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I recently read an article in the Guardian, “Why Are the Baby Boomers Are Desperate To Make Us Millennial Hate Ourselves,”about how Boomers make us feel like losers for not following their path to success.
And one of its most inflammatory statements goes like this:
“… get a good education. Get a well-paying full-time job. Find a stable partner. Buy a house and a car. Preferably, have a child. Failing any stage of this process is a reflection of your self-worth and indicates a lack of moral fibre.”
Not surprisingly, this caused a huge uproar, generating more than 1300 comments.
Boomers were quick to point out why they thought this way, “…Because you’re greedy, self-absorbed and wasteful little shits.” While Millennials fought back with righteous fury: “If we take the blame then they don’t have to. Too bad the environment is trashed, only a few of us can get a permanent full time jobs despite our high levels of education and only the richest can afford property…”
As a Millennial, I get why my peers are mad. Constantly being yelled at to “get a job” and “buy a house” is not fun. Not being able to stand on your own feet and support yourself is not fun. And the Boomers continue to remind us of this, over and over again. But there’s one fundamental thing that Boomers don’t understand, the one thing that explains why we are the “over-educated, under-employed generation”:
We’re trying to follow their dreams. And when we try to follow a dream that’s completely broken, we WON’T succeed.
The world has changed, and what were once the keys to success for the Boomer generation no longer works for our generation.
And here’s why:
#1 Most University Degrees are a Scam
Our parents have been touting the value of a university degree for years. And it made sense for them. Back when university grads were rare, having any degree set you apart from your peers and made you more attractive to employers.
But that’s no longer true. A piece of paper with a fancy stamp no longer guarantees you a job, nor is it worth the cost. In fact, it could set you back for decades, causing you to become knee-deep in debt.
American students owe a collective $1 Trillion dollars in student debt. And shockingly, most of these students can’t find jobs. Part of that reason is because many universities never bothered to train them (like the nursing student who graduated without ever stepping foot in a hospital!). Many of these universities are recruiting students just so they can make a quick buck.
So apparently, the 1% not only lives on Wall Street, but in university offices as well.
This is pretty disturbing, considering how many students are being roped into massive amounts of debt when there are high paying jobs out there that don’t even require a degree.
For example, in major urban centres like New York and Toronto, housing contractors, electricians, and plumbers can earn 6 figures without a university degree. Why? Because everyone’s so enamoured with getting university degrees, no one knows how to paint a wall or fix a leaky sink anymore.
And where there’s high demand but low supply, money flows. So before you invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a degree, make sure you are getting a good return on your investment.
#2 Job Security is a Myth
A few months ago, I got an email from my ex-coworker, telling me that our director had been let go. Just a week earlier, her project funding had been cut, and she was asked to train offshore staff. She could see the writing on the wall, but had to continue going into work, because she couldn’t yet retire and needed the severance. This came as a shock to me. She’d out-shined everyone in the past five years, quickly ascended into management, and was on (or at least what I thought) a corporate rocket ship to glory. And even more surprising was that the bank had just released its best yearly results to date–revenues of over 2 billion.
My friend was, understandably, stressed to the point of a nervous breakdown. She has a huge mortgage, two kids in university, and a husband, who, unfortunately had been hearing rumours of impending layoffs at his company as well.
Once her sobbing stopped, tears quickly morphed into anger. “I worked long hours, did everything I was supposed to do, and this is what I get? I work hard so I could get fired?!”
I didn’t know what to say so I just sat there quietly and listened.
“And they told me it was a budgeting issue! What budgeting issue? They made $2 billion dollars this year!”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth. That it didn’t matter how much the company made. It only mattered how little they spent. And the lower that number, the happier their shareholders. After all, when it came to a company’s survival, it’s the shareholders who mattered, not the employees.
I’m confident that my friend will get another job. But the scars on her psyche and self-confidence will never completely fade. I mean, after this, how could she possible trust the idea of being just another cog in the wheel?
Companies will always care about profits more than people. If it’s between making employees or shareholders happy, they will choose the shareholders. Every. Single. Time.
And in an age where work can be done from anywhere, anytime over the Internet, it’s easy to make the investor happy with cheap, outsourced labor. The idea that you can have a job for 30 years and end up with a cushy pension at 65 is laughable. It doesn’t matter how hard you work and how much money your company makes. They will always choose the shareholders over you.
#3 Houses are a Ball and Chain
2008 showed us what could happen if too many people bet on houses they can’t afford. And yet, in costly cities around the world (like London, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver), people are still borrowing their brains out. Like my ex-boss, for example, who, despite having a blood-clot in his leg, still works 80 hour weeks to pay off his oversized mortgage. He literally has no choice. The mortgage is a ball and chain, and he drags it round all day, every day.
Now, I’m not saying all houses are bad. But when the cost to earnings ratio is more than 10X, you’ve put all your eggs in one real-estate basket, with no way to protect yourself if catastrophe hits. You have no choice but stay at a hateful job, be tied to a city you loathe, and watch your health deteriorate. When housing costs are skyrocketing much faster than our salaries (see “House Prices Versus Earnings Since 1970” below), it makes more sense to rent, and invest the savings in a balanced portfolio, generating passive income so you can do whatever you want.
So how do we succeed in a world where everything our parents have hammered into our brains for decades no longer works? What should we do instead?
#1 Stop Paying for Degrees with a Bad ROI
Don’t invest hundreds of thousands in a university degree, only to graduate with mountains of debt and zero job prospects. I realized this early on, so I invested in a degree that only cost me $50,000 over 5 years (which I paid off by working while getting my degree), but has returned $600,000 over 9 years. So that’s a 1200% return or 130% return per year. Compare and contrast that with my friend, who paid $40,000 for her Philosophy degree, but has not been able to find a job in her field. To this day she’s still paying off her debt, with her husband’s salary.
If you picked a degree that doesn’t quite give you the bang for you buck, don’t worry. There are plenty of jobs out there paying over 50K/year without needing a college degree at all.
Here are 50 of them!
And check out this Millennial who went from underemployed waitress to a $72,000/year in only 6 months:
Now, I know that some of these fields are not what you’re passionate about, but before making any judgments, please read my “You Can Have It All. Just Not All At Once” article.
Once you realize that your short-term hustle is worth a lifetime of freedom, you’ll see that your job is not your life. Far from it, once you start invest in yourself, instead of shady “for-profit” universities, you’ll be the one laughing all the way to the bank.
#2 Develop a Passive Stream of Income
As smart and independent Millennials, we don’t like following other people’s made-up rules, and we don’t like being anyone’s bitch. And what better way to NOT be anyone’s bitch than to have our own stream of passive income. Once we have that, we’ll be fully self-reliant, and we’ll never be anyone’s bitch again. Not the bank, not your boss, and definitely not the Boomers.
When you have enough FU money to generate enough income at a 4% withdrawal rate to offset your living expenses, you’re free to live however you want.
#3 Stop Overpaying for Houses. Rent Instead.
I’ve been called all sorts of names, like “Loser”, “Idiot”, and “Dumbass”, for not owning a home. And most of these names came from my own parents. They’ve been pushing me to buy a house for the past 8 years, and I’ve steadily held my ground and resisted following the herd.
This has changed my life dramatically.
Well, when my parents bought their house in the late 90s, the cost to earnings ratio was only 2X. Now, even with a banker’s salary, the cost to earnings ratio is 10X for me! That’s 500% the burden my parents had! Which is just ridiculous, because housing prices have been skyrocketing, but salaries have barely kept up with inflation. So why buy when I can rent for much less, and have the freedom to leave whenever I want.
Because I rented instead of owned, I could leave my job whenever I wanted, travel the world, and live the life I’ve always dream of. My friends, on the other hand, are stuck at their hateful job, working crazy hours, and killing themselves over their mortgages.
And sure, their houses may appreciate over the next 20 years, but in that time, my portfolio will have beaten those gains (see “Housing vs stock through the years” below), and I will have lived a happy stress-free life in early retirement, while they live at the mercy of their corporate overlords.
Many of my friends think renting means throwing away money. But, what they don’t realize is that by covering the rent with the dividends from a diversified portfolio, you’re actually renting for free! This gives you the freedom to travel anytime you want, without the stress of maintaining a property.
So by choosing a degree with excellent ROI, creating my own passive income stream, and not buying an overpriced house, I’ve managed to live the life of my dreams by NOT following the Boomers’ Dream.
Boomers think we are lazy and irresponsible, but what they don’t understand is how much the world has changed. They want us to follow their dreams, without realizing that their dream is broken. Going to university, finding a stable job, buying a house and working until you’re 65 is no longer possible. We now live in a world where university degrees are a scam, stable jobs are a myth and houses are a ball and chain. What worked for boomers no longer works for Millennials. So in order to be successful in this new world, we need to stop getting overrated degrees (with bad ROI), develop our own stream of passive income, and rent instead. Once we become completely free of our dependency on greedy corporations, we can follow our own dreams. We can do all the things our generation values: happiness, fulfillment, a life of adventure and passion, and using our endless creativity to change the world. Now that’s a dream we can all get behind.
So let’s prove to the Boomers we’re not “greedy, self-absorbed and wasteful little shits”. Let’s stop following their broken, outdated dreams and follow our own Millennial Revolution instead!
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19 thoughts on “Screw the Boomer’s Dream. Join the Millennial Revolution Instead!”
Yes no math , just pretty charts!
Fine. *sadly sets calculator on fire*
Don’t burn the Abacus, they are hard to find…
Can’t talk. Room full of toxic plastic fumes.
The dreams don’t much change. A family (maybe), financial freedom. Parents (Boomers) can only instruct their kids based on their experiences (what worked) for them. That does NOT mean it will be correct, or even work for you!!!
Come to think of it, maybe the ‘advice’ won’t work very well for Boomers themselves, as I see a LOT of my peers financially screwed now, in their mid to late 60’s with inadequate savings, and even debt loads coming up on retirement. YIKES!!!
Glad I didn’t listen to my parents either…
I am a boomer and don’t want Millennials to fail. In fact, I have two millennial children and I have been advising them not to buy a house, take a job they hate, get caught up in consumerism, etc. As boomers, we have been seriously looking at our lives and want to follow one like you have i.e. we are thinking of selling our house, renting, cutting our expenses and traveling around the world. I am not a millennial but I’m in for letting go of the boomer dream and creating a different future that will work for everyone, including future generations. I’m in for doing the millennial revolution!
It’s SO refreshing to hear from a level-headed Boomer! I’m cheering you on in your quest for freedom and once you actually take the leap, you’ll find that it’s not that hard. Glad to have you aboard the Millennial Revolution!
I love this. Technically I’m a tail-end boomer but I agree that assumptions about college and home ownership should be challenged. The trick is managing your portfolio so that a 1998 or 2008-like financial crisis doesn’t torpedo your goals.
As a boomer who has gone through the 1998 and 2008-like financial crisis I totally get it. We are still working to make up for the 2008 one (yes, we were one of the couples who held onto our Nortel shares…sigh). We have been saving for our retirement for a very long time and still worrying about getting to the finish line (whatever that is). We also want to not be a financial burden for our millennial children when we get older (unlike our parents who have had their hands in our pockets for many years…another sigh).
I loved the Wanderer’s post How Much is Enough? The 4% rule intrigues me and my reading on minimalism has caused me to think about what we can do to reduce expenses and live simply. Our quest to retire sooner rather than later, travel around the world and live financially secure until we are 95 (which is rather likely given longevity is in our genes) continues…
Love your blog and articles. But when I read this one, it strikes me as a huge irony. The “greedy corporations” make the shareholders (you and me) happy and will always chose to make us happy over the “worker bees/clogs”. However, if there were no cubicle slaves, then we could never realize our FIRE as their shareholders. In other words, we should be very thankful for all the people who slave away in the cubicles to make profits for the corporations, so that people like you and me can retire early by owning the “greedy corporations'” shares. Isn’t that ironic? Shouldn’t all the “clogs” workers hate you for that?
I have a little sense of guilt in me for this:-)
Agree. Lots to be thankful for! I think we also have to thank the banks and real-estate agents too. Without them and the housing cult, the corporate drones wouldn’t voluntarily lock themselves up in the corporate prison for decades to pay for their houses. So what I should really be advocating is longer hours at work and more expensive houses 🙂 Thanks guys for helping the rest of us!
I swear that housing chart seems off. For the past 100 years, housing has paced along with inflation and it is the stock market that has seen better return (except in some epic centers like San Francisco etc.) but I agree with everything else, especially #1. Holy crawfish are most university majors total scams and universities have no incentive to be transparent about graduate earnings and placement rate.
Not sure what you mean. The chart is showing S&P 500 outpacing housing.
It would help a lot if universities would be more transparent about graduate earnings and placement rate. Though I’m not sure if that would stop people form continuing to jump into programs with bad ROI. Would be interesting to see…
Oh snap, you were a banker? I thought you were some sort of software engineer? What did you use to do over there, my former fellow angry retail banker? Did you used to work in the branches at some point?
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
I’ve worked in banks as well as software companies 🙂 Never worked in the branches. When I worked for banks it was as a developer for banking software.
Latecomer to the party and I guess age wise in between boomer and millennial too.
When I was 18 I went out to work as did a lot of my friends. My parents were dead set against me going to University. So when I said I was going to Uni a year later they were very upset with me. Waste of three years, what are you going to do with your degree? how will you afford to live with no money etc etc. Turned out OK as I just retired a few years after going part time when I reached FI.
Maybe the lesson is to always question the conventional wisdom and do what you think is right for you. CW is often wrong and changes over time – often just as the thinking is becoming obsolete.
Your blog is awesome, thank you!! I find it uplifting and useful. I love the unconventional thinking on real estate. I live in Calgary, and real estate losses on rental properties AKA money pits over 2004-2019 hindered my progress a lot.
I’m down to one house and thinking of selling even that. I still find myself horny for one house, but we’ll see, I’ll keep crunching the numbers.
Thank you again for all the great ideas and content in your blog! It is really helpful.
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