One of the favorite people groups to criticize these days are Millennials. A lot of Millennial stereotypes get thrown around these days. What's your favorite? Entitled? Lazy? Hate to work? Sitting in their parent's basement eating nachos and binging on Netflix (I have to admit, that's a pretty good one).
Here's the truth. Before I started Money with a Purpose, I bought into a lot of those stereotypes. After getting to know many Millennials in the blogging community, I wrote a mea culpa post last year.
Here's the thing. I'm a Boomer. For those not familiar with the term, that means I'm old. Like probably grandparents old for most of you Millennials. For those at the higher end ages for Millennials, I could be your parents, assuming they had you when they were in their thirties.
Technically, the Boomer birth years go from 1946 – 1964. Supposedly, 10,000 of us enter retirement every day. That's mind-boggling to me. But hey. As a Boomer, lots of things these days are mind-boggling to me these days.
Stereotypes follow almost every people group. Asians, African Americans, Muslims (American and otherwise), Jews, Christians, rich, poor, you name it. Stereotypes follow all of these groups.
Rightly or wrongly, that's just the way it is. I could easily write a post about the stereotypes that follow each of the groups listed above. Maybe at another time, I'll tackle some others. For now, let's dive into some of the stereotypes that follow Millennials and see if they're accurate.
Let's go back to the first few stereotypes mentioned at the start. They're lazy, living in mom and dad's basement binging on Netflix and won't get a job. Maybe you've heard another version of it, but you those are the ones most often thrown around in media and water cooler conversations (do we still have these?).
I still believe what I wrote in my mea culpa to Millennials. Some of the stereotypes fit. It's unfair to cast a whole group with the descriptions that apply to a part of that group. How large a component is a debatable topic.
The more I've come to know Millennials, the more respect I gain for them. There are, however, many things that drive me crazy about some of them. I'm sure they would say the same thing about my Boomer friends and me.
They've been respectful when they disagree with me. I've tried to do the same.
I was Googling for information on Millennials when preparing for this post. I ran across an interesting article on Medium. The title of the article is, The 14 Most Destructive Millennial Myths Debunked by Data. The beginning of the article, written on January 19, 2017, shows an image of the Time Magazine cover from May 2013. The cover title says, “The Me Me Me Generation. Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” Surprisingly, the author, Joel Stein, closes with – And they'll save us.
Talk about a “clickbait” headline that grabs you.
When I got to the article, I saw an image showing the results of a Google search that begins with, “Millennials are.” Check out the results from the image below.
It's not a very complimentary result, is it (lazy, stupid, the worst, entitled)? That was two years ago in 2017.
Below is the same search term today.
Some new terms appear. The majority are still not very complimentary. Are they accurate? Are they fair?
Millennials by the numbers
Here's an excerpt from my Mea Culpa article that offers the stats on Millennials vs. Boomers.
A Pew Research study shows that as of 2016, the latest date with population estimates, there were 71 million Millennials (age 20-35 in 2016).
Compare that to the 74 million Boomers (age 52-70 in 2016).
Pew projects that Millennials will outnumber Boomers in 2019. They say the Boomer population will decline to 72 million while Millennials will rise to 73 million. With the current US population in 2017 of 325.7 million, Millennials make up 23 percent of the population. They are a growing force.
In a recent article, Pew Research updates some of the statistics. The subtitle of the February 2019 article is How Young Adulthood Today Compares to Prior Generations. Here are some of the highlights. Millennials are more educated. Thirty-nine percent of Millennials have a bachelor's degree or higher. As you can see from the chart, that's greater than any other generation.
Women outpace men in education and income.
Finally, education levels impact how quickly Millennials get out of their parents' houses. Millennials with bachelor's degrees were twice as likely to be living on their own as those without degrees (20% vs. 10%).
According to The US Census Bureau, over a third (34% to be accurate) of Millennials live with their parents. And that's what we hear most on the news and from many in my generation. But that leaves two thirds (66%) who don't live with their parents and are, presumably, on their own.
Like most things in the media, good news rarely makes the headlines.
Tackling some of the myths
Let's take some of the “Millennials are” list and add a couple of other popular stereotypes.
Let's start by agreeing not to lump Millennials or any other group into one homogenous group. The Pew Study puts that view to rest. Some show signs of being entitled. The Millennials I've come to know display just the opposite signs.
They worked hard to get an education. Rather than the “entitled” free education from wealthy parents, most of the Millennials I know come out of college with large amounts of student loan debt. According to an article published by Bentley University, Millennial's student debt makes up 69% of the debt on their balance sheet.
They graduate from college, already carrying the burden of having hefty student loan payment. Many of them look for ways to refinance or renegotiate loan terms or pursue a loan forgiveness program. The average debt for college graduates is close to $40,000. If you're a law or medical school graduate, it is not unusual to see $200,000 – $300,000 in student loans on the balance sheet. That's a heck of a way to enter the workforce.
The Millennials I know work harder than most to reduce and eliminate this student loan debt. They aren't walking away from it via bankruptcy. They aren't looking for ways out. Instead, they're putting together budgets that allow them to pay down their debt much quicker than the payment schedules require.
I've been impressed when I've read stories about how many eliminate sizable student loan debt in as little as three to five years.
See the previous paragraph. To expand on it, the Millennials I've come to know are bloggers, mostly personal finance bloggers like me. Some do blogging full time. Most have full-time jobs and do their blogging on the side. They use their blogs and other kinds of side jobs (side hustles) to generate extra income.
Running a blog is no joke. If a publishing schedule includes two or more articles a week, blogging can take as much time as a full-time job. Some generate revenue by selling instructional courses on everything from budgeting to investing or starting a blog.
Many bloggers are real estate investors. They buy single-family homes, duplexes, and even multi-unit commercial properties. Most of them self-manage these properties, though some hire professional property managers. Add them up. That's a full-time job, running a blog, and outside investment activities.
Far from being lazy, these bloggers burn the candle at both ends.
I'm not sure where this one comes from. If Millennials are idiots, they're well-educated idiots. At the very least, the Millennials I know have an undergraduate degree. Most have advanced degrees. Things like MBAs, Masters in Marketing, Masters in Finance, and advanced degrees in computer science and engineering. Many pursue degrees in the STEM fields. Not all, but many of the Millennials who graduate chose areas of education where there are better opportunities for jobs.
Todd, at the Invested Wallet, went to college to study computer science with a minor in communications. Though he never got a job in graphic design, he became interested in digital marketing. He currently works remotely as director of marketing for a startup company.
Ryan, who blogs at Arrest Your Debt, is a police officer in a major western city. Ryan and I did a two-part interview on what it's like being a police officer. If you haven't read it yet, I encourage you to do so. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2. Did I mention that Ryan is married with three young children?
These are just a couple of the numerous stories of the Millennial bloggers I consider friends. I could name at least a dozen more.
We hear a lot about the FIRE community. FIRE stands for financial independence/retire early. The FIRE community is a group of bloggers who, as the acronym suggests, pursue economic freedom to retire early.
Early retirement for this group means something completely different than most of us. They are a tiny but growing subset of the adult working population. For that matter, they are a small subset of the Millennials.
They get to financial independence by saving money – lots of money. Many save from 50% to as much as 70% of their incomes. They live frugally. Some go to the point of living as minimalists. For some reason, this lifestyle causes many outside the FIRE community a lot of angst. It seems when a people group moves away from what another people group has decided is normal and acceptable, they don't like it. I've asked why early retirement has become so controversial. Last time I checked, we still lived in a country where we can make our own choices.
Just because someone's view of retirement, saving, and investing don't fit another's, it makes no sense to me why that group has to get so jacked up about what another group is doing. Do your thing. Let others do theirs. It's as simple as that for me.
I've had my issues with members of the FIRE community and some of my Millennial blogger friends. I've written a few articles that have ruffled some feathers (like the early retirement is a controversial one). However, the differences I have with them don't outweigh the good they bring to personal finance.
No one can argue with the three principles of the FIRE community. For the record, these did not start with the FIRE community. They have, however, adopted these principles more so than most other generations. Here they are:
- Spend less than you earn
- Save and invest the difference
- Reduce or eliminate debt.
Those principles are universal to successfully managing our finances.
The challenge I have with some is the closed-mindedness to views that differ from their own. Some are rigid in their opinions and disconnected from the reality of many in the working population who don't make six-figure incomes, live in a high cost of living area, raise families, and find it hard to save.
If you're reading this post and have any of these stereotypical views toward Millennials, I hope I've given you evidence that many Millennials don't fit into these boxes. I admit. Before I got to know the Millennials I've described, I was guilty of the stereotypes myself. The internet is full of stories telling the same, tired narrative.
The way out of these preconceived, often inaccurate views, is to get to know some Millennials. Are they quirky? Yup. Take a look at your peers. Who isn't quirky. Do many still live with their parents and fit into some of the descriptions ascribed to them? Yup. According to the Pew research, that percentage is 34%. Simple math tells us that means the majority (66%) don't live with their parents.
Get to know some in that group. Don't get your information from the media. They need sensational stories and clickbait titles to keep viewership up and advertisers happy. Find out for yourself.
One of my favorite motivational speakers was the late Zig Ziglar. I had the privilege of meeting him in the early days of my working career. In his books and speeches, he talks about the weathermen and women's way of describing the weather. They would say something like, “there's a 30% chance of rain today.” His response to that was, “why don't the dirty dogs tell us there's a 70% chance of sunshine for crying out loud!”
I agree. It's easy to find negatives almost anywhere today. There are just as many, if not more, positives. How about we all try to focus more on the good things about people and be forgiving for the bad. We all have both, don't we? Rather than accepting views of others we read or hear, how about finding out for ourselves.
Doing that has changed my views of Millennials for the better. If I do that with other areas in which I have biases or stereotypical opinions, I can potentially change my views there as well. It makes me a better person. It makes me a better person to others.
Fred started the blog Money with a Purpose in October 2017. The blog focused on three primary areas: Personal Finance, Overcoming Adversity, and Lifestyle. During his time at Money with a Purpose, he was quoted in Forbes, USA Today and appeared in Money Magazine, MarketWatch, The Good Men Project, Thrive Global and many other publications.
In April 2019, Fred, along with two other partners, acquired The Money Mix website. To focus his time and energy where he could be the most productive, Fred recently merged Money with a Purpose with The Money Mix. You can now find all of his great content right here on The Money Mix, along with content from some of the brightest minds in personal finance.