Ask Stacy: Millennials Are Ruining This Country … Aren’t They?

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A reader is concerned that the younger generation is pushing the country to the brink of disaster. He must not remember the '60s.

We’ve got a lot to worry about. Terrorism. A historic, hysterical, presidential election. Global warming. An anemic economy. Gridlocked government.

Oh, and then there’s young people.

Here’s a question I got a couple of years back, but since I’m still hearing similar sentiments, I thought I’d publish it again.

I think someone needs to explore the subject of the workforce crisis posed by the millennial generation. These kids are so unmotivated, undisciplined, illiterate and distracted, it poses a danger to the financial security of this country and workforce security as more of these kids move into adult jobs. Some parents have trained these kids to mistreat their elders and bad-mouth their co-workers/customers. It is almost like working with an alcoholic, they are so distracted from their work due to their problems. These kids, even nearing their 30s, are still supported by parents and absolutely act like they have nothing to lose as their parents are enablers, supporting their every firing, unplanned pregnancy, overspending emergency and drunken driving arrest without question. — C

Here’s my opinion about the millennial “crisis”:

Who are the millennials, and why are they so bad?

First, let’s define who we’re talking about. The media made up all these generational divides, so there’s no precise definition. But millennials are widely considered to be those now ranging in age from 19 to 35.

C begins his comment by saying, “I think someone needs to explore the subject of the workforce crisis posed by the millennial generation.” Well, C, here’s some good news. It’s been done. A lot. As one example, here’s a snippet from a 2007 article from CBS News.

They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds.

Here’s another, from a 2012 article in The Washington Post:

These are the kids, after all, who text their dads from meetings. They think “business casual” includes skinny jeans. And they expect the company president to listen to their “brilliant idea.” When will they adapt?

And here’s one from just a few weeks ago from the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press:

Arriving late, on their phones all day, taking off for weeks to hike, bike and explore, not paying attention, lack of respect, non-communicative, a sense of entitlement, unwillingness to go beyond the given task, wanting it all.

While comments like these make great fodder for cocktail conversation, and in some cases may have some element of truth, let’s start by considering the source: older people.

I suspect those doing much of the complaining are from my generation, the baby boomers. If so, it’s particularly amusing, considering that when we were young, many of us were growing our hair, smoking dope, starting communes, rioting, streaking, engaging in sport sex and marching on Washington for so many causes it’s hard to count them all.

My parent’s, members of the Greatest Generation, didn’t think any of this was a great idea. They were as convinced as C seems now that, as a group, we would amount to nothing, other than a drain on society.

And this is the way I suspect it’s always been. My parent’s parents probably thought Benny Goodman was shocking, women belonged in the kitchen and the repeal of Prohibition was going to ruin our nation. I’m sure Cleopatra’s parents thought dating Romans like Mark Antony was a bad idea. (Admittedly, that didn’t end well.)

The point is, before we start complaining, let’s remember older generations disapproving of younger ones is the rule, not the exception. And yet, despite the dire warnings, here we are, with computers in our pockets and driverless cars practically in our driveways. There must be at least some motivated, disciplined, literate and focused young people out there.

They are different, but maybe it’s not all bad

Older people and younger people have differences. Differences often translate into mistrust, which too often morphs into disapproval. This is human nature and has always been true, whether it’s women vs. men, black vs. white, Muslim vs. Christian or boomer vs. millennial.

Sure, millennials are different. A couple of years ago, Pew Research published an article comparing today’s young adults with boomers. Some interesting findings:

  • A third of millennials between the ages 26 to 33 have at least a four-year degree. That’s the most educated this age group has been in the history of the United States.
  • Only 26 percent of millennials are married. At the same age, nearly half the boomers were.
  • 55 percent have posted a “selfie” on a social media site. That’s about the same percentage of seniors who know what the term means.
  • Just 19 percent of millennials agree with the statement, “Most people can be trusted.” Forty percent of boomers do.

In conclusion, C, I feel your pain. I work and socialize with Millennials, some of whom do seem self-obsessed and maddeningly disrespectful of their elders. My Gen-X (or Y; I’m not entirely sure) wife sometimes seems more attached to Snapchat and Facebook than she is to me. But when it comes to generations, it’s beat ’em or join ’em. And one thing’s for sure: You won’t beat ’em.

So fret as much as you like, fellow older folks, but I’ll reserve my worry for more pressing matters. In the end, younger people are a little different, but all generations find a way. After all, isn’t that the only option any of us have?

Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate. Got some time to kill? You can learn more about me here.

Stacy Johnson

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