The Millennial Way

If you are on Facebook or Twitter and follow any businesses, digital media companies or anything in any way American, you will have heard the term, Millennial. You’ll have read all about being a Millennial, what it is, what we like, what we don’t like, what we think… There’s even a quiz to find out just HOW MILLENNIAL YOU ARE — I got 67 by the way!! You could be forgiven for thinking if someone calls you a Millennial then you’ve been pigeon holed into being a person who

  • will change jobs every 4 years;
  • is more interested in working for a company who gives back to the community and gives them flexi-time;
  • will stand up against authority;
  • think coffee is an experience rather than just a drink [search “Millennial Coffee” if you don’t believe me];
  • will be more interested in walking the Great Wall of China than buying a house; and
  • take a selfie every 7 minutes.

For those of you who are unaware of the term, a Millennial is a person who was born between 1980 up to the mid 1990s. We also go by the name of Generation Y. Those babies born from the millennium onwards are Generation Z. Those older than us are Generation X, the Baby Boomers, the list of names goes on.

But what is the point of these tags? Are they just a name badge, or is there actually some meaning behind the stereotype?

This week, I came across a story in the Washington Post using data from Allstate about how Millennials are putting off life events in favour of life experiences (and because of debt). Thinking about it, it is true. Your parent’s were probably married and had all of their children by age 30 at the latest. Nowadays, most people thinking about having children are around 30 — it’s just how life has moved on.

If you ask yourself why, there are lots of reasons.

It is because people are going to university more and more. They spend a minimum of 3 years studying, up to 5 if you do medicine. Gap years are common now — that’s an extra year. Then if you do a Masters, again as the trend seems to be, that’s another year. It’s more common now to study a PhD, that’s three year’s further research and one year to write it up. After that, you’re at least 26 and still haven’t got a “Proper Job” (no offense is meant by this).

Those of us going down the professional route take time to build their career before they have a family. Even after a university degree, you may have a few years of professional training to get through before you earn a real salary. Women put off having children until they are established in the workplace. In 2014, the average age of a first time mother was 30 and a first time father was 33. In 1995, both of these were 27. Going further than that, over half of babies in 2014 were born to parents out of wedlock. The old story of marriage, house, children isn’t quite as common now.

Looking one further, the average age of a first time home buyer in the UK has increased to 37. The reason — we can’t afford to buy any earlier. The price of university, the student loan repayment, the living costs while we work on low paid salaries for the first few years of working life, it’s just not easy to go and have kids, start a family, buy a house and enjoy ourselves.

Is this because we are millennials? No, I don’t think it is how we havechosen to act, it’s how we’ve been forced to. University fees, house prices, I even saw a sign in a well-known shop that the “baby starter kit” was on offer at £1,200. I can’t say for certain but I’m sure they weren’t that high 20 years ago.

So yes, maybe we do fit the description for the “Millennial Way,” but not by choice. I think that rather than the profile being set and we just seemed to live by it, it’s the other way around — people have watched how we live and set the stereotype accordingly.

So while I personally hate the word millennial and everything that goes with it, I guess we do fit the bill, but not because we choose to. I’m not saying you should go out and experience a cup of coffee now, but it probably couldn’t hurt… While you’re at it, why not start thinking about saving for those life events, because if you’re only 25 now, you have about 5–10 years before you’re going to have children and buy a house. It’s what the stats say, so who can argue.