Research has shown that millennials are expected to be the first generation to earn less money than their predecessors. Currently, millennials (those individuals born between 1980 and 2000) are expected to earn less than Generation X (those individuals born between 1966 and 1980). In the U.S., the financial trend has been upward for each new generation for the past 100 years. The millennials will be the first generation to break that economic trend.
The primary reason is the market crash in 2007-2008, the subsequent slow economic growth in the United States, rising costs, and the degree of student debt. Even the current events, like the financial troubles within Europe and the Brexit vote, are expected to hurt, not help, any possible trend toward higher wages. The current global conflicts, including ethnic/ religious conflicts and terrorism, are likely to lower economic growth for the millennials.
The challenges for the millennials goes beyond money. Yes, they are going to spend more money on rent than any generation. Yes, they are going to be buying their first house later in life than any generation. Yes, they will face a greater struggle to set up future retirement and future financial security, requiring longer hours of work. And yes, they are going to face a larger financial inequity between themselves and their parents than any other generation.
However, their biggest challenges may be at home, not at work. The divorce rate remains high. Their children are going to be more difficult to raise. Over the past 20 years there has been an explosion in developmental disabilities, including increased attention deficit disorders, increased autism spectrum disorders, and increased behavioral problems. The primary culprits appear to be the increasing toxicity in our air, our water, and our food.
The challenge for the millennials at home begins right at birth of their first child. Recent studies reveal that a baby’s umbilical cord currently contains 212 toxic chemicals, placing the newborn baby at risk for medical problems, psychiatric illnesses, and developmental challenges. Studies also show that 60% of all millennials have at least 75 chemicals in their blood. The majority of millennials also test positive for GMOs. In short, they are just as toxic as their environment.
We all deserve the blame. In the past 50 years we have produced 77,000 new chemicals. We have increased gluten 40 fold in our bread. We have created GMOs with genetically modified food. We have gone from the small farmer to large agricultural companies. Just 5-7 companies (which used to be chemical companies and are now food companies) produce the majority of our meals. Much of our food is contaminated with toxins, as is our whole planet.
So, what can the millennials do? They are facing a difficult financial road, complicated by multiple physical health challenges, emotional health challenges, and developmental challenges (in their children). My suggestion will probably seem superficial. Zig Ziglar used to encourage his audience to search for “all the things that money cannot buy.” Maybe that is part of the solution: to switch the focus from money to things of greater value.
For the millennials, I would recommend a focus on connection and contribution. Place a higher priority on connection with friends, family, and co-workers. With technology, the world is getting smaller. It is easier to stay in touch, easier to get together. Also place a higher priority on contribution – helping others to improve their life. Don’t forget the saying: you are wealthy by what you give, you are poor by what you keep. And that wealth is not financial; it’s happiness and personal satisfaction.
In today’s troubled work environment, I would remind millennials of the importance of passion and purpose. If your job is not going to lead to as much money as you would want, that job better be aligned with your passions. Otherwise, you lose even more. Just as importantly, you need to fine a purpose – something to keep you moving in the right direction. Passion and purpose: they are the cornerstones to a life of real satisfaction, not just financial reward.
In short, millennials best chance is to change themselves and the world. For too long we have been focused on the superficial. For too long we have been focused on external rewards like money. Maybe it’s time to meet your internal needs. Maybe it’s time to clarify your internal goals. Happiness. Satisfaction. Reduced stress. Outside pursuits. Hobbies. Relationships. Friendships. All of those features are independent of money. They are all far more important than money.
Be the generation that changes our perspective and priorities.
Be the generation that reaches a higher level of happiness.
Be the generation that embraces the challenge and rises above it.
The world may need your guidance more than you realize …