The Millennial Perspective: A Family to Call Their Own

Many millennials, wrongly. get a bad reputation for “ruining” everything. One of the acts we have been blamed for is ruining the traditions and norms for starting a family. However, there are many reasons why millennials are starting families later in life than previous generations. In a previous article, I wrote about the cost of higher education and how it compares to wages in the United States. In that article I discussed how tuition and the cost of goods rise nearly every year, but average wages stay the same and, in most cases, don’t keep up with inflation. One factor that weighs mightily, as one of the primary reasons my generation delays starting a family until later in their twenties, or even their thirties, is money. 

Starting a family can be difficult from the start. In this age where everything is digital, dating can be difficult for some. It seems to become more difficult to meet people unless you are matching on a dating app, but dating apps aren’t ideal for everyone. This is one reason that millennials are finding significant others and starting from point A later in life than previous generations. Weddings can be really cheap, but they can also be really expensive and for those that wish to have a big wedding, the money can be a set back and delay the process. This can delay everything that follows, including having children. Children are also very expensive and many millennials will opt to find the perfect time, though everyone will tell you the timing is never perfect, when they have a stable cash flow which can come later in life because of low wages in starting jobs with or without a college degree

Another reason that millennials may wait to start a family is school. Juggling a child and attending college can be difficult for many people, but the money factor also ties back into this equation. Oftentimes you will note that millennials will wait until they have finished school to even consider having a child and starting a family. You may also find that millennials may not hold a desire to have children. This can also be for many reasons which are personal to those individuals, but in passing, I have met couples that wish to travel more in life which could be difficult with children. Some have concerns about the state of the world and do not wish to bring a child into it. 

On top of everything, we are now dealing with COVID-19. Pregnant women are on the high-risk list and have been from the start because scientists and doctors are not sure what the long-term effects could be on an expectant mother and the child. This can be scary when starting a family or even adding to one, so out of an abundance of caution for their future many people are opting to hold off on having children at this time. 

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that everyone, no matter their generation, has their own reasons for why they do the things they do or don’t do. Times change as do ethics and even if something isn’t done exactly the way it used to be that doesn’t mean that the younger generations are ruining anything. Regardless of the reason they have, that choice is their own and there is nothing wrong with that. The liberties exhibited by millennials are those they learned from their ancestors – you. I would say, with great modesty, the millennial generation will build the future of this country and make their lineage proud.

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The Millennial Perspective: Office Space Evolution

The traditional office space can be described as a cubicle or office with a desk, chair, and computer. However, the traditional office space has started to evolve for some. If you look at tech companies like Google, their office spaces are far from “traditional.” More and more businesses, especially those that have a large number of millennials on staff, are leaning more towards this open office concept where there are no defined spaces. Instead workers are free to sit where they please and wherever sparks the most motivation and focus. Now in recent times, the office space has once again evolved into something a little more secluded. However, instead of going back to the traditional setting, millennials and many others have found their offices in their own home. 

When COVID-19 made its way to the United States, businesses began shutting down or transitioning to a remote work setting, if possible. Some of us have now found ourselves in a whole new working environment away from our office mates and in the comfort of our own homes. For some this was a welcomed change. For others this change may be less than productive. For myself, I found that I enjoyed working from home. I was more focused on the task at hand and what I needed to get done throughout the day. However, I can’t speak for every millennial in this situation, so I once again reached out to my friends, I asked them if they worked from home due to or before the pandemic. I also asked them if they preferred working from home over a traditional office setting and what they did for a living. I had quite a few friends respond. Some opted to leave their traditional settings to work from home before the pandemic, others decided to start their own business out of their home, but the majority found that this was their new normal as a result of the pandemic.

Many of those commenting found it difficult to deal with balancing and finding the divide between work life and home life. Several of them also mentioned that they got burnt out because of the continued work mode they found themselves in. They missed the face to face interaction with members of their teams and have even found struggles in keeping their team members motivated. Those with children struggle because their kids may not understand the situation completely and required their parent’s attention, although they are attempting to set boundaries to help with this. Some have welcomed the extra time to spend with their significant others and children, but still find that they are getting burnt out. However, despite these challenges they may not want to return to the traditional setting full time even after the pandemic is over. Providing a mixture of remote work and in-office work gives them a chance to avoid burn out on either end and may empower them to stay more focused and motivated. As for their office set up in their homes, they all provided very different answers. Some preferred a private space to make it feel less like home. Others created an office space where they could still interact with their families while others had a space designated for their home office but wouldn’t consider it a “formal” office space. No matter what setting you prefer or what generation you belong to, I feel that we are all facing challenges with our office settings these days while trying to figure out what the new normal will be going forward.

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The Millennial Perspective: The Cost of Learning

I’m sure we have all heard of student loans the mountains of debt that come with them. Every generation has or has had student loan debt. Millennials, surprisingly, don’t have the highest average amount of student loan debt though. However, I think that we may have the hardest time balancing the debt with other aspects of being an adult. When people in Gen X, the generation with the highest average amount of student loan debt, were accumulating that debt, many Millennials were still learning to read and the cost of goods across the nation were a lot cheaper than they are now. Housing was cheaper making it easier for the generation before us to invest in a home following graduation. Food and gas were a lot cheaper too. Tuition, on the other hand, was starting to rise.1

According to Business Insider, the cost of tuition has increased 260% between 1980 and 2014. In dollars, this equates to $9,438 for four years including room and board to $23,872. Along side this, inflation has seen an increase of around 120%. Now let’s look at the cost of minimum wage. In 1980 minimum wage was $3.10 and increased every couple of years until it stopped increasing in 2009 when it reached $7.25. While this is a significant increase in terms of percentage, it has not kept up with the cost of consumer goods and it certainly hasn’t kept up with the cost of tuition. This has caused the Millennial generation to fall behind on getting a real start on life.

Like any type of loan, student loans come with an interest rate and different types of loans have different types of rates. Federal student loans issued by the Department of Education range from 3% to 6% interest while private student loans issued through banks, such as Discover or Wells Fargo, start at 8% and go up from there. The process of getting federal student loans can be difficult for some and this struggle can be caused by a number of things. For some, their parents or guardians may make too much money to allow them to qualify for any financial aid until they are 24 years old, married, or have a child. Others may have done poorly in their courses causing them to lose their eligibility. In these cases, the options to pay for school are left up to scholarships, cash, private loans. The repayment options for these different types of loans differ greatly as well. With federal loans, you can often be placed on an income-based repayment system allowing for your monthly payments of the total sum of your loans to match your income. On the other hand, private student loans do not have this option unless they are consolidated. A new private loan is issued per semester and typically has a $50 monthly payment that starts after graduation, meaning that you could be looking at a $400 a month payment after graduation. Regardless of the type of loan or the amount of the monthly payment, it can be difficult to get these loans paid off in a reasonable time frame and get a start on building a life because of the lack of increase in income for new graduates.

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The Millennial Perspective: My House, My Rules

Picture it: a nice starter home with a yard for children and pets to run and play. A place for you to gather with family and friends. A place to call your own. Many millennials dream of buying and owning a home, but how many actually do? According to Urban Wire, the most recent study on this was conducted in 2015 when the youngest millennials were 18 years old and the oldest were 34. At that time, only 37% of millennials were home owners. Now, five years later in the year 2020 I am sure this number has grown considering most millennials are past college age and heading towards their 30s and 40s. However, I decided to conduct a study of my own and ask my fellow millennials about their home buying experience, if any. 

I asked my friends a series of questions:

  1. Do they own a home or have they ever owned a home?
  2. If so, what was their buying process like?
  3. If not, what is holding them back?

Several people that responded do, indeed, currently own a home and a few of the older millennials are even in their second home. Some of them qualified for special loans which allowed them to make the purchase without a down payment. Others saved just about all they could manage to make their dream come true even if it took several years and some had help from their families. Those that do not and have never owned a home gave a good list of reasons that seem to be a general consensus for a lot of millennials. From that list, several stated that they haven’t purchased a home yet because houses are too expensive. They would rather save until they find a home that they love at a price point that works for them than buy a house at what they could afford, but want to upgrade it or even buy a newer home within a few years. Some also stated that they don’t know where they want to end up, they aren’t married and don’t have kids yet and want to make sure that when and where they buy is just right.

Being a millennial comes with a lot of uncertainties. A lot of us are in the turning point of our lives where we transition from college age to being a “real adult.” We want to make plans and live a life that we deserve, but at the end of the day, life gets more and more expensive and the job market and average income can’t compete. Now we have lived through and will certainly feel the repercussions of two financial crises for many years to come. However, all this being said, the current trends for the housing market predict that another housing market crash may be imminent, but it could open up the opportunity for many people in my generation to finally be able to say those famous words that our parents shared with us many times, “my house, my rules,” so long as the job market and income allows. 

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