Millennials are having a rough time, no doubt about it.
Perhaps one of the most lambasted generations ever, Millennials (and just so we’re on the same page, Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996) are portrayed as lazy, self-entitled, and unable to escape their parent’s basements by many of the talking heads in the mainstream media.
As a member of the Millennial generation, I would like to offer an alternative perspective.
One from the trenches.
Bad Advice When It Comes To Education
The world has changed drastically in the last 30 years.
We were told that in order to succeed, you had to go to school and get a good paying job.
Because that is what worked for the Boomers and the generations before us. Taken on it’s own, that’s not necessarily bad advice, but the game has changed.
Tuition has been increasing consistently since our parent’s days and we were expected to take on a greater financial burden than our forebears did just to get a chance at a job that has reasonable rate of pay.
And that’s assuming we weren’t encouraged to take a course with virtually zero real world use in the workplace.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students, in 2015, Canadian Millennials carrying student debt owed an average of $27,000.
At the tender age of 18, we were expected to figure out the best career for our futures before having any real idea what our skills were.
We were then convinced that it somehow made sense for us to take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt in the process, debt that is almost impossible to get rid of, even in the case of bankruptcy, with no guarantee of a job once we were finished.
That’s nuts! We were kids!
We weren’t able to legally drink yet, but we could sign up for life crushing amounts of debt with no way out. Makes sense to me…
We also graduated in large part into the Great Recession, one of the worst times in recent memory to begin looking for a job. In the years following 2008, employers were buckling down and shedding jobs. They weren’t looking to hire new, untested and untrained staff, and unfortunately for us we were not too big to fail.
This meant that many Millennials couldn’t get hired in the fields they trained for and had to take jobs like the cliched Starbucks baristas we always hear about in the media.
Serving lattes wasn’t just the fate of Communications and Gender Studies majors either.
This had the additional nasty side effect of skill decay.
Being outside of your field after graduation for a couple of years essentially makes that piece of paper you paid tens of thousands of dollars for worthless. The industry has evolved, now you need to retrain and learn new skills. Sorry about your luck, and by the way, you’re going to owe us another round of tuition to update those skills.
In our parent’s day, work was plentiful. I’ve heard from a number of Boomers that they could find work at a random factory, leave their job in the morning and walk across the street and get another job that afternoon! And these were often jobs with wages that could comfortably sustain a family, a mortgage, and a car payment with enough left over to save.
Not only is that not the case anymore, even respectable jobs often don’t pay enough to support a family and most households require two incomes to just be at parity with what the Boomers managed in their day with one provider.
Bad Advice When It Comes To Buying A Home
We were told that we had to buy a home and start climbing the property ladder.
But according to the data, home prices have been continuing to rise while the average income has actually dropped. Millennials are the first generation in history that will be less wealthy on average than their parents.
When the Boomers graduated from college decades ago, the average home price was $213,000, roughly a 4:1 ratio to the average income at the time.
As of 2017, the average home price is $510,000, a considerable gain. And that’s great for existing home owners. But for anyone trying to buy into the market, that just means the barrier to entry has been raised.
Combined with additional taxes and the new mortgage qualification rules, and Millennials have been effectively priced out of the housing market.
An increase in housing prices and a decline in average wages is a recipe for an entire generation to delay buying a home.
Add in the fact that rent has been steadily increasing across Canada but especially in the major metropolitan centers like Toronto and Vancouver, and we’re being squeezed from both ends.
Not only do we need to save more money to make a down payment than our parents did, we have to do it while earning less and paying more in rent and living expenses each month, while servicing record levels of student debt!
In a bit of irony that would be funny if it weren’t so tragic, the regulations introduced in January of 2018 that were meant to cool the housing market and make homes more affordable have actually made it more difficult for new home buyers.
Because of the increase in the qualifying rate, buyers that would have before been looking at more expensive detached homes are considering more affordable options like town homes, condominiums, and semi-detached homes that are usually the entry level options for younger buyers.
This has only raised the barrier to entry further. The demand for housing hasn’t really changed just because the qualifying rate is 2% higher, it’s just been redirected.
When we crunch the numbers and look around the housing market, the situation looks bleak.
So what’s a Millennial to do?
Well, it’s not all bad. There are a few rays of sunshine peeking through the storm clouds.
Read More: Victim Mentality And The Two Wolves
The first upshot is the economy is changing. Technology is nearly ubiquitous, we carry devices in our pockets that are a million times more powerful than the computing power we used to get to the moon while being thousands of times less expensive. This is enabling opportunities that could not have existed a mere five years ago.
The rise of the gig economy and freelancing is changing the way we work and earn money. It’s never been easier or cheaper to start a business, find customers, and start generating revenue.
The nature of work today is becoming less location dependent, and your formal education is less important than the skills and value you can provide to people.
You can take courses for virtually anything online, both paid and unpaid, and you can take your own unique skills and teach others who will gladly pay you in return.
Uber and Lyft have made it easy to start earning money by just driving around in your car.
On the housing front, this means that you don’t have to live in a major metropolitan area to secure a job that pays a decent wage. A house in Toronto that costs $766,000 would cost an average of $341,000 in Montreal. Go outside of the major cities into the smaller municipalities and the average price goes down even more.
It’s possible to live in an area that is less expensive, while still earning the same kinds of wages you can get in a major city like Toronto.
We just have to be willing to walk a different path than our parents did and start taking matters into our own hands.