Divided AmericaFinance

A Guide to Being a Millennial in Trump’s America

By Kate Haverston

LYNCHBURG, VA.  Photo by Chip Somodevilla)

Things are rough right now. No sugar-coating, no softballing. Our country, while still one of the most privileged and advanced places to live, is in a particularly bad place right now. And at some point in time, our generation — which already exhibits the highest stress levels and lowest motivation of any generation to date — will be called on to fix the monumental screwups of the past few decades. Probably pretty soon as well, assuming the looming nuclear holocaust excuses itself for the next few years.

When things are at their most grim, even the slightest glimmer of hope can provide a beacon to a better future. So here is my little nightlight for all of you, a couple of thoughts on living in this pre-apocalyptic America.

The Workplace Reality Check

If you’re a millennial, you were born between the years 1982 and 2004, which means you’re somewhere between 13 and 35 years old. With this in mind, most members of what people typically consider the “millennial generation” or Gen-Y are currently somewhere in their twenties, either going through college, recently-graduated, or just settling into careers.

This time, ironically, should be the best years of your life. Those of us living these years presently may claim otherwise. We might point out that, having stepped out of the shelter of home and college and into the real world, we find an uncompromising job industry built on experience and frankly disdainful of our entire age demographic.

“They don’t know hard work.” … That familiar muttered statement from the lips of employers who are, interestingly, roughly the same age as our parents. Nonetheless, “Someone should have raised them better.”

Never mind that we represent the low-end of the wage totem-pole while juggling the worst college debt the country has ever seen. Never mind that we were raised with unquestioning faith in our potential and must now temper our expectations with unpaid internships and unflattering entrance-level jobs.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, and the current administration supports the highest earners in large corporations, so we won’t be getting any help on that end. What to do? Try to check yourself during your college years, and begin applying to entrance-level jobs before graduation. Getting a job will be much harder than you expect, especially when employers see the recent graduation date on your resume.

Cost of College

Certain commodities naturally fluctuate in price. Gas, for example, depends on the international market and the oil reserves released for consumption at any given time. In other cases, these costs are unnaturally inflated by government intervention, or allowed to grow exorbitantly through a lack thereof. Housing and college tuition both fall into this category. For the young folks, these costs have a more direct and remarkable impact on life.

For the younger end of Millennials, the path to and through college gets tougher by the year. Tuition hikes midway through school skew the initial estimates for school costs, and trap students in the ultimatum of scrounging additional funds or abandoning their degree. Even those able to make it through with government loans and scholarships often face six-digit bills by the end of the process.

This is to say nothing of the new tax legislation, a part of which will make this route through school even more difficult for many already struggling with the cost. If you plan on attending grad school any time in the next few years, it might behoove you to put those plans on hold for a while: provisions in the tax bill target charitable deductions, decreasing the number of nonprofit contributions helping many get through grad school. An earlier version passed by the House also counted deductions and waivers as taxable income, so at least we can be glad that didn’t make it through.

Repaying Loans

Again, there are a few options for tackling this problem. Luckily for you, your bill is fixed and should not increase, provided you pay your loans on time and do not choose to defer them for any reason. The classic repayment plan takes ten years, and remains a fixed figure each month, regardless of how much you earn in a tax season.

High tuition costs make this a terrible option for many post-grads, especially those struggling to find a job. Other options scale based on yearly earnings, and provide a more realistic and flexible cost for repayment. These typically take 25 years and can see recent students paying negligible prices in their first years following graduation. This is particularly helpful for those in the arts, a field that requires a period of low-paying investment before blooming into an established income.

The Housing Crisis

As referenced, the state of housing seems to be something the current administration is not too concerned about. However, we are facing a serious housing and infrastructure crisis in our country. Millennials live with their parents now more than any other generation, and this is not out of laziness as some would have you believe.

In fact, many of them are very disgruntled that they don’t have the option to move out. In today’s housing landscape, the cost of living has simply outpriced many young people who are already struggling to pay off their loans and feed themselves on staggeringly low salaries.

If you’re about to graduate college, understand that while the temptation to move out might be strong, it may not be the best decision right away. Try to get a job and start stacking up your money first. If you’re really bent on moving out, try searching out roommates and living in an apartment. Living with roommates in shared housing is a proven way to save money early-on, and it can also be fun.

It’s unfortunate that so many of us would like to buy homes and start our adult lives but simply can’t. Don’t expect this to change anytime soon, as the Trump administration has blown fumes about the infrastructure and housing crisis many times, but has yet to actually do anything meaningful.

Gotta Stay Positive

It’s tough. But here’s something to consider: you’ve started with something no other generation has had: total and indistinguishable expectations of greatness. And though your mind scatters with thoughts of upward-mobility, you still have a lot of years to find that dream job or shape your current life accordingly. A day will come when you’ve paid your student debts, and your job doesn’t suck, and a new president is in the White House. Keep your head in the game until then, kid

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1 Comment

  1. George Davis
    December 29, 2017 at 7:48 am

    Why doesn’t your union call for a strike for better conditions?