Millennials: We’re all too familiar with their failings — or we think we are.
These video game-obsessed, toddleresque “adults” appear in civilized society only to spend what little money they might have on avocados and artisan beer. Then, after a night out on the town with their pals, they follow their own trail of Dorito dust back to their parents’ basements.
Actually — no.
Kelsey and Ryan Sage, who live near Charlotte, North Carolina, were both swamped at work when LifeZette caught up with them this week. One was at a conference (she) and the other was working a few hours away at a customer’s job site (he). At the end of their busy workday, these married homeowners scare up some dinner for their two young boys, head out to soccer practice for the older, get everyone back home, cleaned up and tucked in — and do it all again the next day.
One might assume the Sages are typical Gen Xers. They’re employed, college educated, and married. They’re parents and have a mortgage. But the Sages are millennials.
Surprised? Don’t be. Not all millennials fit “the mold.”
Kelsey Sage has been with her firm for just two years but is considered the go-to expert about a computer program the company’s been using for over a decade. She’s proud of her generation’s unrivaled digital talents — and embodies its collective facility with all things tech.
Where the Sages part ways with other millennials is in their commitment to working hard and making sacrifices to achieve all of their career, family and financial goals. The couple moved cross-country with their boys, for example, in the interest of career advancement. They regularly review their short- and long-term goals to ensure they’re on track.
Staying on track career-wise does present hurdles unique to millennials. Kelsey Sage reports, for example, that older generations’ stereotypes of millennials make it more challenging for her to succeed at work. She often finds herself having to scramble to prove herself to older colleagues who may (wrongly) assume she is lazy, ill-informed — or expects rewards she hasn’t earned to be handed to her on a silver platter.
Stereotypes don’t materialize out of thin air, though. A glance at the numbers suggests the millennial generation — those born between 1981 and 1997 (now aged 20 to 36) — do embody some of the stereotypical and much-maligned traits with which everyone is quite familiar.
Take home ownership. Many older people perceive that millennials remain snugly ensconced in their parents’ nests well past the age that their older cohorts were off having babies or fighting wars. Home ownership among millennials is significantly lower than that of previous generations at their age, but the reasons are nuanced.
Nerd Wallet offers several plausible, data-backed explanations for millennials’ withering rates of home ownership. Among them are crippling debt — including hefty student loans — paltry incomes, and sketchy credit ratings. Though some in the older generation attribute the “failure to launch” to character flaws, data suggest it’s not so much that millennials have no interest in living independently of their parents but that they (perhaps mistakenly) believe it’s not financially possible.
Much of the millennial hesitation to pursue independent home ownership may be illusory, suggests The Motley Fool. One hurdle millennials (seemingly) rightly cite is an inability to acquire a sufficient down payment given their meager average salaries — about $35,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With 20 percent less purchasing power than their parents had, coupled with double the average student debt, that certainly seems plausible.
Yet many others have humorously observed that millennials overspend on frivolous items. And some of it — frequent trips to the local pub, for example — is invested in “vices,” as described in Bankrate. Daily avocado-based everything and overpriced coffees come to mind.
These 92 million, freshly minted young adults who represent half of today’s workforce spend considerably more money on food (and alcohol) than earlier generations. More than half the group in their early to mid 20s eat take-out food or dine at restaurants at least three times a week — while only about a third of Gen Xers and boomers did likewise.
This generation sports unique merits as well. The sooner all adults embrace that truism, the more we’ll all benefit.
On the plus side, though they may not be buying big-ticket items like homes or cars — they seem to prefer the benefits of access to ownership — their penchant for wholesome foods may leave them healthier when they eventually reach their golden years. Research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that avocados are great for reducing cholesterol, after all, particularly among those who are overweight or obese.
And with four of 10 cases of cancer in the U.S. linked to excess weight, perhaps these guys are onto something. Only about one in five millennials are obese, yet nearly one in three adults in the older generation embody this often lethal characteristic.
Younger and older generations can learn a great deal from one another. That mutual learning, however, is predicated on mutual respect. While millennials as a whole may have their shortcomings, this generation sports unique merits as well. The sooner all adults embrace that truism, the more we’ll all benefit.
Michele Blood is a freelance writer with a passion for children’s literature. Based in Flemington, New Jersey, she leverages her background in psychology in her work for publishers, businesses and NPOs.