I want to address the economic disparity between the millennials and the other generations in the United States. The millennials should receive a higher level of understanding of their financial straits, and the millennials deserve a much higher level of respect for how they are taking ownership of their lives, prioritizing their values in a far better fashion than most of us.
Everyone is aware of the economic inequity in our current world. There are the 1%, who are wealthy and living well, and then there are the other 99%, who are struggling with no improvement in their finances for decades. A recent article confirmed how the combined financial worth of the world’s 8 richest individuals is now equal to the total financial worth of half of the 7 billion people on this planet. Yes, 8 individuals in our world have more money that half of humanity.
The impact of that financial disparity may be hardest on the millennials. The median household income for millennials is just $40,581. That is 20% less than the baby boomers when they were the same age. Yet, millennials are far better educated than their baby boomer counterparts. Clearly, in today’s world, higher education has not translated into higher income or a greater financial future.
The other statistics are just as troublesome. Millennials have 50% of the net worth of the baby boomers at the same age. Millennials have significantly lower home ownership and their student debt is astronomically higher. White millennials earn more than their black and Latino peers, but white millennials have the greatest disparity between themselves and their white baby boomer parents.
Research reveals how most millennials change careers, not just jobs, four times before the age of 30. Or how 30% of millennials still live with their parents at the age of 30. Or how 35% of those millennials, who do not live at home, still receive some financial assistance from their parents. But research also shows how the millennials are taking a different approach to life. It’s a game changer.
Baby boomers, as studies document, have gone through their lives focused on three main objectives: status, prestige, and financial security. Yes, they have worked many more hours than other generations. Yes, they have taken fewer vacations and fewer sick days than other generations. But look at the result? Most baby boomers today are still struggling with a lack of status, prestige, and financial security. The 1% have it, not the other 99% of our older adults.
Millennials have watched the struggle of their parents. Millennials have seen the results and the lack of progress / lack of fulfillment. Many millennials have viewed our system, and our priorities, as broken. Consequently, they have rejected the usual objectives of status, prestige, and financial security. They realize those goals are just illusions. Those goals are not leading to happiness.
Collectively, millennials have begun a search for something far superior and far more worthwhile. Most millennials don’t keep switching careers because they are pursuing greater finances. Most millennials are switching careers because they are trying to find something more meaningful. Equally important, they are switching careers because they hope to create deeper and more authentic connections with others.
There is the old adage: You either work for someone else’s goals or you work for your own goals. Many millennials are not trying to make someone else richer. They are trying to make themselves happier, more satisfied – and not just with their income, but with their lives.
One option is self-employment. Millennials are launching their own companies more than any other generation. Around 30% of today’s entrepreneurs are millennials. To date, millennials have launched over 160,000 start-ups. That translates to taking ownership of your lives and your happiness and employing your own values.
There is another option. More and more millennials are reversing course, selecting positions where they can contribute to society. As a society, we still tend to applaud those people with the most money, most prestige, more fame. But that is changing. More and more of the best millennials are applauding their peers for making a difference, not just making a salary.
For the rest of us – the other generations who are caught up in the financial struggle of the 1%:99% disparity – maybe we need to follow the lead of the millennials. Maybe we need to reject our current focus on external monetary rewards. Maybe we need to shift our focus to internal satisfaction and personal connection. Right now, most studies underscore the frustration and dissatisfaction of most Americans. Have we been chasing the wrong priorities?
Here is my suggestion. If you have a millennial of high character in your family, or if you just know a millennial of high character, sit down with them and listen to their view of the world. They have the most difficult economic predicament. They have the biggest challenge. Yet, if we all listen, we may find some solutions, which they have enacted, that can work for all of us. Sometimes, the people who are most challenges … well, they can become the best teachers.
So, listen and learn from the best of the millennials …
Maybe it is time we educate ourselves …