OPINION: Millennial generation really should be optimistic about the future
PUBLISHED: 01:04 09 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:49 09 October 2017
Life really is considerably better than 30-odd years ago, argues our finance columnist Peter Sharkey.
One of my nephews, already a strapping six-footer (he’s 17), helped my brother and I chop and remove a nasty-looking fir tree branch threatening to fall. It took us several hours as the branch, perhaps 20 feet in length, initially dangled precariously some 30 feet above our heads.
As the rain became heavier, there was no question of anyone suggesting we call it a day: a collective display of determination which guaranteed a sense of inter-generational satisfaction and deserved back-slapping once we lowered the final piece to the ground.
Soaked, we retired indoors for a well-earned cuppa and a change of clothes. As we sat drinking our tea and wading into the chocolate digestives, conversation turned to the cost of subscription television and the quality of sports channels pivotal to the success of the subscription model. I was chuffed to add my twopenneth after recently persuading our cable TV supplier to reduce the monthly cost and throw in a few extras.
The cost had effectively halved, I announced, a revelation which drew an approving nod from my brother and an even better tale of saving from the nephew. Same package deal, same supplier, but he nailed it on behalf of his mother, my sister, for nearly 40% less than I had. It was almost enough to put me off my digestive.
I was reminded of this conversation after a pal sent me a link to The Millennial Bug, a 62-page report into “public attitudes on the living standards of different generations”. I was startled at its inherent negativity.
There are quite a few millennials within our immediate family, ie those born between 1982-98, and I’m fortunate to see lots of them. It’s no surprise that the nephew struck a good deal with his mother’s supplier; why wouldn’t you hand such negotiations over to a savvy teenager? Today’s millennials are less likely to be ripped off because their constantly-available mobile phones can update them on better deals in seconds. More of them have been in full-time education for longer than their parents; they’ll grow to be stronger and taller than their folks and can expect to live longer because they consume more nourishing food, wear better clothes, live and work in a much cleaner environment and enjoy comparatively cheap travel, enabling them to broaden their youthful minds.
Reading The Millennial Bug, however, it sounds as though they’re consumed with a form of blinkered, inward-looking pessimism which bears no resemblance to the often outrageously optimistic millennial attitudes I encounter at regular intervals.
The report says 53% believe they’ll endure a “worse life than their parents”. I’m not sure what that response is based upon, other than a yes/no answer to a simple question. There’s no analysis which supports such an assertion, but it’s disheartening to read, even if it’s only partly accurate. It should be noted the conclusions are based upon responses from almost 2,200 people aged between 16-75, though other statistics are based on data collected in 2012.
I’m not one for advocating I’m-alright-Jack inter-generational strife. I believe it’s the role of older generations to encourage, alert, educate and instil confidence in younger folk. To use a sporting analogy: if you take to the field of play believing you’ll lose, you’ll get beat every time.
Do we have social problems that need urgent attention? Of course we do, but things are considerably better than 30-odd years ago.
The main problem the millennial generation faces is getting on the property ladder, although in time perhaps they’ll take a leaf from Germany’s book and turn their backs on ownership and rent instead.
Buying a home has never been easy. Sacrificing restaurant jaunts, new clothes, phone upgrades or overseas holidays and saving instead is the key to success. Combine your savings with products such as Lifetime ISAs, rent-to-buy initiatives or 50/50 ownership schemes and it is possible to accumulate enough to put a deposit down on a home. Then, of course, there’s the Bank of Mum & Dad, now the nation’s tenth-largest property lender.
There’s plenty wrong with the UK, but there’s significantly more that’s good about it − enough to conclude that the millennial generation have every reason to be optimistic about their futures.
The week in numbers
Size of profits at Tesco for the half year ending August 26, 2017. The equivalent figure for 2016 was £71million.
New repayment threshold for student loans, while tuition fees will be frozen at £9,250. More good news for students came when universities minister Jo Johnson suggested a name change – from ‘student loans’ to ‘graduate contribution tax’. The response from graduates to Ms Johnson’s proposal has not yet been recorded.
Number of Portuguese Man O’ War sightings recorded by the British public so far this year, double the normal average. The fish resemble jellyfish but they possess stinging purple tentacles of up to about 32 feet in length.
Amount of salt in an average serving of ‘healthy’ pesto pasta, up from 1.17g in 2009. A McDonald’s burger contains 1.2g of salt.
Number of ‘large glasses’ in Waitrose own-label half-bottles of wine, said to be the perfect accompaniment to a ‘midweek evening meal’. Consumers who enjoy being part of the nation’s ‘wine o’clock culture’ may consider them a decent aperitif.
Number of employees working for Facebook in the UK during 2016, according to the company’s latest results. The company’s wage bill last year was £104million, which suggests that workers are collecting average salaries of £108,000…
Age of actress Jane Fonda, still able to wow the crowds as she sashayed down the catwalk at the Paris Fashion Show.
Peter Sharkey read economics at the University of Bristol. He worked as an accountant on three continents and has been a company director and investor for more than 30 years, building and selling three different companies.