The Millennials: A New Hope or No Hope?

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It was hailed as a momentous occasion back in 1997. The Labour party, the outsiders in the General Election, won by a startling majority, and the New Labour movement was born. The skies appeared bluer (irony intended) than they had been for a while and the prospect of the working man and woman being catered for once again was looking like it was the top of the agenda. Flash forward twenty years and post-Labour, post-market crash, and, perhaps quite tellingly, post-Coalition, the Left been looking for that Labour party to answer their prayers. And as the turnout for the 2017 election highlighted the importance of the millennial generation and how powerful a voice they have collectively, hope is high on the agenda. But for that generation, in broad terms, it seems that with an attitude shift from mortgages and student grants to the era of renting and exorbitant tuition fees, the future doesn’t look bright. So, is it just a case of millennials squandering whatever money they have, or is the problem far, far deeper than that?

Are Millennials Materialistic?

Looking at the financial trends of the millennial generation, it’s hardly a case of being materialistic. The only things that point towards that are an increasing reliance on technology. Smartphones are commonplace, as is the need for a Wi-Fi connection, but it’s not just relegated to Generations Y and Z, technology is the way forward, and it clearly has been for the last ten years, and having a smartphone is an essential to keep up with the speed of life now. It’s about checking your emails, keeping abreast of new job opportunities, and all while working a 12-hour day in a fast food restaurant, care home, or coffee house where there were more than a hundred applicants for one role. Life is harder now, and the smartphone isn’t an item of materialism, nor should it be looked upon as that. Financially, this is their lifeline, and there is nothing else in terms of worldly assets they have to bequeath to the generation after. Renting is far more commonplace due to the rising costs of houses, and a competitive job market means a low wage which you have to be grateful for. ISAs, an overdraft, and smartphones may very well be the three things present if a millennial was to draft up their will right now.

The Attitude To Money…

The goals of this generation are not about the house and the car because the lack of university education (due to the cost) has a direct impact on the amount of “low-skilled” jobs being applied for. As a result, the service industry is thriving, and as it doesn’t pay much, the option for most people is to either rent or stay with their parents until they’ve saved up enough money. It’s an age-old cliché, but people clinging onto that dream of winning the lottery becomes a weekly topic of discussion because it’s the financial windfall that everyone needs. The pay gap has been steadily widening since the market crash in 2008, and while you see plenty of reports on lottery winners who are now living the life of Riley, it’s far more common to see people going back to their jobs after a while. Because people are far more used to having no money and a modest lifestyle rather than having a limitless choice, and plenty of lottery winners have managed to squander their fortunes, so it doesn’t seem to be the answer to our prayers, wherever we are on the pay scale.

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What Are The Options?

For those who are suffering austerity in one form or another, there is no denying the trend that self-employment has become the way to go. There are two simple reasons why there has been a vast increase in people going down this route. The first is a lack of options. Since the market crash in 2008, the trend in people wanting to form a business was born out of a lack of options. People getting turfed out of their jobs turning to eBay to sell their possessions to the highest bidder. And naturally the inclination to develop that further to see what they are capable of has created a whole smorgasbord of sites like Etsy, where people are making the most of their skills on the side to make a full-time wage. The other reason is because they could earn a lot more by being self-employed than by working long hours for an average wage. You only have to look on sites like Freelancer to see that for someone who is hungry enough, there is a lot of money to be earned. Couple this with the fact that self-employed freelancers are in control of their own life a bit more, and this results in much more emotional freedom. The figures between 2001 and 2016 showed that people working full time in a self-employed positon was 2.6 million, which has increased to 3.2 million in 2016, and so does this show that people are willing to forgo a higher salary in an unfulfilling job for a little less money and more freedom? It looks like it.

The Benefit Of Hindsight…

We won’t really be able to see the struggles that millennials face for another few years, but we can certainly see right now that respect is something that is high on the list of priorities, and so this doesn’t necessarily translate to people wanting to toe the line. But as access to digital information shows that people are far more aware of what their peers are earning now anyway. So while money isn’t the bottom line anymore, especially with a lack of options for equity and material goods, it means that younger generations, starting with the millennials, that this attitude shift towards a meaningful existence goes further than money and items. Financial success has been replaced by a means to an end and looking at the rise in austerity and others clutching their assets tight in an uncertain economy, the challenge of achieving a sense of financial comfort appears to be all that can be aimed for right now. New Labour was twenty years ago, and did it encourage any semblance of hope? We will see.

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