Are Millennials the New Boomers?

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I never thought I’d say this, but are Millennials the new Boomers?

8 years ago when I started this blog, Boomers were the ones telling us that avocado toast was the reason we couldn’t afford to buy a house and that our lazy, entitled selfies and social media obsession were killing our work ethic and the reason our jobs were unstable. This led to viral trend of exasperated Millennials rolling our eyes and responding with “OK Boomer”. But now, it’s us who are complaining about Gen Z. 

Now that Millennials like me have reached our late 30s and early 40s, those who are in management are complaining about their Gen Z subordinates. When asked what she thought of “Lazy Girl Jobs“, Andrea, an early forties Millennial manager had this to say.

“When I was working for someone, it was like, you’re at the beck and call of your boss. You’re a workhorse, and you have that ‘Yes, Sir!’ mentality, which I know is kind of crazy but you wanted to look good for your boss,”

“If my boss calls me, I pick up the phone…If my boss wants to talk at 1 o’clock and I already have a meeting then, I’ll move it. That’s just my respect and responsibility toward someone I work for.”

 “[With Gen Z], It’s almost like I have to work around their schedule. I apologetically almost can’t tell them that no, this is a mandatory meeting.”

There’s no loyalty to the employer and that’s really hard. I have to almost tiptoe around these individuals because I want to make sure they’re happy, but this is actually absurd…there’s zero shame or apology,” Andrea says. “You have to live by their boundaries, and you kind of have to eat it, because at the end of the day, when I say I need something they’ll get it done.” It just might be at 2 a.m., or sent from the European country where they’ve decided — without asking permission — to work remotely for the summer. (An actual thing that happened.)”

Now compare this to what Boomers said about Millennials years ago:

“Baby Boomers are loyal to the companies they work for. They want to trust their employers and will not move companies as quickly as either X-ers or Millennials.”

“[Millennials] are not concerned about job-hopping. They will quit now and find that job later – and if that doesn’t work out they can always count on their helicopter parents for support.”

Eerie, isn’t it? Before I quit my last job, I remember working for another company that lost 90% of the employees they hired from my university after only a year because they were making them work from 8-9pm most days, while being on call for tech issues at night. Many of my fellow alumni described the experience as “being under house arrest” because they never had a life outside of work. After the mass exodus, the company decided to fix the problem, not by providing a better work environment, but by blacklisting students from my university because they’re “not loyal”.

And yet Millennial bosses are now using the exact same phrase to describe Gen Z. Have we lost our minds? Are we the new Boomers? Or are Gen Z *GASP* simply lazier than Millennials?

Now that the pandemic has made remote work possible, Gen Z wants to have their cake and eat it too. It’s not enough to get a job to pay the bills. Said job needs to give them fulfillment and the flexibility to do what they want to do.

This is especially true in how Gen Z sees remote work and travel compared to Millennials. Back in 2015, when we first went nomadic, it was rare to quit your job and travel. Digital nomads were seen are weirdos who will ultimately blow all their money on the road and have to crawl back to their North American employers after the money runs out and beg for their jobs back. The number of digital nomad visas was a big fat zero. Now there are over 40+ countries offering digital nomad visas and it’s no longer taboo to be a nomad. As a result, Gen Z workers are burning out after working as little as 9 months (compared to our 9 years), and travelling for 5-10 years with as little as $10,000 in savings while people in the FIRE community panic about “only have $588K” in their portfolio before quitting their jobs to travel.

That being said, it’s hard to argue that Gen Z has a weaker work ethic than Millennials, since Andrea the Millennial manager said that her Gen Z subordinates “get the work done”, even if it’s at 2am in the morning from another time zone. So then, who cares how or where they work from, as long as they produce quality work? They aren’t lazier or “phoning it in”. That’s just a difference in opinion about work styles.

Another theory is that Millennials are now entering a later in stage of life when we are saddled with mortgage debt and kids. We may just be jealous of Gen Z who are still in their 20s and have more freedom because they aren’t tied down with as many responsibilities as us. They don’t have parents in their 70s and 80s who need to be taken care of, a mortgage that’s crushing the life out of them, and kids to wrangle.

While it might be true that Millennials have aged and have more responsibilities than we used to, we’re still very different from Boomers. Here’s why:

More Politically left leaning

59% of Millennials affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, compared with about 50% of Boomers

More educated

39% of those aged 25 to 37 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with just a quarter of Baby Boomers.

More in Debt

 42% of Millennial families between the ages of 25 and 36 are in student loan debt, compared to 11% of Baby Boomer families

More diverse

There are 76 million baby boomers, and 28% of them are diverse.  The millennials are an even larger group with 87 million, and 44 % are diverse.

This makes us closer to Gen Z, who are on track to become the most diverse and most educated generation (48% are ethnic minorities) and have opinions on issues similar to those of Millennials.

So if that’s the case, why have we suddenly turned cranky and are calling Gen Z out for “not being loyal” and saying it’s “absurd” that we need to tiptoe around their schedule?

One reason is that as Millennials gain more experience in the workforce and move up the corporate ladder, they go from individual contributors to managers, and as a result, have more obligations to demand more from their subordinates, in order to make money for the company. That salary and title ain’t free.

Another is as more Millennials start families and choose home ownership, their expenses go up and they become more indebted and tied down to their employers. When you’re younger, you have less responsibilities and more freedom—especially if you’re not dependent on a steady job to be able to pay your mortgage and costly home ownership bills. In fact, according to a Bankrate survey, nearly 2/3 of Millennials home owners regret buying a home:

So, unfortunately, when you’re saddled with debt, you tend to seek more stability (less job hopping) and tend to project that onto your employees and call them “not loyal” for having the freedom to follow better opportunities and demand flexible work situations.

What do you think? Are Millennial the new Boomers? Are Gen Z lazier or is it just due to the life stage they’re in?


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35 thoughts on “Are Millennials the New Boomers?”

    1. LOL. Time to schedule our hip replacement surgeries?

      Oh and let’s not forget, Macaulay Culkin is now 43 years old. You’re welcome ;P

  1. Happily retired (early) Gen Xer here and it seems when you break it all down it’s not really that people changed that much over a few generations but rather just a difference in experience and life stage. Sort of the “you’ll see when you’re my age” thing. The differences in the stats of the people within the generations doesn’t drastically change how the world operates. It’s evolution not revolution.

    1. Yeah, that could be it. As you age, you do gain more life experience which makes you see things differently than when you were younger.

  2. I am a millennial, but an old one – right under the wire!

    When I taught undergraduate students while I was in graduate school, complaining about the younger generation of students was a favorite activity of my colleagues. The favorite target? Younger women. The way they dress, they way they talk, the way they spend their time, etc. etc. But you know what? They were great. Smart, driven, balanced, expressive. At the same time, women in the layers above me were saying things to me like I had “sidetracked my career” by having children as a student. And I thought they were deranged to even consider not having a family at the right time for THEM (rather than the right time for their job). Why must we continue the stupid cycle of picking on the next generation of women rather than supporting them and learning from them?

    We should be inspired by the younger generation, rather than trying to grind them into a pulp and fit them into the same molds we found to be so confining ourselves. Lazy girl jobs sound fantastic and I like to see the next generation of women prioritize their happiness and mental health rather than do what my generation did, which is attend hours of seminars on work life balance, change nothing, and watch our hair and eyebrows fall out.

    I post online about once a decade, but this one got me. I think it was the part about asking for permission. Permission. ugh.

    1. “We should be inspired by the younger generation, rather than trying to grind them into a pulp and fit them into the same molds we found to be so confining ourselves.”

      Well said. There could be some jealousy there too. It’s hard for some people when they lose their youth and freedom and see that in the next generation. It’s a reminder of what they no longer have.

  3. No, I don’t think any generation is lazy or more hard working. Each generation had different resources at their disposal and were either advantaged or limited by them. Baby boomers grew up in the era where most jobs were labor intensive, and everybody was educated in a trade by a more experienced teacher of the same trade. Therefore, most were limited to one trade and one job for life and thus they were cautious with their spending and having debt. Millennials grew up in an era of transition when technology was evolving at a fast rate. I still remember the first time I saw a computer, floppy disks and learning about the internet at 16yrs old. A decade later, I started learning new skills simply by watching online videos. Dialup modems got replaced by wireless modems, mobile phones became smaller, Video calling was developed, etc. Millennials thus grew up working but learnt to use technology to make their work easier and have a more balanced lifestyle. Gen Z’s are in an era of technology and could use iPad when they were still toddlers because they were exposed to them at an earlier age. They can get almost everything done at the press of a button and can process technological data at a faster rate than any other generation, leaving them with a lot of time for other things in life. As a result, Gen Z can work online from anywhere and value their freedom the most. Here’s a scenario, if a person from each generation was given a kitset to put together. Gen Z will most probably get a robot to put it together, Millennials will read the instructions to put it together and Baby boomer will find the materials too flimsy and will buy their own timber and make one from scratch. But each will finish their task.

    1. Interesting. I agree that every generation has their struggles and it’s not about laziness or hard work. It’s about the solution to combat the struggles for one generation will not work for another. As the problems evolve, the solutions also need to.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. It is life stage. Everyone of boomers, Xers, Millenials and eventually gen Zs will pass through stages of carefree mobility and thin loyalty but ultimately mature into responsibility and loyalty necessitated by obligations and life. So nothing really particular about any generation. Even the Silent Generation thought boomers had it differently and better, more irreverent in their teens and twenties. It will always be the case.

    1. Life stages definitely changes how you view things. You don’t know what you don’t know right? Each generation will not be able to understand that life stage until they get there.

  5. Every generation seems to look down on the next. We call them lazy because we feel like we worked hard to get to where we are now. In reality, we’re all just trying to get by. When we’re younger we balance working hard enough to make money with being as lazy as possible. It doesn’t really change when we get older, we just forget how lazy we used to be and blame the young people for everything. This is just a part of human nature and the way our current society works.

  6. I think it’s the natural order of things…each generation seeks to work less and gain more freedom than the previous one.

    Soon we all will be like those people in WALL-E. Robots and AI will be end up doing everything.

    1. “Soon we all will be like those people in WALL-E. Robots and AI will be end up doing everything.”

      Haha. That’s true until they turn sentient and murder us all. #Skynet #BeAfraidBeVeryVeryAfraid

  7. “Gen Z workers are burning out after working as little as 9 months (compared to our 9 years)”

    I had to sadly chuckle at this, because you guys only have 9 years of work experience yourselves, and that was enough for you to say fuck it, I’m out. I’ve been working for 20 years, unfortunately, because I didn’t learn the right way and bought the house and car first like every other gen X was told to. If I could go back in time there would be some changes made, for sure. Better late than never I suppose.

    1. It’s true. We are lazy house cats in the eyes of Boomers, who had to work for 40+ years.

      It’s ok, 20 years ain’t bad. You still have time 🙂 Once discover the FI path, you get there way faster than you think you will.

  8. Older generations calling youths lazy and lacking loyalty is a pastime as old as human civilization and probably older.

    This is Horace in Greece more than 2000 years ago: “The beardless youth… does not foresee what is useful, squandering his money.”

    It has always happened and will always happen. However the older generation destroying the environment to a catastrophic extent and refusing to acknowledge a problem exists despite a preponderance of evidence. History will judge “Boomers” and GenX quite harshly for that.

    1. Yup. Agreed. It’s very sad and scary and likely too late to fix it and and Gen Z and Alpha will suffer the most.

    1. Assuming ChatGPT hasn’t turned sentient and killed us all, probably the exact same thing that every generation says about the next generation. I wonder what their chosen mode of communication will be. Texting will be way too old school and “millennial” by then.

  9. For hundreds, if not thousands, of years once humans reach a certain age, we look at the generations that follow us and complain about “young people today.” All we can do ourselves is to refuse to follow were so many have gone before us.

    I’m a Boomer and have worked really hard at avoiding this. It’s not easy and I haven’t always been successful. I remind myself of three things:

    1. Over time humans evolve and generally values and behaviours change for the better
    2. It is ridiculous to make sweeping generalizations about vast groups of people
    3. If we don’t like younger generations then the place to look for the problem is in the mirror as we are responsible for those we brought up

    My last 2 employers were Fintech startups and at both I was by a huge margin the oldest on the team. I can say that I enjoyed working with Millennials and Gen Z’s far more that I would a bunch of old farts of my own age

    1. Awesome! That’s very self-aware and open-minded of you. I think it takes a very secure and confident person to be like that and not be jealous of or preachy to the next generation.

  10. “ 39% of those aged 25 to 37 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with just a quarter of Baby Boomers.”

    While they may have more degrees, I would argue they are much less educated. There was no such thing as remedial math or English classes in college when I started attending. A college education has been degraded in the last 15-20 years.

    1. “A college education has been degraded in the last 15-20 years.”

      This is probably true. College degrees aren’t as valuable for finding jobs as they used to be.

  11. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! So will the same people whose main comeback is “OK, boomer!” now be hearing *”OK, millenial!”?

    BWA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

    Dan V
    Taipei, Taiwan
    *May I have your permission to use this line sometime?

    1. “*May I have your permission to use this line sometime?

      Yeah sure.

      I expect to hear a lot of “OK Millennial” going forward. Apparently, Harry Potter is for old people now and no one uses Facebook. I’m only into old people stuff and no longer “with it” 😀

  12. Loyalty to an employer is tricky these days. My husband (Gen-X) has worked for the same public sector employer for over 30 years. And even then the only reason he was spared having to take a “package” during the economic meltdown in the late 2000’s was that he didn’t have 20 “full-time” years of working for this employer – he had started as a part-timer while still in high school. I think his work tenure is more of a rarity than the norm these days. Although he loves his job and is good at what he does he is prepared to move to a new job if this one goes away. He definitely does not take anything for granted. To him, it is not a matter of just being loyal (which he definitely is) but also being mindful that his job could still be gone in an instant.

    1. You’re right. Loyalty needs to go both ways. Blind loyalty makes no sense if your job could go away at any point.

  13. The requirement is fulfilled with the “END RESULT” and is not entirely rested in the “METHODOLOGIES”.

    Let’s say the requirement for each generation is to be in a hypothetical location “Houston, Texas”.

    Within this cohort, there will be million ways (METHODOLOGIES) of getting to the required destination, but only few paths (PROVEN METHODOLOGIES) that will get you there the fastest, most efficient and with high probability of success.

    Meaning, you will not prematurely die before your arrival to the final destination.

    Here are the “REQUIREMENTS:
    Requirement #1 – is coded deep within our genome – build up the resources and use the resources to reproduce.

    Requirement #2 – if you are talented and fortunate to earn more than the needed resources to pay for your own reproductions, make a difference (contribution) in the wonderful world that we are living.

    So instead of being the overzealous manager of the “upcoming generation”, after nurturing the collective group give them the “REQUIREMENTS” and let them chose their own paths.

    Good luck everyone!

  14. There are enough generalizations across now 4 generations in this article: boomer, Gen X, millenial, Gen Z. I’ve worked for 9 different employers in my career as a boomer. Have 2 close friends from university, same age….and each 6 different employers. Some employers were entirely different cities. Mine were across….3 different provinces. Only final employer, I could work part-time from home..

    Quite honestly, an employer should find a good balance of 1-2 options for office worker (very different from field jobs) to structure schedule and where to work with defined boundaries. My greatest concern for future is AI making next generations not as patient think deeply and long. It’s a long, hard acquired skilled. Now with MS capability with Co-Pilot software to auto-create a powerpoint slide presentation with few main bullet points from a complex 25 pg. report…I have seriously reservations over 1-2 generations what will motivate them to read lengthy, complex reports to sharpen critical thinking and analytical skills??

  15. Don’t blame them, its just a different world and they are being reinforced to live that way. When the government bails everyone out of every bad situation and you go through high inflation the lesson is to burn your today dollars today and worry about tomorrow when you get there. Who cares if you don’t have enough for retirement, the nanny state will make sure you are OK. If somehow my account were reset to $0 I might feel the same way. And corporate loyality, at least in my work experience, is a sure way to keep your wages lower than even the new hires with same experience. You are taken for granted, and when you buy and house and have kids it gets worse because they know you can’t afford to make a big change. Get job, need car, have kids, need house, etc. Its the old way and it needs to change. Signed, Gen Xer (the independent generation). 🙂

  16. Gen X-er here working as a hardware engineer. My employer is very traditional then they hired a new COO who is a millennial. All of a sudden I am “allowed” to have a hybrid schedule because he does the same. The corporate culture is still very resistant to it though.

    It’s not really a generational thing as much as many workers just prefer the hybrid/remote setup and being measured by accomplishments, not hours or presence in the office.

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