Why '80s and '90s babies see money a lot differently than their parents do.
OK, here's the thing: Millennials get a lot of flack. A lot of it.
As a millennial myself, I see where the stereotypes start and where they end, but I know one thing for certain: We're shaking things up. And in a world where the status quo isn't always right, that's not a bad thing.
Millennials have changed how some workplaces operate — shoutout to flexible work options and companies committed to social change. Millennials are the generation that helped elect the first black U.S. president and helped make social sharing an integral part of daily life, creating entire new industries to support it. The status quo is shifting.
But as much as the millennial generation is defined by advancement and a desire for change, it's also been shaped by hard economic times.
With fluctuating economies, a lack of financial literacy, mounting student debt, and the growing assumption that retirement is a luxury many just won't be able to afford, money is definitely on our minds.
Is it in our conversations, though? There are so many benefits to talking about money. One of the biggest benefits is simply realizing that you're not the only one facing certain challenges. But even for millennials who seem pretty comfortable talking about everything else, not talking about money — aka the money taboo — is still somewhat the norm.
Why is that?
Talking about money makes people feel vulnerable — and that can be pretty uncomfortable.
When someone understands your finances, they understand so much of your life because money is, in many ways, the foundation on which we build our lives. And society itself has a complicated relationship with money. In an essay on the money taboo, Richard Trachtman cites psychologist Carol Lloyd:
"In a society that claims to be a classless meritocracy on the one hand and a capitalist paradise on the other, there is no acceptable level of wealth. We have to pretend to be equal even as we know ourselves to have vastly different opportunities depending on our income."
Money talk invites judgment. It also used to be seen (and often still is) as kinda rude.
Emily Post, the queen of manners, made it very clear in her 1922 book of etiquette that money shouldn't be a topic of social conversation:
"Only a vulgarian talks ceaselessly about how much this or that cost him... A very well-bred man intensely dislikes the mention of money and never speaks of it (out of business hours) if he can avoid it."
Change may be in the air, though. Millennials are speaking up and talking about money in ways no other generation has.
According to Facebook IQ, 40% of the financial conversations taking place there are driven by millennials, on everything from credit cards to investments.
So while in-person conversations about money may still be a little tricky to navigate, social media has done millennials a solid, offering a way to discuss money and poke fun at both the successes and struggles of financial management without feeling like a social leper.
Elite Daily — which calls itself "The Voice of Generation Y" on Instagram and has 1.4 million followers backing that claim — regularly pokes fun at the financial struggles millennials are facing.
Needless to say, they're not shy about discussing the struggle, and they do it in a away that's so quintessentially millennial: memes. With thousands of likes and thousands of people tagging their friends on each post, it's an avenue for discussion and a good reminder that we're all in this struggle together.
But, memes aside, millennials are actually pretty financially conservative.
And it's confusing the heck out of major industries, which are struggling to connect with the millennial audience to no avail. According to a Consumer Expenditure Survey, millennials aren't buying cars like previous generations did. And when they buy cars, they aren't driving as much. And houses? Well, millennials are passing on that too, for now.
Here's the thing: Millennials have seen how fragile wealth is.
With the stock market collapse, wealthy families lost the luxury of not discussing money. Middle-class and working-class families had to work even harder and stress the importance of money even further. Some never recovered after jobs were lost, parents aged, and income dwindled.
Millennials saw their parents struggling with the economy and arguing and talking about money.
Can you really blame millennials for being wary? We're more than aware of how big of a role money plays in our lives, and saddled with debt — student debt and national debt — there's a large hill to climb to feel some sense of financial stability.
So, are millennials really talking more about money? If not more, then definitely differently.
It's pretty clear that millennials are thinking about and engaging with money differently — our grandparents weren't commiserating on social media about living from paycheck to paycheck.
But are millennials talking about money more? The answer appears to be a cautious yes. The taboo still exists, but things are changing.
Reinventing the wheel is part of the millennial identity, and as people are trying to figure out how to manage their money on their terms and protect their children's futures, conversations are taking place.
One thing is certain: Times are changing and our relationship with money is a big part of that evolution.