The Cruel Truth of the Millennials’ Financial Future

There are certain types of people that love talking about money; and I guarantee you that list includes a real estate developer who somehow thinks that he and his millions are capable of relating to everyday Americans, many of whom voted for him, despite the fact that they’re struggling to put food on their table every day of the week. And let’s be real, it’s definitely an IKEA table we’re talking about since that’s what most of us can afford nowadays. Oh, the middle class—aren’t we adorable? If only we, too, received tax breaks for having what some refer to as “fuck you money.” That’s when you have enough money in the bank to shoo just about anyone away. Look to the White House for more examples.

I’ve always feared poverty, though I’ve never been close to it. I think I’ve always just been afraid of what depleted funds would mean in terms of my social status, buying power, and overall longevity since my goal is to live to be at LEAST 94, y’all. This idea of affordability; in particular, is always front and center in my mind; as I’m sure it is for countless others regardless of gender, race, religion, age, or sexuality, among varying traits.

Now this concept is incredibly heightened for me because of the fact that I live in New York City, one of the most expensive places in the world. Yes, that was my choice, and yes, my future, retired self hates me for it. But, I’m always trying to figure out how to save some extra cash, like we all try and do from time to time. Hmmm, what if this week I don’t buy cream cheese for my bagels? They’ll be fine with just a dab of peanut butter!! Ugh, but the peanut butter is four dollars right now. It’s okay—plain it is! Nevermind, I’ll just leave the damn bagels at the register.

Sadly enough, whenever I take a look at my bank statement, I realize that all of my income goes either to rent or food, otherwise known as key life essentials. I need to eat, and I need a roof over my head; everything else is incidental. For instance; if a shirt still fits and there aren’t any holes (ok, maybe just a small one toward the bottom seam); then it lives to see another day! That’s just me, of course. I laugh about it sometimes, but it really is a testament to the crazy economic times we’re living in; especially if you also identify as a millennial. Most of the ones I know, in addition to general bills, are up to their eyeballs in student debt, like myself. Thought I’d forget something as devastating to our wallets as that?! Of course not! I’m $11,000 away from being free. Right? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work once Sallie Mae gets that final check?

Who even knows what financial freedom looks like these days for those of us under the age of 36? As noted in the excellent Huffington Post piece ‘Generation Screwed,’ a vast majority of us are struggling with decisions made easy for past generations simply because of the progression of time and the greed of a select few.

Since we’re all mostly strapped for cash, we’re delaying marriage, parenting, and home-owning. A lot of us, most notably young people of color, just don’t have the resources to sustain the kind of life our parents enjoyed. My dad was married with two kids and was a homeowner by the time he turned 28. I’m 29. The thought of buying a home scares the crap out of me. As does retirement. I look at my savings and think, ‘Well, you’ll have another 40 years or so to work on that.’ But will I? Will any of us? What jobs will be available moving forward, if any? What homes aren’t going for exorbitant prices even now? Will we have to live with Mom and Dad forever? I wonder if my bedroom turned office can turn back again…

These are genuine questions that millennials are having to ask themselves; not because they’re too busy on their phones posting #blessed selfies to do something about it; because the wheels were set in motion long before they even received the degrees that hang on their wall while they’re off bagging large-sized French fries some Gen-Xer just ordered. Opportunities aren’t there, nor are the salaries needed to sustain the kind of lives we dreamed about. Remember that “fuck you money?” Well, we’ve got that “fucked money.” And it’s a huge problem because I don’t think you can send that via Venmo.