At the risk of using such a negatively-connotated term, let me paint you a picture about the world of millennials. They earn about 20% less than Baby Boomers did at the same age, despite higher levels of education and a higher cost of living today We have disproportionately larger amounts of student debt, and we're postponing major life milestones such as getting married, buying a house, and having children, due to our lower net worth.
Most companies today are getting rid of their pension plans, so we have less of a retirement net to fall back on. Real estate prices and college tuition rates have astronomically surpassed rising inflation to the point where it's so depressing, it's almost comical. As competition for jobs rise, new hires are expected to have more prior experience, take on more responsibilities and work longer hours to earn their keep.
Suffice it to say that things have definitely changed for 20-or-30-somethings in America, and we're just not satisfied. Thus, so many millennials are rejecting the notion of a "stable career" and taking leaps of faith with the hopes of reaching financial freedom.
There are several reasons people of my generation are looking to create additional income streams. Many millennials just aren't earning enough with their full-time job, and require a "side hustle" or two to supplement their income. The average starting salary for college graduates is $50,390 (but keep in mind that this is the average. The salary for an entry-level job in America can be as low as $35,000). If that's your income and you want to own property or have children someday (not to mention pay off those student loans), you're going to need to get fiscally creative.
Regardless of their current salary, many millennials see an enormous potential for new and unconventional ways to earn. Thousands of people have already taken advantage of creating passive income streams or working online and have broken out of the 9-to-5 loop. You've likely seen people on social media who constantly travel or spend unlimited amounts of time doing what they love or with their loved ones — and who wouldn't want that for themselves?
But is all that really possible? It sounds too good to be true. It seems much safer to do what our parents did: work 40-45 hours a week, take a week-long vacation once a year, and retire in 40 years with a ripe 401k. You might be thinking that millennials are so entitled to believe they shouldn't have to work hard like their parents. But let me explain.
Things have changed. Millennials face an entirely different economy, work environment, compensation, and benefits package than our parents did. In addition, our priorities as a generation have fundamentally shifted. We value independence and thrive on innovation. We're willing to work arduously when there's an intrinsic reward. A lot of us prioritize time to pursue personal hobbies and passions, and travel. We also want to make an impact on the world, advancing science, health, and human rights.
With time as our most precious resource, many people don't necessarily want to trade hours for money. In other words, be a wage worker. Millennials have high standards, but that's because they realize some sacrifices are not always required to have a good life. There are indeed many ways to make money outside of a typical full-time or part-time job, and while most of the Gen X'ers were content with it, millennials are refusing the beaten career path and carving out their own. If it's potentially possible to have it all, why should millennials settle for the sake of normalcy?
This is why millennials are compelled to go against the grain. Entrepreneurship, digital content creating, freelancing, and other unconventional career paths are far from being secure or reliable. But millennials are figuring out a key factor for success: they're learning how to work smarter, not harder. This is an important distinction, because many baby boomers and gen X'ers will insist that millennials aren't willing to get their hands dirty and put in the work. Rather, millennials are being more selective about which work is worth the effort. If more companies started to offer the things millennials value, like flexible hours, remote work arrangements, and socially-responsible initiatives, then maybe less of them would be leaving the 9-to-5 for something more rewarding.
But for now, it appears that millennials are looking for a better return on investment.
This often involves making riskier moves, and doing what others are too afraid to do. But if there's one thing millennials do well, it's shattering traditions in which we see no use anymore.