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An Open Letter to the Older Generations

Google Auto-Complete Search (March 24, 2016)

Hey there!

It's me, one of the Millennial generation!

Now, before you start winding up those cracks about how I'm an entitled and lazy punk that can't get out of my mom's basement, I just wanted to get some information straight.

For one, I worked pretty hard to get through college. I made many mistakes along the way, as any young adult might, but I did graduate with a degree in Technical Writing and have been able to hold a job ever since.

To pay for college I had to work at a local retail store, usually late night shifts, while also taking classes during the day. Tuition was expensive. In fact, the University of Central Florida estimated that the cost of attendance from 2006-2007 was $12,426.00. That expense assumed I was in-state and living with a parent. If I wanted to step out on my own, the same estimate jumped to $16,500.00.

You can check the information for yourself here.

My job allowed me to work nights and weekends. While the minimum wage was $5.85 at the time, I was able to secure a job that paid $8.50. I worked between 20-40 hours a week at my job. The full time positions were usually reserved for what they called "lifers," or individuals that were not expected to ever leave the retail industry. Assuming I calculate an average of 32 hours, I made a gross income of about $14,144.00 annually.

This means that if I had not been taxed, at all, my yearly income would have been enough to cover the cost of attending university. Now, remember those calculations are based on 12 credit hours a semester, which is considered "full time". You need 120 credit hours for a degree. So, if you only take the 12 credit hours it can easily take up to 5 years to finish your Bachelor's degree. It's far more likely that you'll take 16-24 credit hours, which increases those calculations substantially, but I digress...

So here I am, making just enough money to attend university while working a job at just under full time status. The first thought might be to simply get a second job, but remember that you're still attending University, which means you need to be awake and attentive to graduate, so you're quickly running out of hours to squeeze in more paid labor.

Cost of Living in the Orlando area would be an average of $23,632.44 annually for a single person. This is based on $869.37/month for living expenses without rent and the average rental of a single unit apartment which is also $800/month. More information can be found here.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that staying home with mom and dad is the financially secure option. That, with my parent's blessing, is what I opted to do. Because of that decision, I saved a lot of money and when I graduated from University, I was able to get a jump start on my career and independence.

Even then, I stayed at home long enough to get myself secure for the future. I didn't become fully independent until 2012 at 26 years old when I moved to Huntsville, AL.

At no point did I feel entitled to my parent's generosity. No, instead I was quite thankful that they offered to harbor me long enough to let me secure my future. Nor did I become lazy, at least no more or less lazy than any generation of young adults.

The story above represents a young man lucky enough to live close to a major university, to have the luck of securing a paying job that was flexible with my college classes, to have the luck of living at home with parents who didn't make fun or ridicule him as a lazy millennial. I am, thankfully, able to deflect your cruel remarks, but what if I was just now turning 19 or just now attempting to tackle school...

The truth is, dear older generation, that you're harassing today's youth; a generation that faced one of the country's worst financial hardships, must now try to land in an ever-narrowing middle class, and that will likely have to take on student loans to pay for the massive increase in the cost of education.

Here's a few scenarios where your facebook rants cause problems:

"If you want to flip burgers or take a job without experience, you shouldn't expect a livable income. Go to college!"
Okay, fair enough. Unfortunately, that means a young adult is left with only minimum wage options while in college, which means paying for an apartment is out of the question. Maybe, if you get a roommate, you can find a place cheap enough to rent, but now you can't afford school... so you decide to stay at home with mom and dad.

"You still live with your parents? This generation is so lazy!"
Okay, wait. We made the financially responsible decision to stay home and go to school locally, and now you're making fun of us for it? Okay, you're right. We trust your wisdom as the generation that can guide us and teach us. We should move out of our parents' house. So we take on student loans and go to school.

"You have how much in student loans? Why would you put yourself in that much debt?"
Because when we moved out of our parents' house we couldn't afford living and schooling. Student loans were the only option. Oh, and we still had to have a job and a roommate just to make the cut.

"All those loans are your own fault. You could have just gotten a job out of high school like we did."
Right. Except, no, we can't. Even the trade skill jobs that Mike Rowe is busy promoting require training at specialized facilities, which can sometimes run in the thousands of dollars and require that we move halfway across the country, which means we need to be able to rent our own place. Oh, right, except the only jobs available are flipping burgers and we can't expect a livable income from a job like that, so we've been living in poverty since graduation.

"Well if you didn't want student loans you could have just joined the military for free college."
Seriously? You don't really believe that, right?* Assuming that every other argument against this theory failed, how do you take into account those of us who are rejected from service due to medical conditions? Are these individuals doomed to flip burgers?

Assuming you do survive your time in the military. (I don't say this sarcastically. I worked as a contractor for the US Army for three years and there were plenty of e-mails that filtered through as military personnel were lost) How exactly do you hold a job while you go to college? Remember, you're still only a high school graduate and jobs require experience. It's possible your time in the motor pool will get you a position at Discount Auto Parts, but you'll still be making minimum wage. This means you'll either be living at home with your folks, or if you're really lucky you can move in with your friend. It's true that military vets are finding more jobs than they have in the last seven years, but let's remember many of those numbers include burger-flipping.

So no, let's not pretend that the military is going to make your struggles to complete college and get a job when you come home any easier. The tuition might be covered, but now you're at a minimum four years removed from the workforce and you'll still have to work minimum wage while you aim to finish school.
"Well, if you want to flip burgers or take a job without experience, you shouldn't expect a livable income. Go to college!"
And rinse and repeat.

I'm not going to lie.

The last year of listening to the older generation make these cruel remarks on Facebook, with not a moment of hesitation to think about how many younger individuals might be hearing and seeing what they were posting, has made me question how I feel about the so-called "greatest", "silent" or "baby boomer" generations.

In fact, all the negative comments about millennials is leading millennials to actually believe they are the worst generation, something that has never happened before. A recent Pew Research study found that, "The older the group, the more positively they saw themselves."

 If you continuously beat someone and tell them they're terrible, they'll eventually start to believe it.

So thanks for all those cheerful digs against our work ethics, our lifestyles, our financial security, and every other cruel thing you've said about us in the last year or so.

You've really given my wife and I a lot of insight and I assure you that as we prepare to become parents, to begin raising the next generation, we will take all of it into consideration when we decide who we want our children to be around.

Yours Truly,
Joel


* I have a great amount of respect for the men and women who serve in our military. The sacrifices they make to defend our liberty is never something I would dare challenge. To ignore the dangers that our troops face every day and promote active duty as a viable solution to the rising cost of education does not translate to me at all. In no way. I want our citizens to join the military because they desire to protect the freedom of these United States for future generations, not because they want a good job and this is their new requirement.


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