When we started this column, my goal was, as it remains, to present a more realistic picture of the Millennial generation than what is portrayed in the media, ridiculed in late night skits and by aging radio hosts, and, in general, by anyone over the age of 40. We are not to be whittled down to a summation of parts composed of avocado toast, basement living, laziness and student loan debt – we are complex as you are, gosh darn it!
Occasionally I peruse the web for inspiration. “What are people saying about us today?” I’ll wonder, and am typically treated to a variety of think pieces about dearly held traditions or products that our generation has somehow “killed” or “canceled.” Sometimes the logic is quite sound. Other times, well, not so much. So, I thought for this go around of Millennial Pulse, I’d take a look at some of the latest buzz to give you, dear readers, a taste of what my age group is dealing with. (Look out Gen Z, it’ll be you, next).
Let’s start with Yahoo Finance’s piece, “These Wedding Traditions Are Being Killed Off By Millennials.” Oddly enough, I wrote a column on the same topic earlier this year. But while mine featured input from industry professionals, this listicle makes wild stabs in the dark without any source material or verification of facts. When I realized this, I thought, “Oh, how fun! I get to go on an editor’s rant decrying poor journalistic practices!” But scrolling down through the assessments – we don’t like veils, we don’t want to wear something blue or old, we are “tossing the bouquet toss, too” – I couldn’t find anything earth-shattering, or, frankly, interesting enough, to get up my ire. Oh well. As Ariana Grande would say: next.
Insider posted a more wide-reaching article about the generation a day later, entitled, “Things millennials are ‘killing,’ don’t use anymore.” At the top of the list? Doorbells. I don’t know about you, other Millennials, but pretty much everyone who ever visits my home rings my doorbell. My Postmates/Instacart directions in fact specify to ring my doorbell, thank you very much. But, according to Insider, “tens of thousands” of people on Twitter recently agreed that Millennials have ding dong ditched the doorbell, so, what do I know? I guess I don’t act my age.
My nonsense-o-meter was slightly less triggered by Insider’s next position: that we’re killing snail mail. Is this more plausible? I recently had to use the U.S. Postal Service’s priority mail for something, and because I so infrequently go to the Post Office, I actually had to look up what to do first. So, yeah. Maybe we are killing snail mail.
Then again, in case you haven’t noticed, the Postal Service hasn’t gotten the best press lately. While my new postman reliably delivers my mail every day around 6 p.m., before him it wildly varied, if I was lucky enough to even get it – and I very frequently received mail meant for the same address on an entirely different street two blocks away. Perhaps the advent of private mail carriers spurred by the convenience of online ordering isn’t such a terrible thing? Not that I’d ever say, “let’s cancel the Postal Service,” but a little variety doesn’t hurt.
Most other items in the listicle are obvious choices – taxis and GPS devices, for example. I do, however, take issue with the idea that Millennials are somehow killing “bars of soap,” but perhaps that is because I love a fancy bar of soap. Add that to your list of things you didn’t need to know about me.
Moving on, some of you may have noticed last week’s trending Twitter topic: #MillennialRetirementPlans. Or more, accurately, how we supposedly don’t have any. Considering that many Millennials took a hit to their finances during the Great Recession – and a lot of research out there says many never fully recovered – this one isn’t too shocking.
Some of the top tweets by Millennials sharing their “retirement plans” included: “Finally earn enough experience to get an entry level job,” “Hope we don’t die in our chairs during a meeting that could have been an email,” and a healthy variety of sardonic jokes about climate change ending the world before we have to worry about it.
Following a delightfully GIF-filled barrage of Millennial tweeting on the topic, Forbes published a piece entitled, “Why Is #MillennialRetirementPlans Trending? Do Millennials Even Have Retirement Plans?” I’d hazard to guess that it depends on how debt-burdened a Millennial is, who they work for, and their personal financial savvy.
Unlike the deluge of think pieces out there about our generation, Forbes did some research to answer its own query. Per Forbes, a 2018 research paper by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that by age 35, 37% of Millennial men and 38% of women were enrolled in employer-sponsored retirement plans. By comparison, about half of the prior generation, Generation X, had been enrolled in such plans at the same age.
It seems like half the stuff written about Millennials involves the depressing memory of the Great Recession, so let’s not end on a down note. Instead, let’s tackle The Huffington Post’s piece, “Why Millennials Are Suddenly So Obsessed With Houseplants.” I will preface this analysis by saying that I do not fall into this category, as I am convinced that my cat would try to eat them, but also because I suspect they would attract and harbor spiders, which is a nonstarter for me.
HuffPost interviewed an L.A. Millennial who owned not one, not 10, not 50, but an impressive 110 houseplants. Why? She was initially enticed by Instagram posts of plants, and hopped on the bandwagon. Now, she finds herself part of a burgeoning plant community. HuffPost didn’t get too much into what was implied – that our generation is overly influenced by social media. Honestly, I would not have argued if they had.
HuffPost did dig a little deeper though. Supposedly, the financial setbacks many Millennials faced early in their careers caused them to delay life milestones like marriage and having children. That much is easy enough to verify with data from a variety of sources, including the American Community Survey and Pew Research Center. The assertion that, to make up for these delays, we’re instead filling our lives with plants – well, maybe not.
But hey, if you don’t have a retirement plan yet, perhaps you can start by selling your fern collection.