Different expectations lead to an improved standard of living
By Monica Sanchez
Earlier this year at a MOTH storytelling event in Silverlake, an elderly participant, after an unfortunate incident with her husband, claimed that “the American dream was dead.” And yes, essentially, the get married, have two kids, and live out your days in peace behind a white picket fence dream has died, and a new dream has risen in its place: the Millennial dream.
Sure, it was easy to find heaven in a white picket fence when the average individual didn’t know much of what lay beyond the local community. But thanks to Millennials’ best friend WiFi, the picket fence dream pales in comparison. Millennials are flooded with an endless stream of options that have opened their eyes to a world of possibilities and have them grasping at happiness their parents had never conceived for themselves. Although, it still is as much of a struggle to achieve the Millennial dream as it has been to reach the American one.
But these are the three main ways Millennials believe they will attain it:
Millennials yearn to explore areas unbeknown to them. In statistics gathered by Millennial Marketing, “69% of Millennials say they crave adventure,” and “79% of Millennials would like to visit all 50 states and 75% would like to travel abroad.”
Scrolling through Instagram, it’s not hard to see why Millennials have such a strong eagerness to travel that makes them feel restless. Millennials are bombarded with image after image of the gorgeous, the tropical, the fast-paced city life, and the weird yet alluring places that they are more or less told they are missing out on.
As a result of social media and easy access to more affordable opportunities via the world wide web, “half of all Millennials report taking four or more overnight trips a year compared to 75% of non-Millennials” (Millennial Marketing).
There are so many complaints about Millennials recently, but Millennials add value to the economy because they “make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases” (Millennial Marketing). It’s hard to believe people still gripe about Millennials when they’re gladly willing to take their money. Millennials have an urgent calling towards adventure and new experiences. Add that on top of their monumental buying power, and the Millennial Dream has essentially created positive growth in tourism that is highly beneficial to the economy. For instance, the Millennial goal of satisfying wanderlust can improve the status of many local economies in America and around the world, which may not get as much tourists passing through as other areas and therefore have less currency circulating in their communities.
Building a Partnership, Not a Marriage
No, Millennials are not against the idea of marriage. In fact, the root of the issue is that they want something more meaningful than a marriage, a loving and caring partnership, in which both sides are considerate of each other’s feelings. After growing up around the traumatic horrors of strict gender expectations, a lot of Millennials have strayed away from wanting to commit to a marriage, where there are certain rules and expectations. Instead, Millennials have sprinted towards the idea of building a meaningful relationship with their partner, whether they choose to get married or not.
To Millennials, the concept of marriage promotes the idea of splitting housework, in which men have their responsibilities, women have theirs, and those boundaries are never crossed. However, Michael Kimmel, sociologist in gender studies, suggests the radical notion of “sharing housework” in his Ted Talk: Why Gender Equality is Good for Everyone-Men Included. In fact, Millennials would rather share, as Kimmel suggests, because “Millennials believe parenthood is a partnership. 64% of dads [and] 50% of moms believe they have equal responsibility of child care” (Millennial Marketing). Kimmel confirms, in his book Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, the fact that there has been a shift in the household dynamic and men are doing “tons more childcare,” but he explains that there is still room for improvement where common household chores are concerned.
Whether they liken themselves to a feminist, like Kimmel, or not, Millennials tend to agree that sharing the work in a relationship is fair. No modern woman wants to be slaving over a hot stove all day shoved in a tight dress over a tighter corset, and no modern man wants to be crushed under the weight of the financial burden alone.
In order to sustain a long-lasting partnership, Millennials also expect their partners to work just as hard as they do. Millennials have grown accustomed to the idea that, despite the person in question, there lies the opportunity and the right to work. Therefore, Millennials expect their partners to work and contribute financially to the household too.
It’s a well-known joke among Millennials who have resorted to the use of dating apps to find a partnership they can build that the job title of entrepreneur, freelancer, or CEO is code for unemployed. Most Millennials, both men and women, swipe left instantly on those people and will not even consider trying to get to know a person unless they have a job that seems meaningful or matches their level of expectations in order to build a lasting partnership.
Aside from financial stability and mental well-being, Millennials want to focus on building a meaningful partnership first due to the rising divorce rate looming over their future. Millennials don’t expect every marriage to last since about half of marriages in the United States end in divorce anyway, according to the American Psychological Association. Millennials know those statistics don’t look good, which is why they don’t jump the gun and marry their high school sweetheart.
Gaining Intrinsic Rewards
Millennials place a higher value on intrinsic rewards, like giving back to the community, rather than extrinsic rewards, such as money. Why? Well, matters related to social justice receive a high level of attention from Millennials because they feel a pressing need to make their voices heard.
Surprisingly, social media plays a big part in the mindset of Millennials placing value on intrinsic rewards. While Millennials are staring at their phones all day scrolling and swiping every which way, they are devouring an enormous amount of news, whether it is real or fake. Millennials are likely to click on any tag that’s trending, and tags that consistently reach the top of that list are popular news stories, a lot of them related to social justice and other serious issues occurring locally or globally. As a result, Millennials tend to be well-informed about current issues in society due to the fact that they keep up with trending topics.
Because Millennials are ‘#woke,’ “almost 50%…would be more willing to make a purchase from a company if their purchase supports a cause” (Millennial Marketing). When Millennials purchase a product and 10% of their purchase goes to charity or their purchase enables the company to also purchase the product for a child in need, such as TOMS shoes for example, then Millennials receive an intrinsic reward through their buying power that they believe is more important than holding onto a few extra bucks. In fact, “37% of Millennials say they are willing to purchase a product or service to support a cause they believe in, even if it means paying a bit more” (Millennial Marketing).
Making socially conscious purchases, even if it’s more expensive, is a vital part of the Millennial Dream because Millennials don’t want to be passive participants in life. They would rather be active contributors. Obviously, this value of contributing to the community raises the cost of the standard of living, but Millennials have accepted what older generations have not yet, that one must pay higher prices in order to see positive change in the world.
At its core, the good old US of A continuously claims to encourage others to explore new opportunities, support equality, be neighborly, and pride itself on building a community of positive leaders and contributors. The Millennial dream represents all of these positive attributes while the American dream tends to focus on more narrow, self-centered goals.
Recently, the American dream has become a thing of the past, which in the end is a positive change. This evolution in ideals has opened up the gate for Millennials and future generations to more rewarding and exciting opportunities. And to be honest, it’s time to accept that white picket fences are hideous anyway. With each generation, “the times they are a-changing,” as Bob Dylan would preach. So let’s embrace the Millennial dream, a vision where new expectations lead to a better standard of living for all.