Millennial Money: What is it, and how can we make it?

We were in front of our new home. I had run back inside for something– scissors, probably. We’re always losing scissors. But my husband was standing out front, telling our well-intentioned but incredibly nosy neighbor about our plans to repaint the deck.

“Of course you can do that,” she said, laughing. “Making that millennial money!”

When he told me about it afterward, I couldn’t stop laughing. Millennial money? Is that like Monopoly Money? In that, you know, it’s not real?

We painted that deck ourselves, with my dad’s help. There was one weird area we’d hoped to hire someone for. It dangles over a sheer, two story drop and the terrain at the bottom is too uneven for a ladder, even if we owned one tall enough. The lowest professional quote we got was $400, which we didn’t have, so instead my dad tied an extension cord around his waist (a great way to cut yourself in half) and dangled over the edge to paint it himself.  I would have quickly put a stop to this venture, but I was at work when it happened, the timing of which I don’t think was a coincidence. I don’t tell this story to encourage it as a course of action. In fact, it’s miraculous my dad didn’t die. Please, please do not try this at home. I only tell it to prove we are certainly lacking what my neighbor calls “millennial money.”

20170427_135812-e1515374529312.jpg

You know, some people pay a lot of money for jeans that look like this.

 

We both work at least two jobs. I teach full time (non-tenure track, because I’m not a unicorn, but thankfully not an adjunct anymore) at a university as well as serve as one of the administrators of a summer writing program for high schoolers. I also babysit and occasionally sell my writing. My husband works full time doing customer service for a major tech company and spends his weekends working overnight as a supervisor at a local university library.

Lazy millennials? Not us. And frankly, I don’t see many around me, either. My friends are hard workers, often working multiple gigs at once, with enough varied skills and experiences to make them valuable assets in any field. Nobody is making copious “millennial money.” So why are we all so broke?

Some of this is due to wage stagnation and the “rebranding” of job titles/positions to put more burden on the worker due to their new contractor classification or a lack of long-term security in their jobs.* The difference between what people think I make when I tell them I’m a professor and what I actually make is at least $20,000. And don’t get me started on adjuncting– I’m so fortunate to have a more permanent position for now. With my current job, I only have to reapply every year instead of every semester.

Some of my friends are broke due to a lack of financial education– I’m amazed by how little my peers know about mortgages, car loans, credit cards, student loans (a particularly crippling weight unique to my generation), and even the simpler stuff like budgeting. I’m further amazed by their ability to just brush it off, to dismiss it as “too scary” and move on.

Over the past couple years, I’ve become obsessed with frugality and personal finance. r/frugal, r/personalfinance, r/financialindependence, even r/preppers (hey! It’s relevant!) are frequent stops when I get a chance to browse the interwebz. And every time Frugalwoods or Mr. Money Mustache posts a new blog, I’m there to read it.

When I try to share these resources with my friends, though, they’re not interested. It’s too much, too fast. So I figure if I’m stuck with the absurd stereotype of “making that millennial money,” I might as well figure out how to make it a reality, and then help my friends do it too.

If you’ve got post suggestions, questions, or topics you’d like to see covered here, put them in the comments!

*Further reading on stagnant wages and the “gig economy” here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

*Further reading on tuition costs here: 1, 2.

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