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Have We Failed The Millennials?

Have We Failed The Millennials?

By Susan Williams

A while back there was an interesting article in the Guardian about how a millennial and a baby boomer (both freelance writers) swapped lives. The intention of the exercise was to gain a better understanding and appreciation for what each other’s life was like.

After reading the perspective of the millennial, I couldn’t help but question whether we may have let this generation down.

The millennials are now struggling with limited availability of decent jobs, affordable housing and significant levels of debt.

In a report published by Pew Research, they stated that

“Millennials are also the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles.”.

Now I’m not suggesting that money equates to happiness but when you add all of these things together, I’m wondering if we have seriously considered the long term impacts of some of our decisions and actions.

I discovered that this was a really difficult question to ask myself. 

After giving this question some more thought, I soon came to the realization that I had been consciously putting my head in the sand and ignoring all the media cries swirling around me about this. I was happy to just stick with one side of the media frenzy that promoted the idea that the millennials were just whining.

Maybe I was doing this because it was just easier then actually facing up to the reality of the situation.

But after I read this article, it forced me stop and pull my head out of the sand and take a very good look around me.

I started to talk with some younger people. I asked them about their hopes and dreams and discovered that they were very similar to my own when I was their age. A good job that they enjoyed and made a difference somehow, a decent place to live, having a sense of community, a society that cared about each other and one day the ability to be able to have a family.

But their prospects for actually having this lifestyle seem very different than mine were.

Many were challenged with student debt, facing limited job prospects and the availability of affordable and decent housing was difficult to find..

Plus, they were also well aware that they will also be inheriting some major social issues – an aging population who is not necessarily well prepared financially for retirement, health care systems that need some major overhauls and environmental issues that have taken us to the brink of survival for the planet – just for starters.

This is definitely not the small stuff to be sweated.

So, have we failed them?

Have we been so focused on padding our own personal lives that we forgot to consider the generations that will be inheriting the problems we may have created?

The Indigenous People embrace a philosophy called the Seventh Generation principle. The principle is based on an ancient Iroquois philosophy “that the decision we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.”

Can we honestly say that we have done this?

I would suggest that we haven’t. But here is something to be hopeful about.

Millenials are still optimistic about the future. And this is a very positive sign given the situation that they find themselves in. However there is also some risk. They have also have expressed low levels of social trust. So their positive perspective could slide very fast.

Maybe now is the time to break through all the generational stereotypes that we seem to have pinned each other with, build some trust and tackle some of these significant challenges in front of us – together.

I think this would be a much more valuable legacy for us to leave.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.