The generation who messed it up for everyone else – Part 1
My heartbeat was elevating, and I could feel my anger-levels rising faster than a hungry infant as I clicked on the LinkedIn article. It was the perfect definition of a click-bait title, executed with precision. Even I had to sit back and admire the cleverness. The email title:
The worst thing Millennials are killing.
Millennials are often the punching bag of the generational fight. I’m curious, but not personally moved to action. Probably just another article about how we eat $11 avocado toast and we’re killing relationships because we text emojis instead of calling our parents on their landline.
But then there was the sub-heading of the article:
This generation could unintentionally kill retirement.
“Um, excuse me? Millennials are somehow to blame for killing retirement? We’re more than 30 YEARS AWAY FROM RETIREMENT!” How is that even possible?!?”
After I clicked, I was whisked away to a hodgepodge of articles, studies and commentary related to the topic of Millennials and wealth creation. The Brookings Institute, the Economist, and the TD Ameritrade Millennials and Money Survey all helped paint a picture of how Millennials are doing financially worse than previous generations, not saving for retirement and are taking on huge amounts of student debt. Because of all these factors, Millennials are (as described) killing retirement.
The problem is those arguments are tired. Yes, Millennials aren’t saving as much for retirement as previous generations. Yes, Millennials are saddled with debt. But Millennials did not create the issue they’re faced with today. In fact, Baby Boomers created the broken system Millennials are forced to play-in. In a miraculous turn of events, Baby Boomers have somehow shown themselves to be more self-centered than the self-centered Millennials they blame for everything. Baby Boomers can’t even see they created a broken system that only benefits them, so let me help paint the alternative narrative to the tired “blame Millennials for everything” argument:
Baby Boomers have been the major player in establishing the rules and current state of the retirement system we’re all bound under. Unfortunately, Millennials have grown up knowing that same retirement system likely won’t last long enough to benefit their generation. The previously referenced studies highlight how Millennials will actually bear the burden Baby Boomers created as they made changes to Medicare, Social Security and pensions. Now Millennials are faced with self-funding their retirement program while balancing stagnant starting salaries and mounds of student debt. If put in the same situation, I’d love to see Baby Boomers tell us all about how they’re saving enough for retirement while balancing the bills due this month. Speaking of bills due….
Baby Boomers grew up during a time when a college education essentially guaranteed a professional-level job and they’ve come to expect Millennials will take the same path. A system was created where hundreds of thousands of people got a college education, the rising cost of education created massive amount of debt, but what changed between generations was the availability of those professional-level jobs post-graduation. They exist, but not nearly commensurate with the amount of new college graduates. The same promises made to Baby Boomers when they graduated college do not exist today. Did Millennials raise the cost of higher education? Are Millennials (typically) in charge of hiring new graduates? Are Millennials making the decision to take a chance on someone who chose to forego college debt? Baby Boomers perpetuate a broken system they helped create without recognizing their involvement in the entire process.
But right now, I just needed to vent. I guess that’s my fault too, huh? “Darn Millennials, when are they going to stop complaining about having worse prospects than their parents? When I was their age…” The point is Millennials have their faults, but too often other generations fail to look in the mirror. The good news for everyone – regardless of your generational affiliation – is we can work together to fix some of these issues instead of prolonging the same tired narratives. Next time, we’ll look at some solutions to fixing the problems created by this broken system and get an understanding of the role each of us can play.