Lately, I’ve seen a lot of Millennial bashing around the web.
The Millennial Generation, per Wikipedia, are those born somewhere between 1980 and early 2000.
Born in 1984, I am one of the Millennial Generation.
We’ve been described as lazy, narcissistic, coddled, idiots who don’t know what the real world looks like, nor know anything about money, and some even going as far to say that “millennials are the least useful generation in America.”
As a Millennial, I take offense.
My grandmother grew up during the Great Depression, and that experience never left her. At 98 years of age, she still drinks powdered milk because: “Why waste an entire jug of milk on one person?”
Once my grandfather passed away, she’d pre-make lasagnas and casseroles, vacuum pack individual portions for herself, and store them in the freezer to eat for dinner each week, making sure to not waste one bit of what she’d purchased. She loved a glass of wine, and she’d gladly drink it by the box. She was frugal her entire life; she still is. The way of living after the war was etched into her being, and she lived the rest of her life that way. Presumably, she passed that trait onto her son, my dad, because my upbringing was sprinkled with “Grannie’s” ways.
While my childhood didn’t come anywhere close to my grandmother’s, I was raised largely on the same principles. My parents were exceptionally frugal growing up, and we had very little. My father started a commercial drinking water business in 1995, and I witnessed what incredible effort went into building a business. In the beginning, it seemed more like a nightmare than anything. We were poor, very poor. My parents did absolutely everything to make ends meet.
However, with time, persistence and a hell of a lot of determination, my parent’s hard work paid off–which I was also witness to.
Most parents don’t discuss their finances with their children, however, I was raised with the opposite philosophy. From the day my father started his business, took out his first loan, and received his first ‘profit and loss statement’- I was in the mix. He included me. He’d sit me down once a month and show me: “This is how much money the business I am building to support our family made this month, and this is how much money it lost.”
I watched for years and those profit and loss statements seemed to have one thing in common- they were always in the red. I couldn’t believe that someone would keep at it seeing how much time, money and effort it cost to keep a business going- without even a guarantee that it would succeed.
As a child, I defined “success” by the families who could afford to eat out for dinner at restaurants, or could afford to have their cars repaired rather than using a bungee cord to keep the front bumper attached to the car. Success to me was measured by the kids with the Nike shoes and the Jansport backpacks. I remember eating dinner at friends homes and savoring every last bite of a chicken breast. We didn’t eat chicken breast; my parents couldn’t afford it. We ate chicken legs that my mother bought in bulk at Price Club; chicken legs paired with canned green beans and a loaf of french bread that my mother bought each day at Safeway for .99 cents.
Once my dad hit a point where his business was profitable enough, he bought me a used car so I could help my mother by driving my little sister to and from her sports practices. That car was one of the most exciting things to happen to me. I remember waking up each morning and peering out my bedroom window to make sure it was still in the drive-way. I offered to drive everyone anywhere and everywhere.
By the time I graduated from high school, my dad’s business was doing well enough that my parents could send me off to college. I was a Canadian citizen awaiting a green card, couldn’t legally work, and college was literally my only way of staying in the U.S.
I remember my freshman year of college, my dad gave me his credit card to purchase my books for the semester.
“That will be $1,253.67” the cashier said.
I couldn’t believe BOOKS could cost so much.
In my brain, I thought about how many hours that equated to my dad working; how many commercial water systems he had to rent to cover just my books alone.
After nearly four years of university, my dad sat me down one evening:
“Our business is opening dealerships in San Diego and Texas” he said.
“Would you and Justin be interested in starting an operation similar to the one your mom and I have here in Phoenix?” he asked.
“I could move to SAN DIEGO?” I asked him excitedly.
“Yes, there or Texas- you sure could.”
Before the words were already out of his mouth, I agreed. What 20-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona doesn’t want to move to the beach? What kid ANYWHERE doesn’t want to move to the beach?
I pictured Justin and I sitting on the patio of our beach-front home during sunset, our dogs running through the surf of the crashing waves while we sipped on home brewed iced tea.
With some convincing, I talked my then boyfriend, Justin, into taking the leap with me.
A few months later, we bid farewell to all our friends, family, everything we knew, and hopped in a UHAUL with all of our belongings headed to San Diego.
I quickly realized that once we arrived in San Diego, we wouldn’t be living anywhere near the beach. Furthermore, I learned that this was going to be one hell of a ride. It didn’t take longer than a month before it hit me: I’d go through the exact same process my parents did- the very same process that I witnessed for years on end as a child.
We worked- and we worked REALLY hard, and we still do.
It was insanity. I learned a lot about myself in those first few years. I learned what dedication was, I learned the true meaning of “hard work” and “persistence.” I also learned how many times you can have overdraft fee’s reversed with your bank each month.
We’ve been at this for over ten years. Surely, our hard work has paid off, however, don’t for one second think that we didn’t make sacrifices, because we did. We were not lazy, we were not coddled, we knew A LOT about money–mainly because we had none.
We didn’t have what we have today handed to us on a silver platter. Our marriage was tested as frustration levels hit ultimate highs, and finances hit devastating lows. I learned how to bargain with debt collectors. I cried, I wanted to go back home, I wondered a thousand times over why we got ourselves into this mess. I did telemarketing, cold calling on businesses in door-to-door sales to build our business while (very) pregnant, and I worked at Trader Joe’s for five years stocking shelves, bagging groceries, and breaking down pallets for health insurance. We’ve been sued- twice. We’ve been in trouble with the IRS, Secretary of State and Board of Equalization more times that I can honestly count.
What we didn’t do? Give up. We didn’t give up; we kept at it.
Ten years in and we are still trying to find a way to buy a home. Ten years in and we still have debt that we are chipping away at. Ten years in and our marriage is, thankfully, still in tact, and we do everything we can to be responsible members of society.
So, when I read these articles popping out from news outlets with statements that the Millennial generation is “lazy” and “doesn’t know what hard work is”- I want to scream, and rightfully so.
The people publishing these articles are likely of the generation where if you went to college, you got a great job fresh out of school. Newsflash: That doesn’t happen anymore.
Millennials are the generation where a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you a decent-paying job, minimum wage is $10.00/hour, the median home price (in my city) is $550,000. So, when you see a millennial bagging your groceries or ringing up your items at a clothing boutique, don’t assume they’re some lazy, pathetic excuse for an “adult” who lives in their mother’s basement. It’s an unfair stereotype, and that person bagging your groceries? Chances are- that’s their second job, or the only one they could get.
My husband and I are two adults under the age of 40 who have busted our asses to get where we are, have sacrificed a lot, and still do. Stereotyping all Millennials as “lazy and narcissistic” is unacceptable, because many of us are doing it the old fashioned way of building something from the ground up and learning as we go, and not to mention- doing our damn best.
If you liked this article, may I ask you to please share it? Also, a click on the brown banner below is a vote for my site! Please give it a click– it helps more than you know! Thank-You! 🙂