- My parents don’t understand why I don’t have a house, a car, or a retirement savings account.
- My generation has fewer job opportunities, more student debt, and sky-high house prices.
- It is much worse for us than for previous generations.
- Ingrid Cruz is a freelance writer based in Mississippi.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
A few months ago my parents criticized me for not really owning anything. I have little savings, don’t own a home, investments, or even 401K due to pre-pandemic financial pressures, some of which only got worse in the past year.
It’s a struggle that many millennials face, but I, a first generation immigrant, often feel guilty and unworthy of knowing that my net worth is negative. As a child, my mother wanted me to embark on a respectable, well-paid and stable profession, like that of a lawyer, an accountant or maybe a high-level position in the company. She always expected me to buy a house, get married at a certain age, and ultimately take care of her as I get older. Instead, I’m a freelance writer with student loan debt that will ruin my finances once repayment arrangements resume in 2022.
It’s hard to get my parents to understand that the United States they dreamed of and took me to in 1989 has changed dramatically.
The economy is stacked against the millennials
According to a CNBC Report, millennials owned only 5.19% of total U.S. wealth in 2020 – four times less than what baby boomers had at the same age. We are a generation that has seen income inequality increase just like the Great
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says high student loan debt has caused millennials to delay important life decisions. Less income meant delaying marriage, house and car purchases, and not being able to leave our parents’ home – or having to return there during a crisis.
In drastic situations, less income also causes people to delay medical care and avoid scheduling routine physical exams, leaving problems undiagnosed. Navigate the labyrinth cost and health insurance policies in the United States is also difficult and weighs on our finances. Even for a healthy person, the cost of having a child in the hospital can be prohibitive and childcare, caring for aging parents and other elements necessary to maintain a healthy family are often financially debilitating.
The Great Recession too affected housing, creating shortages that drove rents up even before the pandemic. Stagnation and low wages are only part of the problem: even with higher wages, many millennials live paycheck to paycheck because of the many debts they had to contract to get out of it.
The rising cost of living that we are experiencing today, and that we will continue to experience without federal and state intervention, will only make it harder for Millennials, Gen Zs and future generations to create new life. wealth unless we are working towards pay equity and a reasonable cost of living. Rent control, home change control that artificially increases the cost of land and rent, and even climate justice that would prevent devastating fires, would give millennials peace of mind when it comes to securing a home. lodging.
Most personal finance advice doesn’t apply to our generation
Although well-intentioned, many articles on saving money or generating wealth are not helpful to working class, marginalized, or economically hard hit people who have little access to wealth and social capital to begin with.
Phone finance articles often assume that people who want to save money can afford to spend money at cafes, memberships, gyms, or can afford online shopping to begin with. There’s no way to save $ 4 a day on a cup of coffee if you aren’t able to do it in the first place.
Many millennials, especially immigrants and refugees, grew up with the idea that we would not only have come to this country to live a better life, but to have more beautiful things. In family structures where scarcity was often a factor in daily life, one of the few ways to prove that our parents’ investments and sacrifices were worth it is to achieve extraordinary financial success.
Some people have done it, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Learning financial literacy is a challenge for people who have grown up with survival as their primary goal. The fact is, it’s harder for millennials to improve their social and income status compared to previous generations. According to a 2019 analysis from Stanford University, there are also racial property gaps among millennials, as every gain from reforms to help people of color own their homes after the loss of the civil rights movement has been lost.
Although many millennials are able to earn wages above the federal minimum wage, $ 7.25 an hour is 31% lower than the minimum wage in 1968, once inflation is taken into account. As millennials, we are constantly at the mercy of market forces that throw us into disarray, with little or no safety nets, and we regularly have to grapple with misconceptions about our work ethic or our ambitions. But that can change.
Success is not the same as having something
First, we can stop linking our success and sense of accomplishment to owning things. It’s okay to mourn the opportunities and salaries we have lost while acknowledging that we have done our best. We were taught that we live in a world of promise just as the opportunities afforded to past generations began to fade. Then we had a pandemic to consider.
Millennials can also talk to seniors about our lives and explain our perspective to them. The systemic barriers and injustices we faced in our quest to earn a living are real and different from those our parents faced. Our cost of living, health care, child care and education expenses are exorbitant, and they were not as high for previous generations. It may not change the minds of our elders, but it may give us something to consider.
We can continue to vote, educate, and organize for our rights, and people of all generations can work to understand how decisions made in the past created the systems, inequalities, and issues that millennials and future generations face. generations have to cope.
In addition to everything I have mentioned, we also have to deal with climate change, which will all impact our finances and our mental health. The constant need to keep changing your mind and making sure that the next generations don’t go through what we are going through can be exhausting, but chasing after it is worth it.
Finally, we can surround ourselves with like-minded people who understand us and can provide moral support and remember to rest whenever we can. Our world and its prospects are exhausting. We don’t need to feel guilty for finding a few moments of peace and quiet.