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The pros and cons of being a millennial

By Taryn Dryfhout

You’ve probably already heard the stereotypes about Millennials – we have short attention spans, we’re lazy and have no work ethic.We feed off technology, have absolutely no life skills, and need our mummies into our thirties.

Technically speaking, I’m in this group. Millennials are those born between the early 1980s and 2000, who were children growing up in the first decade of the new millennium. This means if you are a university student, getting married, having babies or entering the workforce right now, chances are, you also fall into this bracket.

Millennials have been given a bad rap, but is this deserved? While we may be living a radically different existence than the generation that preceded us, there’s both and good and bad – pros and cons – to being a millennial.

Cons

Millennials are facing some difficult situations. The following is a list of cons of being a millennial:

We Are Disadvantaged in the Workforce

Millennials were raised in a time where if you followed the rules, there would be a job at the end of the yellow brick road. We were also promised that going to university would result in us entering the workforce, knee deep in job offers. Of course, for most of us, this did not happen. The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 rewrote the world job market, pulling the rug out for those of us who were not yet settled into a lifelong career.

Innovation is born from hardship. With little career prospects, many millennials have tried their hand at innovative ways to keep themselves afloat financially. From YouTube to online crafts stores, our generation has become all about entrepreneurialism. I fit into this category. I am a 31-year-old freelance writer. For many reasons, working full-time in an office just didn’t work for me. Many millennials reject the traditional idea that jobs take place behind a desk for long hours at a time. They seek, above all things, a work-life balance. As a generation, we have come to place value on flexible work schedules and location independence, and are uncomfortable with conforming to the traditional modes of work.

Because of this attitude to work, it has created the idea that millennials, as a generation of people, are lazy, easily side-tracked job hoppers who want a trophy for just showing up for work.

Generation Rent

Millennials are having a particularly tough time of it when it comes to owning a home.

Owning my own home isn’t even on my radar. Since I got married, the Reserve Bank has been increasingly adding tighter restrictions on mortgage lending, and with house prices increasing, the deposit is also increasing. The problem is, my income isn’t increasing enough to keep up. It has even been reported that New Zealand is the most expensive country in the world to buy a house, when house prices are compared to incomes. While many baby boomers bought their first home in their early twenties, millennials have been priced out of the housing market. It seems like many people are unable to own a house unless they have rich parents willing to back them, or inherit one. I have come to the realisation that owning a home is out of reach for me – I won’t ever be leaving ‘Generation Rent’. For millennials, the future of home ownership is looking pretty bleak.

We Are Chin High in Student Debt

The burden of student loan debt weighs on the finances, and choices that young people make. Not only has high student debt contributed to the drop in home ownership, but research suggests that millennials are living with their parents (or moving back home) until their late twenties. One of the reasons is undoubtedly due to studying and the escalating level of student debt among this generation. While those who attended university in the 1960s through the 1990s received, essentially, a free education, those of us who require the living costs component of the student loan are racking up $15,000 per year.

Having such a high level of student debt is not only bad news for those of us who owe it, but it’s also a drain on society in general. Many millennials are now taking more than 20 years to pay back their loan, and decisions such as putting off buying a home, or starting a family will undoubtedly have an impact on our future economy.

Pros

Despite the cons, it’s not all bad. The following is a list of pros of being a millennial:

We Are More Educated

We might be bogged down by student loans but millennials are quickly becoming the most educated generation in history. Women, in particular, have overtaken in terms of higher education, earning more diploma’s than their mothers and grandmothers.

Not only are we more formally educated, but we are a generation of independent thinkers. We constantly question the society we are operating out of, including what we read, what we watch and how we are treated. We also keep ourselves informed by keeping up with news and current events online.

We know our way around technology

Millennials are the gods of technology. Having grown up in a time where devices didn’t exist, Millennials have lapped up technology as it has been rolled out, and now use it for everything from online shopping to banking, ordering a ride to creating online pin boards. Because we are not true digital natives, the advent of smartphones and social media has impacted this generation more potently than any other. As children, we had to write letters to friends we made at camp. Now we add them on Facebook. If we wanted to call home from town, we had to find a payphone, and hope our parents were home to pick up. Now we call anytime, anywhere. Our phones, tablets and laptops are giving us more opportunities than ever to do amazing things that generations before us did not have the chance to do.

We campaign for change

Campaigning for change is one of the hallmarks of the millennial generation. If we want change, we lobby for it.

People, more than ever, are starting movements, organising protests and standing up for what they believe in. News coverage every week shows groups and individuals protesting and using their voice for a cause they believe in. Online platforms such as ‘GiveaLittle’ even allow people to gain exposure and raise funds for the causes they are passionate about, from the comfort of their living room. We are living in a time where there is a shift in power, and we have the ability to take a stand. Look, for example, at the latest American presidential election. For the first time in history, a woman was almost elected president, and in the days following Trumps election, thousands demonstrated against the result.

We are also, as a group, more accepting than any generation has been. We are more accepting of the LGBTQI+ community and feminist rights, as well as other equality campaigns. We are impacting society positively by being vocal about this and reflecting our feelings with our voting. Millennials are more aware of the big issues, and are fighting back against things that we perceive to be wrong, or negative. The millennial voice is loud and refuses to be complacent. We take to the streets – and social media – to fight for change.

We Feel Younger for Longer

For millennials, the average age to get married is between 27 for women, and 29 for men, compared with 20, and 22 in 1950. With people now waiting until later to get married, this often means being older when buying a house, and having children, meaning millennials enjoy their time as ‘young people’ for longer than previous generations. In my grandmother’s time, by the age of 30 women were married and saddled with several children and a mortgage. Today it’s perfectly acceptable for a 30-year-old to be an intern, still living at home or ‘finding themselves’.

Like It or Not, We Are Millennials

Fifty years ago, you’d leave school, maybe study, enter the workforce and stay in your chosen field. While you were on the grind, you’d get married, buy a house, have a family, and retire mortgage free, in the same house you bought 40 years earlier. Millennials don’t want a nine to five job, and we don’t want to stay in it forever. We don’t want to be trapped in one house for the rest of our lives and don’t want to be tied down with children and partners until later in life. Things are changing. The picture for millennials is very different – we are deviating from the ‘old’ norm and trailblazing a new path for ourselves. As the previous generations retire, we are stepping up to take their place, and, as we engage in the world around us, we seek to leave our mark, and change the world in unique, and positive ways.

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