If you were 20 again …

The post millennial generation is taking a lot of stick for being lazy

But is the older generation missing a point?

Through the ages, the previous generation have universally derided the generations that follow on. The younger generation always seems more unruly, less thoughtful, and disrespectful. And today we’re living in a different age, an age of disruption, an age of uncertainty, an age of huge societal change.

But this is written from the comfortable standpoint of being a Generation X’er. A house owner with a small mortgage, a tidy lump sum in the bank, secure pension planning, and a stable job.

To many over the age of 35 that might sound idyllic, almost aspirational. But to the generation coming along behind it’s maybe not quite so centre stage.

Boy, has life changed

Only a decade ago, most folks going out to work on a 9 to 5 grind was the norm. It was how you got on, and fitted into society as a whole. For most people, life was mapped out from puberty onwards, driven by socio-economic norms, peer pressure and “how our parents did it”.

It went: learn, university, graft, save, deposit, house, wedding, kids, downsize, retire, and finally, grave.

Personal debt has triggered a change

Millenials are now immersed in large-scale educational debt from the age of 18, and this is sold as a good thing. It’s not always the case, but most millenials now enter the workforce in their early twenties with more personal debt than their grandparents had in the whole of their lives.

And with nothing physical to show for it. Imagine earning close to minimum wage, living at home, being broke and at the age of 21 having £50,000 of personal debt. In 1985, the average price of a house in the U.K. was £31,000.

Feeling enslaved?

This level of debt changes attitudes to money, work, loyalty, children, marriage, risk, and reward. We’d argue it opens their eyes, millenials truly see the world in a different way. They imagine a life very different from their parents. Just think about it, imagine your life where:

  • Your employer tells you what time to get up, where to work, what to eat for lunch, when you can go on holiday.
  • Your parents worked / commuted 50hrs a week x 50 weeks a year and will likely lose everything in late-life care.
  • Owning things is a real liability. Cars cost a mint, houses will be taxed ever-higher.
  • Stepping on the ladder of conventional financial wisdom is a recipe for depression, loneliness and stress.
  • Inheritance comes much later in life, maybe past 60, and is worth an awful lot less.
  • 75% of “predictable outcome” jobs will be automated in just over a decade.
  • Nothing stays the same. Everything is disrupted. Future planning is futile and merely lines corporate pockets.

Would you want that life? Especially as:

  • The on-demand world allows instant access to unlimited everything (music, video, transport, housing, food)
  • The gig economy means I can work as much, or as little as I need. Today, and next week.
  • Remote work means you can work on a beach in Bali as effectively as a call centre in Milton Keynes.
  • Experience now beats owning stuff every time.

What would you do if you were 20 again? Time to re-think Maslow’s triangle, perhaps. And stop calling millenials lazy, they’re not.