What even is this post? This blog is about politics and religion. Well, mostly. And this debate kind of fits into both of those camps. But have a look at the tag line for my site. “Serious issues” is listed there among the things that it is a bad good idea to mix. And this issue clearly fits that description because at this point the generations are basically one slice of avocado toast away from all-out war.
So, let’s do this. Millennials vs. Baby Boomers Battle Royale: The Entitlement Title (Editor’s note: That title is terrible and not funny, also you don’t have an editor)
Let’s Meet the Contestants
We’ve all heard it. Most of us have probably said it. “Millennials, with their participation ribbons and free loading ways, are just so entitled.” And of course, there’s nothing Millennials love more than complaining about Baby Boomers. Millennials are awful. Baby Boomers are awful. Maybe it’s just that people are awful…?
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way, and let’s start with definitions. Despite what you think Karen, the definition of a Millenial is not any young person you don’t like who can’t seem to write intelligibly. Omg, LOL, I pwned the n00b old people. Or something… I only know what half of that means. No, the oh so creatively named Millennials are any person born between 1980 and the mid 1990s. And for the 2 young street youths who are still reading this instead of re-watching The Office before Netflix removes it, Baby Boomers aren’t all old people. They’re a specific kind of old person. One born between 1946 and 1965.
The Fine Print
Next we need to establish something else. People are not homogenous. Everyone is a unique snowflake (except it turns out that snowflakes aren’t actually unique…). I know… crazy right?
But also, people aren’t as unique as we like to think. While you are probably familiar with the stereotypes of your generation, chances are you think you are the exception to the rule. Newsflash: You’re not. And that fact that you think you are is part of the problem.
The only caveat on this is that we are excluding cultural diversity for simplicity’s sake. In fact, the “average” person in each of these camps (particularly in Canada) is a mashup of many cultures that would affect the way we talk about them, but for our purposes we will ignore that. Not because we don’t value diversity, but because I am too dumb to include it.
Round 1: Money Makes the World Go ‘Round
It’s no secret that Millennials are broke. There’s probably a broke Millenial sitting next to you complaining about how hard they have it while also sipping their favourite fair trade, organic, gluten free, $9 cup of coffee. Millennials love to complain about how broke they are so much that it’s practically an art form at this point.
Here’s the thing though, they’re not wrong. I could quote statistics for hours, but I need to do a Buzzfeed quiz about how broke I am. Adjusted for inflation, Millennials earn far less than their parents. This, despite the fact that Millennials are better educated than their parents. Those extra diplomas are worth far less than they used to be worth, despite costing far more.
This isn’t to say that Boomers had (or even have) it easy. One of the things that tends to get forgotten is that Boomers were the first generation where a majority of women entered the workforce. This shift wasn’t happenstance. Women pushed their way into the labour force out of necessity and, more often than not, had to push entrenched boundaries of the norm to do so. While we all owe them a debt for forcing this change, it did dilute the job market. Simple economics means that the more people vying for jobs means that those jobs are less valuable, and so, adjusted for inflation, wages stagnate.
Boomers also had more children and got married younger. There are pros and cons to both of these things. Getting married sooner means that a couple can enjoy the tax breaks that come with filing together. Having more kids costs money though. A lot of money. I don’t have a link here, but I have two money pits of my own, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Judge’s Verdict: Boomers win here by a long shot.
Round 2: What they can Buy with that Money
Things don’t look much better for our hipster friends in round two than they did in round one. After establishing that Millennials have far less money than their parents when they were the same age, we now learn that the dollar they make buys less than the dollar that their parent (note the intentional singular use of parent) made.
Housing costs are at an all-time high. Same goes for transportation. We could argue about the merits of $9 coffees, but I’m going to assume that we can all get on the same page about having a roof and walls and a way to get to work. Oh, also food (not just avocado toast) is crazy expensive. Again, this is all adjusted for inflation so that fact that you paid 7 cents a litre for gas is irrelevant Karen. Boomers paid less in rent/mortgage payments and in getting to and from places.
Judge’s Verdict: Once again, we have a dominant round by Boomers.
Round 3: Negative Money
This one is pretty simple. We simply compare how much debt Baby Boomers had compared to Millennials at the same stage of life and adjust for inflation. The picture isn’t a pretty one. Millennials have way more debt even when we remove so called “good debt” and it is almost entirely due to student loans.
Interestingly, if we remove student loans though, Boomers actually have the higher debt levels – particularly on credit cards. What are they buying with all of these credit cards? No idea. But if the ads on TV are to be believed it’s mostly ED medication and electric lifts to go up stairs. Come to think of it maybe I need to branch out more when it comes to TV…
Judge’s Verdict: Let’s call this one a draw. That student loan debt is real, but education still has value. Credit card debt does not.
Round 4: People Died and Gave Me Money
This one is even simpler than the last round. Inheritance is not complicated. Your parents die and usually that means they leave you money. And that is true for both Millennials and Boomers. But it was a lot truer for boomers than it will be for Millennials. In fact, Boomers are about to become the first generation in Canadian history to leave less money to their children than the generation before.
Judge’s Verdict: After a short break Boomers win again.
Round 5: I’m a Believer
Now we change gears away from financial stuff. This Pew study is pretty comprehensive. It tells us things that we already know to be true without research. Millennials are less likely to identify as religious (any category) than Boomers and much less likely to attend places of worship. Boomers are more likely to pray and read scripture than Millennials too.
But Millennials are actually more likely to believe in a higher power and have a sense of awe about the universe and the unexplainable. Boomers are also more likely to believe falsities about other faiths than Millennials. Millennials that do adhere to a faith are more invested in it than Boomers. Among Millennials that do attend church, they are more likely to be involved in their churches beyond Sunday morning and they contribute a greater percentage of their income in tithes and charitable contributions. Millennials – even those who do not profess faith – are much more likely to believe that religion has the ability to change lives and help create a more equitable society.
Judge’s Verdict: It’s close, but the pastor in me is giving the edge to Millennials. I’d rather have fewer people who are more invested than slightly more people who pay lip service. LOOK! Millennials won a round!
Round 6: Can you Explain how Taxes Work or Rotate a PDF?
When it comes to understanding how the world works, the two generations are clearly split into two camps. Boomers understand things like how the economy works and how to change a tire and how to make food. Millennials most definitely do not. Seriously, there’s literally a Wikihow on how to boil water. Boomers understand how to function in the world. They also know cursive – which is useless and will die with them. But they know it.
But the world is becoming more digital every day. Millennials get technology and Boomers do not. Take this blog as exhibit A. It couldn’t be easier to locate on the internet and yet the only Baby Boomers who will ever read it are my parents (Hi Mom!) and that’s only because they will see the link on Facebook. It makes for some hilarious memes, but it also matters.
Technology plays an increasingly important role in our lives and knowing how to navigate it is more important every day. Millennials were born into it and speak technology fluently. Boomers didn’t have that luxury, having to learn a whole new language. And what goes around comes around. One day Millennials will inevitably be in the exact same situation.
Judge’s Verdict: Even without the eventual comeuppance, knowing how to pay taxes trumps knowing how to google. But this round comes with asterisk: If you are a Millennial and a Boomer asks for help with their technology more than twice in one year, you can claim this round.
Round 7: (S)he Works Hard for the Money
This one will be the one that is most controversial. We all know the stereotypes. Boomers think Millennials are lazy and entitled. Millennials think Boomers are lazy and entitled and take credit for their work. The truth is somewhere in the middle, although not a perfect compromise.
Millennials definitely earn the entitled moniker when it comes to promotions. 75% of them felt like they should be promoted within a year of taking a new position. I’m not awesome at math, but that doesn’t seem to add up to a functional workforce. Boomers, on the other hand, get their promotions and then refuse to leave. Part of the reason for stagnant wages among Millennials is that Boomers are working longer than previous generations thereby creating a bottleneck at the top.
Boomers are the last generation that held loyalty to an employer as something to value. Millennials are far more likely to bounce from job to job. But this lack of loyalty cuts both ways. Millennials seem to not only be ok with being fired regularly – they expect it. Millennials are far more likely to be loyal to a goal – personal or corporate – rather than a company. This difference in loyalty actually makes Millennials more productive than Boomers hour for worked hour. Also, they work far more hours for less money.
Ultimately Millennials and Baby Boomers simply value different things when it comes to work life. One isn’t better than the other on a personal level, but they do have ramifications for the workforce as a whole.
Judge’s Verdict: Boomers take this round solidly. That seems backwards, but they win because they lose. Confused? Millennials get the raw deal here. They work harder and do more and get paid less for it. Boomers have it easier. So they win. Again.
Despite some valiant effort, Millennials come up short in almost every category. Boomers clearly have it easier. They work less and make more. What do they do with this money? They spend it. They certainly don’t give it away or leave it to their children.
So, for the three Baby Boomers that will see this, give Millennials a break. You raised them on participation ribbons and then you mocked them for taking them. And for the four Millennials that will read this, now you have some ammo as you whine about how hard you have it while sipping your $9 coffee. Enjoy.