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Millennial Minded

Can you believe it? Millennials are more satisfied when they have financial stability

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Forget all that you’ve learned about those deceptive millennials: They don’t care solely about their company’s social impact and all those other life-fulfilling trifles — all they really want is more money!

Put crudely, that’s what a blog in Time’s Money section extrapolated from findings in a MoneyTips.com survey.

The survey in question exposes what is ostensibly a very startling truth about millennials: They tend to be more satisfied when they have more income and less debt.

Wipe up the coffee that you just spit with an aghast eruptive force all over your desk.

It’s not actually surprising, obviously. But the aforementioned blog thinks it might be if we consider that millennials have been thought to “favor quality of life issues including job flexibility, social impact, and personal experiences over career and earning power.”

In other words, we’ve been led to believe millennials are all about shunning high salaries. But here they are in this survey — feeling good about themselves despite embracing those evil wages.

The Time blog takes this as a shift in the generation’s attitude, a reconciling of values. Someone else out there probably sees it as ammo to be used against millennials: evidence that they’re hypocritical.

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There’s a different way to look at it.

And it starts with a Henry David Thoreau (American author, philosopher) quote:

"Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul."

Perhaps we can say that quote, and Thoreau in general, is a good stand-in for the millennial’s focus on personal experiences over higher wages.

Thoreau, for those unfamiliar, lived for a time in the woods; he embarked on a voyage of self-discovery and self-reliance in the way a millennial could probably appreciate.

But there’s something important to note about Thoreau: he had a businessman’s acumen when it came to matters of the economy. It was a topic he wrote a great deal on.

And his whole idealistic-sounding hippie-from-the-1800s nature-living endeavor?

He was essentially setting out to live in a way that didn’t incur debt; he said so himself.

Debt is something that has been fundamental in the millennial experience.

That MoneyTips.com survey itself points this out: Of all the queried millennials, just about one out of five reported being $5,000 to $15,000 in debt. Some have accrued much more.

Keep in mind that since 1978, tuition expenses have risen 1,225 percent (also pointed out in the survey) while the consumer price index has risen 279 percent, according to Bloomberg.

So of course millennials are going to be more “satisfied” with a life of good pay in the face of that, when the alternative is not being able to afford rent and those massive student loans.

Red envelopes, bill collectors’ calls – who’d be “satisfied” with that?

Millennials can still define a broader vision of success as something that is contrary to financial prosperity while attending to the burdens they’ve been straddled with. These are altogether distinct.

Given that, it’s not fair to say the millennials are reconciling their values.

They just know they live in society, not in the woods.


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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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