but lately it seems like everyone’s changing their tune and realizing that Generation Y is actually having a pretty rough time in today’s age. Sure, we’re lucky to have tablets and things like Skype, but at the end of the day most of us are wracked with debt, working for free (or what feels like free), and have no hope of ever having that same white picket fence American (or Canadian) dream like our parents had.
Reflecting on the past 5 years since the recession hit, I agree with Mashable’s article and truly believe that millennials are the frugal generation. I know everyone always refers to those who grew up during The Great Depression as the frugal generation, and that’s true as well (not gonna pick that fight), but I don’t think enough credit is being given to today’s young people.
Look at job hunting today for instance. Have you watched this hilarious video about a grandfather’s job searching advice? I know it’s a joke because it’s on The Onion, but I’ve actually heard people tell me this exact advice. The thing is, it may have worked back in the day, but that’s just not how you get a job today. I mean, can you actually imagine going to a company’s head office, asking to meet with the CEO, then asking for a job because you’re “a hard and loyal worker?” I’m pretty sure they’d escort you out before you had time to go through your resume. These days you need to do an internship for little or no pay for a few months with no guarantee of actually getting paid work at the end of it. You have to spend hours applying to jobs online competing with hundreds if not thousands of people for the same job. And once you do get an interview, most of the time the competitive salary the company is offering is way below the median. What’s more, even to get a low-paying office job, you have to spend 4 years and thousands of dollars on a university degree. There are a ton more hoops that Generation Y has to go through compared to other generations, and it doesn’t seem like anything’s about to change anytime soon.
Although job hunting is no picnic for millennials, I do think this lack of wealth (millennials are apparently 7% less wealthy than people of the same age in 1983) is actually a blessing in disguise for our generation. We’re being forced to think about money, talk about money, and in turn, be more responsible with money.
When the recession hit, a lot of older people lost a lot of money in investments, some very close to retirement. These people had to then push back their retirement or down-size in order to afford a life of not working in the future. Personally, I never want to have to experience that. And that’s exactly why I’m going to always be an active participant in my investment strategies, will continue to educate myself on personal finance, and hopefully won’t ever have to depend on just one job for my income stream. I never thought of myself as someone who would be an entrepreneur when I was in university, but nowadays it’s what you have to do if you want to be prepared. I will never become a full-time freelancer like my husband, I like having a full-time job with a company, but I’ll probably always have a few side gigs on the go just so I’m not completely screwed if the worst happens and I get laid off. My side gigs helped me significantly this summer when I was new to Toronto and looking for work, so I know it will always be something I incorporate into my life.
It really sucked when the recession happened, resulting in me being an unemployed new grad for 8 months and killing my dream of ever owning a house with a yard to raise my future family in. But like I wrote in 2012, the recession has helped motivate me to kick ass at life, and I think it’s motivated a lot of other Gen Yers to live more frugally and be more financially savvy too. We may have it rough, but like one incredibly botoxed Real Housewife of Melbourne once said “When life throws rocks, [we] melt them down into diamonds.” And if not diamonds, we at least use those rocks to build fire or something else useful.
What are your thoughts? Do you think millennials are the frugal generation?