A few weeks back I wrote a response to GL Hoffman’s 8 Reasons Why Baby-Boomers Act The Way They Do entitled Understanding Gen-Y in 5 Easy Steps. In it I theorized that one of the main reasons young workers today seem so bent on shooting up the corporate ladder after only a few years is because they place a big emphasis on family and quality of life. Citing high divorce rates among their parents as well as ballooning student debt and rising living costs, I also explained that making money is a critical piece of the “having my cake and eating too” plan of most millennials. With marriage and family being pushed back into our thirties, millennials see their twenties as a time to a) have fun but also more importantly b) build the career foundation to support their goals later in life.
A recent profile of divorce in Newsweek entitled The Divorce Generation Grows Up, produced the following quote:
“But while it may be a common occurrence, divorce remains a profound experience for those who’ve lived through it. Researchers have churned out all sorts of depressing statistics about the impact of divorce. Each year, about 1 million children watch their parents split, triple the number in the ’50s. These children are twice as likely as their peers to get divorced themselves and more likely to have mental-health problems, studies show. While divorce rates have been dropping—off from their 1981 peak to just 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2006—marriage has also declined sharply, falling to 7.3 per 1,000 people in 2006 from 10.6 in 1970. Sociologists decry a growing “marriage gap” in which the well educated and better paid are staying married, while the poor are still getting divorced (people with college degrees are half as likely to be divorced or separated as their less-educated peers). And the younger you marry, the more likely you are to get divorced.”
With divorce rates peaking in 1981, just as the first set of millennials was born, the impact of these “broken” families is beginning to appear. Because so many young people have experienced divorce, they seem to be taking safeguards in their own lives against it. On the whole as a generation, they are marrying later, marrying less often and gravitating toward working hard now to make more time for family later.
It’s really no wonder that young people are delaying marriage. With increasing costs of both college as well as post-college living, many young people have to work for a while to get out of debt before they even think about being able to afford a home and family.
A feature in U.S. News shares this point of view:
“Unlike their parents, post-college “kids” face a whole list of monthly costs that simply didn’t exist a generation ago. Take technology. Cellphones, digital media, Internet service—all are ubiquitous, costly, and a strain on already tapped finances. At the same time, shifting social trends in everything from fashion to marriage are driving up the cost of just making it to 30.”
“Twenty-somethings today are struggling more financially than ever before. They grew up in a time when the economy was great, and they’re having their adulthood in a time when the economy sucks. It’s really hard,” says Christine Hassler, a life coach and author of the The Twenty Something Manifesto.
Amidst all the griping and media hype about millennials being pushy, entitled and incompetent, the reality is that young people are just that—young. They grew up in a different time with different standards, ideals, etc. They have different ideas about how work should be and what life should be. Let them create their own identity. What is the harm?
Did most boomers start out on the bottom rung, fetching coffee or answering phones for $1/hour? Sure. Do they really want the same fate for their children? Especially after plunking down $80,000 on a college education so that little Bobby could recite Langston Hughes as he stirs his boss’ coffee? I hope not.