Dear Baby Boomer,
Last week, an advocacy group, the Young Invincibles, used Federal Reserve data to release an analysis revealing millennials (my generation) earn 20% less than baby boomers (your generation) at this same stage of life. Millennials also have half the net worth of your generation while home ownership is way down and student debt is sky high when compared to your generation.
Things, on the surface, don't look too good for us millennials.
Though, every time I turn around, there seems to be an article or television segment about us – the millennials. Historically, generations do look at who they are leaving the world to, but you seem both fascinated and exasperated by your findings (perhaps this too is a historic phenomenon). But what is missing when I hear a frustrated baby boomer complain about my generation or see yet another book on millennials on the shelves are two very important parts of the equation.
1. You made us then raised us.
2. The world we grew up in is not the one you did. You do not know what it is like to watch terrorism on happen on American soil while in a middle school social studies class (specifically 9/11). In your school or on your college campus, you never participated in drills preparing for a shooter nor watched terrified students that looked like you evacuated by SWAT teams. The world you are leaving us is a damaged one – it's all we know – and we are not responsible for that damage. We are just inheriting it.
It's a good thing we believe in change, that we are civic minded, and long to make a difference.
Those may have been just some of our good qualities you missed as you railed against us. It's easy to look at what is wrong with us – the millennials – without looking at what we have going for us. It turns out that all our "complaining" about the state of the job market and economy in this country isn't just the whining of people who think they are special, special snowflakes – a nickname you use with loathing about the generation you told could do anything and be anything.
How preposterous of us to believe you.
But maybe, if you think back, on some level, you can relate. I do not know what it was like to watch the Vietnam War on TV nor the feeling of my fate being in the hands of the draft. I also do not know what it was like to watch the Civil Rights Era unfold. For us, those are things we learn about in history books. But you experienced it and it shaped you just as there were generational events that transformed and shaped us. But when it comes to economics – to money – there is no contest. Things are much worse for us than they were for you, the generation who invented and defined the word "yuppie."
At my age, you were making 20% more than me, according to recent findings (though my generation is better educated than yours). You also had way less student debt than my comrades (better and higher education does come at a cost). Did you know that a college-educated millennial is only making slightly more than a baby boomer at the same stage of life without a degree?
Most likely, you owned a home at the same age I am (I do not) and had double the net worth I have. I'm privileged since if my skin was a different color, I would, statistically, be even worse off. People born in 1950, had a 79% chance of making more than their parents but people born in 1980 have only a 50% chance. So perhaps our complaining is rooted in fact. Perhaps this is a wake-up call to listen to us about other things. There are now, officially, more of us than there are of you, so we are louder. You can choose to listen but you cannot tune us out.
When you tucked us in at night or stuck an A+ test proudly on the fridge, is this what you dreamt for us? Is this what you hoped for?
Baby boomer, I do not minimize your struggle. Many of you were the first one in your family to attend college, paving the way for your children – your millennials. You have provided for us and taught us. The only problem is as we fluttered out of the nest to test our wings, we found the world slightly different than the one you prepared us for.
If you know anything about my generation, you know that we desire to be a part of something bigger; we want to make a difference. The vast majority of us would much rather make a difference than receive recognition. In our work and in our homes, our priorities are community, creativity, and family. We are racially diverse and proud of it. We believe in collaboration, in listening. Do you? Can you?
Stop complaining about us. Like you, we are doing the best we can. And it looks like we have a great deal to make up for when it comes to the world you are leaving us.
A Struggling But Ever Positive Millennial