Monday, June 08, 2020

Generation X is beginning to suck but Millenials will end up even worse!

When I was younger, I hated the Boomers well before "OK Boomer" was invented. To me, Boomers were a wealthy generation of Singaporeans who made ridiculous amounts of money by sitting on real estate. They dominated the corporate world without having degrees, decent English proficiency or computer literacy. My generation was so much better but we ended up licking their boots for at least a decade of our lives.

Now the joke is on us.

Generation X failed to conquer the corporate world and now facing retrenchment in this COVID season. We also did not age well and are now at psychologically one of the unhappiest period of our lives. My peers used to revel in Cantopop, buy clothes from Lips Enterprises, read BIGO magazine and listen to grunge music by Nirvana. Today it is all about dwelling in the past and observing the successes of their peers.

I can observe that some folks my age are ageing in a worse way than Boomers before us and I want to extend a theory for readers of this blog. Boomers spoke shitty English and did not know how to use a word processor. Gen-X spoke shitty Python and did not know how to do eigendecomposition of a 30x30 matrix. Different eras have different standards to be gainfully employed.

It boils down to the sociological definition of Agency. Agency is a person's capacity to act independently and make their free choices.

One guy on the FB groups ( who owns this blog ) likened successful reskilling to be the same as OS upgrades. If we are conscientious in patching our operating systems, it is not too hard to get the latest version on our PCs. In my case, I had to write code to process JSON strings, but I had invested some time over a decade ago on learning XML, all I need is to do is to figure out how to use a JSON parser. Today, I am getting a closer glimpse on how robo-advisor allocated their assets because of all the software engineering tricks I picked up years ago. If you have not been patching your OS, you will be running deprecated software and may become decommissioned after the latest virus attack.

The essence of continuous learning and upgrading is personal agency and not government schemes. I have plenty of friends who could have used Python to write code to raise productivity or picked up investing skills, but many prefer to raise an alarm when a peer upgrades to landed property or get promoted to director. They can't develop the agency to think independently based on the circumstances they are on. The only time you see some life in them is when their kids have to do the PSLE.

So how do we detect agency in a person?

Let's start with the archetype of the person with the least amount of agency - uniformed personnel.

We all have that uniformed friend who is a policeman or soldier who thrives on a rigid structure. In the uniformed services, structured is already provided for you. You need to follow it and a nice payoff will be given to you at the end of the contract. I have that friend who thrived in the uniformed services but once he got out of uniform, he was slob, did not look after himself and slowly wasted away. Conscientious becomes contingent on a massive super-structure.

I am the opposite of uniformed personnel. I hate structure. I studied law because I like the way I can create a structure from disparate facts. I loved statistics because the numbers are pure chaos until you tame it with a program. In the army, I was really unfit and did so much RT, my PTI would make me conduct the warm-up because of my extensive experience. I hated physical exercise because my life belonged to the SAF.

But something happened as I became a trainer. Because so much is at stake for every lesson, I basically cannot afford to have an MC before a course. So for the past few months, I have gotten myself vaccinated, hired a physical trainer to tekan me, and started adding really unpalatable food to my diet like Flax seeds and Aylas yogurt.

As a structure of corporate employment was taken away from me, I started becoming more conscientious and regimental!

Policy-makers need to understand that agency will determine whether someone can reskill and be re-employed into a higher paying job. The Gen-X with the lowest agency can barely learn a three-course and be re-employed at maybe 40% of last drawn pay. Maybe the solution is to expand the uniformed services where training and employment can take place simultaneously in a regimental atmosphere with punishment as consequences of non-compliance. I prefer SAF as an employer of last resort rather than universal basic income.

SAF should be our version of universal basic income.

I hope to alive when Millenials reach their 50s. After all, they coined the term "OK Boomer". I want to know what kind of labels my children will use on them!

Mark my words - Millenials will have it worse than Gen-X

  • Corporations at least pretended to be loyal to Gen-X. Now they have stopped pretending.
  • Two market crashes made them averse to financial markets so most of them can't build their wealth.
  • Some hold much more liberal values and are enemies of capitalism and neo-liberalism. Two philosophies that may hold the key for the survival of some of their generation.
  • They need for actualisation and equality in the workplace. 
I suspect that the COVID-19 crisis will first trigger an economic downturn that will last a few years. But after recovery, a lot of Millenial and Gen-Z men will withdraw from the dating market. They just spent 3 months on Steam and Netflix - I bet, like me, they really liked it !

The FIRE movement played a role in all this. If Millenials cannot survive with any income stability, why start families and end up as insecure as the Gen-X of the future. 

We will the normalization of the BBFA in Singapore of the future. 

And when Millenial singletons become old and need to be looked after by taxpayers like my kids in the future, I cannot imagine the kind of labels that will be applied to them. 

My bet is: "Faster die already!"


  1. We are still in a long secular bull.

    Those who will benefit are the Gen-X's and early-Mil who had the balls to start investing during or soon after the multi-generational low in 2009, which came less than 10 yrs after a bad long drawn 2001-2003 recession (that occurred less than 3 yrs after the AFC) that is arguably worse than today's Covid recession from a Singapore context.

    Every generation has it's own large group of CMI's. There are plenty of such boomers since the dotcom bust started 20 years ago, but are largely ignored (except during opposition rallies & now on social media). While they sit on fully-paid properties, majority are aging depreciating HDB that are not easily monetised efficiently. They depend on children giving allowances for their retirement.

    Gen-X & millennials will also have their share.

    The current recession is just a blip ... a deep one, but basically an intermediate correction. Getting the economy back to 80%-90% of pre-Covid is easy, if you don't bother about infections & just open up. Which is what many countries are trying to do & will ultimately do by Q4 of this year. Afterall vast majority of infections are non-lethal & unrealised infection spread among the wider community is already likely much higher & wider than acknowledged.

    In the meantime for those who believe in govt intentions.

  2. I shared the video with my FB.

    Only thing more fun is the MDA rap.