We all know that the Millennial generation got a bad break out of the gate: many of us graduated college and attempted to enter the workforce during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. But now we're six years out from when the market crashed in 2008. The economy is recovering and more employers are hiring.
And yet Generation Y is likely going to continue struggling financially for decades to come. We've got two major factors working against us: a massive load of (mostly) student loan debt and jobs that offered us low starting salaries, if we managed to get a job at all.
At first, a low starting salary doesn't sound like it would equate to a lifetime of financial difficulty. But here's the problem: when the economy is struggling and the job market is tight, salaries and wages drop. Any employers who are hiring suddenly have a vast pool of talent to pull from, and they can secure great workers at less cost to the company. When you have hundreds of candidates vying for one administrative assistant job, you're bound to find one competent person desperate enough to work for $10 an hour and no benefits. Why offer a $40,000 annual salary when there are recent grads begging for work and will accept $28,000?
When the economy recovers, those starting salaries might recover, too. But that's no help to members of Generation Y who started low. It's hard to make up those initial losses, and the result is that Millennials continue to struggle financially.
Oddly enough, however, there is a large corp of Gen Yers who seem to have embraced these troubles. They are romanticizing the idea of just getting by in your twenties and thirties, and instead of fighting to become more financially stable and secure, they're accepting as a fact that you're not supposed to stop living like a broke college student until you're like, I dunno, 40 or something, bro.
These are the Millennials who claim money is the root of all evil. They are the ones who excessively use #YOLO as an excuse to live without worrying about the future, because who knows? Tomorrow is promised to no one, guys! Better to live it up now and come within pennies of overdrawing your checking account every month on the off chance that you'll keel over dead in the next week.
These twenty- and thirty-somethings say those who are worried about making money are fools. That those seeking to build wealth are mindless slaves, destined to die without having really lived life.
The YOLO Generation is the one that fails to see it is they who are slowly selling themselves into that slavery they claim the rest of us are victims of currently. They fail to see that the shackles of working yourself to death for a paycheck that they so fear are the only possible future life for them. They are happy to spend every last cent they have because their fiscal irresponsibility is justified by the fact that you only live once -- which is true, but that logic starts failing when people end up living a long, healthy life with no form of retirement savings.
The YOLO Generation has been fooled into thinking just getting by is a romantic notion and the only way to be truly free. They feel enlightened by their belief that money is evil. They do not understand that money is neither good nor evil, but rather a tool that can be leveraged to secure true freedom: financial independence.
The YOLO Generation will continue to be complacent with just getting by instead of seeing that while Millennials have struggled with a unique set of problems, we've also been gifted with brand-new opportunities. With the rise of online businesses and the digital economy, there has never been a better time than now to become an independent freelancer or entrepreneur. But for the twenty-somethings who have bought into this twisted idea that making money for yourself is somehow bad are missing out on these incredible opportunities.
The YOLO Generation will be happy to ignore the future reality they are facing: that without any form of savings, without any ability to make money for themselves, their only option is to continue working. Their only option is to continue slaving away for The Man, because when they are old and gray they will desperately need what they so earnestly reject now: money.
Yes, you only live once. That is an inescapable truth that applies to us all. What is not true is that you have to "just get by" financially in order to really live. You can really live right this very moment and save for your future. You can really live while working toward financial independence, which offers you the freedom to do what you want since it releases you from the obligation of working for a paycheck. You can really live and have enough money left over to invest and build wealth with if you prioritize your spending and value your experiences and relationships over material possessions. You can really live by taking charge of your career and starting your own side hustle or business instead of being complacent with the bare minimum salary that some employer will try to get away with offering.
What the YOLO Generation got wrong is that there is nothing wrong about wanting to earn money and build wealth. In fact, that's a rather smart move -- and the sooner you start, the easier it is thanks to the power of compound interest. Wanting to increase your net worth does not make you greedy or imply that you're somehow failing to live while you're young. What it does mean is that you're establishing the ability to choose your own way in life instead of being shackled to working for someone else because you need a paycheck every week to continue "just getting by."