Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Generation-'Why' Buy Anything... Why Gen-Y doesn't have the same values of ownership as our parents

When I was growing up the model of the American lifestyle was 4-Bedroom house in the suburbs, white picket fence, and 2.5 kids, this is no longer the case. Currently I own a car (well, I'm paying one off) and that's it, the entirety of my personal empire is a 2013 Kia Soul. Now, as sweet of a ride as this may be, I'm not the only one, and there seems to be a surprising trend among those of my generation, that don't care nearly as much about material possesions. The majority of my time and money is spent on things that cannot be accounted for in monetary value, I travel full-time, I pursue my hobbies and interests, and I could care less about my 401k. Maybe it's reckless and maybe I'll regret it when I'm 65, but material possesions and the collection of them seem to be something that held so many of our parents down in the past. Every time we partake in another large expense we sign ourselves up for a timeline of debt, 30 years for a mortgage, 5 for a car, and 18 for each of our kids. Yet, I'm not the only one that seems to be going off the grid, it seems more and more like millenials and 80's and 90's babies are valuing the non-material things in life, and it's pretty refreshing.

Don't get me wrong, I would like to own a house someday, and I love my car, but it's the types of things we are pursuing and the matter in which we are doing it that differentiates us from previous generations. For instance, I want to own a house someday, but not one that causes me crippling debt and the promise of a 30-year mortgage. Coming from a suburban middle-class family I've seen how the quest for material things can rip families and lives apart. Suburban utopia, is usually the complete opposite. In my neighborhood growing up there were countless families living WAY above their means in an effort to live these lives that society deemed would make them appear successful. This was never an issue for my family, my father is extremely smart and shrewd when it comes to making financial decisions, so he made sure we were comfortable, without ever hedging his future on creating appearances, but for many Americans this is not the case. So when I say yes, I would like to own a house one day, I mean something more along the lines of a 300-400 square foot "tiny house." Something I could realistically pay off in five years, not 30, and is not consumed with fitting social norms, but rather reducing my environmental footprint, and living, smarter not larger. 

I think it has a lot to do with the reality of the world we live in today, it's a very different reality than we were raised to believe it would be. We all went out there and got our degrees and were funneled into the system, until many of us realized the system was complete bullshit. There's a reason the Global Financial Crisis happened, and it wasn't just due to the banks giving out crazy subprime loans. The reason all this happened is because we're are lead to believe from a very young age that there are certain things we need to accomplish in order to be viewed as a success. A lifestyle "checklist" that isn't complete until we get a tick in all the boxes. Then and only then can we be viewed as a success. But what many of us have come to realize, myself included is that most of these people who have checked all these boxes are completely fucking miserable, they just try to appear like they aren't. 

This country is filled with husbands and wives living together in McMansions with two kids, Caleb and Autumn who seem to have the perfect life. The truth is they are in debt up to their eyeballs and one missed payment away from having their whole lives repossed, yet they continue to consume! The father always regrets never starting up that band, and the mother always wanted to be a novelist, but they made sacrifices and settled for what they thought they were "supposed" to do. Trust me, growing up in the suburbs in the Mid-west I would say approximately 75% of "happily" married people had quite a few things they wish they had done differently. That's why the stereotype of the mid-life crisis exists, men go out and buy a sports car, and women get fake tits and bang the pool boy. These stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, because they happen... a lot. And me, us, my generation, we've seen this pursuit of possesions of the "perfect life" crash over, and over, and at some point we all decided that's not gonna be me. That's why I'd rather rent then own, that's why I'd rather lease then buy, because at 27 I know how much I've changed in the last 5 years, and I can't imagine how much I will change in the next 5. What I do know is that whatever I thought I wanted and was convinced I needed today, probably isn't gonna mean squat to me down the road, so why lock myself in. Security is great to a point, and it's got to be nice to know you've got something locked in, but the reality is, nothing is guaranteed. You could lose your job tomorrow, your significant other could decide they don't love you anymore, any number of things could derail your pre-planned life, so why have anything locked in?

When I wrote an article about why not quitting your job to travel is a waste of your life, I was hit with a barrage of negative comments from people who said not everyone is like me, some people love what they do. This is very true, I have friends who are completely happy persuing the "American Dream" career, relationship, car, house, kids... check, check, check, check... and check! And that article was not meant for them, the same way this is not meant for everyone. What I'm trying to articulate is there seems to be a growing segment of young people who are ok with not living this normal dream. It's finally become socially acceptable to want something more out of life, then what your parents had, this is something new in our society. In the 1950's if you grew up in the suburbs and you told your parents you wanted to travel the world and be a writer, they would've looked at you as if you said you wanted to change your name from Bruce to Caitlyn. But now in 2015, even if they don't get it, they still understand the times, they are a changing. 

So for any of you who are like me, who get uncomfortable thinking about paying a mortgage, and shopping at Crate & Barrell for matching duvets and drapes, just know, you are not alone. In fact, there's a lot of us, and that number is growing every day. We may not know what we want to do, but we know that we don't want to do what society tells us is the norm, because for us, it's not. So be proud of your journey, tell your parents sorry, but the grandkids are gonna have to wait, enjoy having your own space, and walking around naked because you don't have roommates. Find your passion, chase your dreams, make silly mistakes while your the only one who has to deal with the repercussions, and in the mean time enjoy all the weddings you get to go to this summer. Notice the small twinge of jealousy in your friends' eyes as you knock back free drinks from the open bar. No you can't join the conversation about 'refinancing homeloans' but you definitely know more about GOT than anyone there, and if you get drunk and make a fool of yourself, the only person you have to answer to... is you.  


  1. I think also recently there's been a shift in mindset about material things. Maybe it's because our generation is coming to the forefront and we're the ones being represented across social media, our choices are making the news, etc, but I feel like minimalism has gotten really big lately. Personally, this is something I'm struggling with right now... I've previously been the kind of person who likes to spend and buy and shop and own, but at the end of the month I'm leaving my job to hike the Mountains to Sea Trail and then travel around the world as a WWOOFer, which obviously means I need to get my belongings down to a minimum. I have a lot of friends that are on the same path some of yours are - marriage, houses, careers - and part of me wants that but a bigger part of me needs to explore and experience, at least before all that settling down happens.

  2. I think that's awesome anna! I wish you the best of luck on your journey!