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Millennials don’t own anything because the economy screwed us for 25 years

Millennials have been ripped off by the economy. Allison Nicole Leung / Insider Intelligence

  • My parents don’t understand why I don’t have a house, a car or a retirement savings account.

  • My generation has fewer job opportunities, more student debt, and outrageous real estate prices.

  • It is much worse for us than for previous generations.

  • Ingrid Cruz is a Mississippi-based freelance writer.

  • This is a split opinion. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

A few months ago, my parents reprimanded me for not really owning anything. I have few savings, no home, no investments, or even 401,000 due to pre-pandemic financial constraints, some of which only worsened last year.

This is a struggle that many millennials face, but I, a first generation immigrant, often feel guilty and unworthy of knowing my wealth is negative. As a child, my mother wanted me to have a respectable, high-paying and stable job, such as a lawyer, accountant or maybe a high-level corporate position. She always expected me to buy a house, marry until a certain age, and eventually take care of her when she got older. Instead, I’m a writer on a freelance income with student loan debt that will ruin my finances once the repayment rules start again in 2022.

It’s hard to get my parents to understand that the United States they dreamed of and brought me to in 1989 has changed dramatically.

The economy is stacked against millennials

According to a CNBC report, millennials owned only 5.19% of the total wealth of the United States in 2020 – four times less than what boomers of the same age owned. We are a generation where income inequality has increased, just as the Great Recession led to hiring freezes, reduced our chances of getting a good job, and skyrocketed student loan debt.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that high student loan debt has caused millennials to delay important life choices. Less earnings meant delaying marriage, house and car purchases and not being able to move out of the parental home – or having to move in again during a crisis.

The story goes on

In drastic situations, lower income also leads people to delay medical care and avoid routine physical exams so problems go undiagnosed. Navigating the maze of health insurance costs and policies in the United States is also difficult and a drain on our finances. Even for a healthy person, the price of a child in hospital can be prohibitive, and childcare, care for aging parents, and other items necessary to maintain a healthy family are often financially debilitating.

The Great Recession also affected residential construction and led to bottlenecks that drove up rents even before the pandemic. Stagnant and low wages are only part of the problem: Even with higher wages, many millennials live from salary to salary because they had to take on a lot of debt to make ends meet.

The rising cost of living that we are currently experiencing, and which we are sure to continue to experience without federal and state government intervention, will only make it harder for millennials, Gen Z, and future generations to build wealth unless we work to achieve wage equity and ensure a reasonable cost of living. Rent control, home move controls that artificially increase the cost of land and rents, and even climate justice that would prevent devastating fires would give millennials confidence when it comes to housing security.

Most personal financial advice does not  -ply to our generation

While well-intentioned, many articles about saving money or creating wealth are not helpful for working-class, marginalized, or economically hard-hit people who initially have little access to wealth and social c -ital.

Such financial articles often assume that people looking to save money can afford to spend money at cafes, subscriptions, gyms, or online shopping. There’s no way you can save $ 4 a day on a cup of coffee if you aren’t able to do it in the first place.

Many millennials, especially immigrants and refugees, grew up with the idea that we not only come to this country to have a better life, but also to have nicer things. In family structures, in which scarcity was often a factor in everyday life, we can prove, among other things, that our parents’ investments and sacrifices have paid off by achieving an extraordinary amount of financial success.

Some people have done this, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Learning financial literacy is a challenge for people who grew up with survival as their primary goal. The fact is that millennials have a harder time advancing their social and income status than previous generations. There are also racist homeownership g -s among millennials, according to a 2019 analysis by Stanford University, as any gain from reforms designed to help people of color create homes after the civil rights movement has been lost.

While many millennials are able to earn wages above the state minimum wage, $ 7.25 an hour is 31% less than the 1968 minimum wage, when inflation is taken into account. As Millennials, we are constantly exposed to the whims of market forces messing us up, with little or no safety nets, and we regularly face misconceptions about our work ethic or ambitions. But that can change.

Success is not the same as owning something

First, we can stop tying our success and sense of achievement to owning things. It’s okay to mourn the opportunities and wages we lost while acknowledging that we did our best. We have been taught that we live in a world of promise just as the possibilities of previous generations began to fade. Then we had a pandemic to consider.

Millennials can also talk to the elders in our lives and explain our side of them. The systemic barriers and injustices we have encountered in our quest for a living are real and different from those our parents faced. Our cost of living, health, childcare, and education are exorbitant, and for previous generations they weren’t that high. This cannot change the opinion of our elders, but it can give us something to consider.

We can continue to vote, educate and organize for our rights, and people of all generations can work to understand how past choices created the systems, inequalities and problems that millennials and future generations face.

In addition to everything I mentioned, we also have to deal with climate change – which will affect our finances and mental health. The constant need to keep changing our minds and making sure the next generations don’t go through what we’re going through can be stressful, but it’s worth chasing after.

Eventually, we can surround ourselves with like-minded people who understand us and provide moral support and remember to rest whenever we can. Our world and its perspectives are exhausting. We don’t need to feel guilty for finding a few moments of calm.

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