Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Actually Gen X is more cursed than Millenials.


MissFITFI has just launched our latest collaboration on differences in Generations. You can listen by following the link here

A couple of days after doing the podcast, Jean Twenge wrote possibly the most comprehensive book on the differences between entitled Generations, and this has caused me to do a double take on the material I shared and in some cases, I cannot be more wrong. I hope that more objective readers will use this article as a guide to the podcast and if actually work in education or HR, this book is mandatory reading.

The first thing I'd like to point out is that there's an easy way to analyse all generations all at once. Generations are shaped first and foremost by technological changes that impact them. Secondly, every subsequent generation is becoming more individualistic and communitarian. Finally, adulthood for every generation is delayed further as adolescence gets stretched as it takes longer to train a person to be productive in the economy.

With this framework in mind, a few things I said in the podcast is wrong.

a) Actually Millenials are doing quite ok financially

As a highly educated cohort, Millenials actually earn well compared to Gen X by pure virtue of educational levels. The problem arises if you are an American millennial who is saddled with educational loans, for these folks their net worth is 11% lower than Gen X at the same age. The good news for Singaporean millennials is that they are not struggling to pay their educational loans, so I might venture to say that the gap in net worth may not be as bad as reported in the books. 

Gen X's biggest advantage here is that they get to buy homes when homes were well cheaper, but this cannot compare to the prices Boomers get. 

b) Millenials whine a lot because of social media 

If Millenials are doing better than Gen X or Boomers, then why are they such whiners? The answer is social media. As Millenials live in the age of Facebook and Instagram, they get hit by images of people having beautiful holidays and ridiculously picturesque lifestyles so it's harder to avoid envy. 

The fact that most folks don't share the harsh reality of life creates the impression that one's life can be better. I'm still waiting for Naomi Neo to share her household bills with us so that we will know what's required to live that kind of life.

Being bombarded by images of success (many inauthentic) create a generation with weaker mental health. 

c) Millenials do mature later and take a longer time to reach life milestones

We will definitely notice that Millenials become adults much later than Gen X. This is because it takes a longer time to train them to contribute to the economy. Take, for instance, reaching the CPF FRS. I was able to hit this target before I was 30 because the target was about $80k. Then compound interest took care of everything else. I don't think it's even remotely fair to expect a millennial to do the same.

Millennials will marry later and retire later than Gen X. I suspect over time, the sheer educational training MIllenials get will have them generate more wealth than earlier generations. 

d) If Millenials are cursed, it is because they are more individualistic than Gen X

We should expect Millenials to be more individualistic than Gen X. We should also expect the gender-fluid Gen Z to be even more so.

While it means being any gender or ay belief system, it also means the ultimate decay of religiosity and with it, avenues for building social relationships. I predict Singaporeans becoming less religious and community centres in their current form would become a waste of tax payer's money.

More millennials will die single, more will be lonely, and more corpses found next to gaming consoles.

Still, I can't argue that Millenials are cursed because Gen Z will be even worse!

All this being said, there are some harsh realities that Millenials face that Gen X does not. For one thing, most of the economic benefits for Millenials accrue to degree holders, specifically those with local degrees. Private degree holders face quite a big gap with their local degree counterparts. For Gen X, degree holders are a smaller part of the population so even if such a gap exists, it will grate on us this much.

Furthermore, as a younger generation, they could not participate in Singapore's miraculous growth into a wealthy city-state. Older generations will always seem like they are sitting pretty on the best real estate.

Still, as Gen X, we should also take a good look at our own generation. We are the CECA generation. One prominent IT professor called the technical professionals the Garbage in Garbage Out generation. We weathered the dot-com crash, the great financial crisis, and the pandemic. As our numbers are quite small compared to Boomers and Gen Y ( in the US ), we will find that businesses, pop culture and political groups will tend to ignore Gen X as we don't make the numbers.


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