Whoever labeled Baby Boomers the ‘Me Generation’ back in the 1970s got it hopelessly wrong. In answer to the question ‘Will the real ‘Me Generation’ please stand up?’, it’s Generation Y who jumped to their collective cyber-feet and grabbed the crown. The Baby Boomers might have appeared momentarily self-absorbed, but it’s this generation of me-me-me’s that perfected the art of inner-healing, self-searching, me-time and finding oneself.
If there ever was a generational gap, the divide between the Baby Boomers and Generation Y (otherwise known as the Millennials) is nothing short of a hopelessly broad crevasse of Bear-Grylsian proportions. Distinctively, Generation Y is the first generation to have grown up with DSTV, the Internet, cell phones and gaming. Whereas the Baby Boomers watched television as a form of passive entertainment, Generation Y regards television as an interactive, engaging experience. Think Survivor, The Kardashians, Idols and Britain’s Got Talent, and you’ll soon appreciate that the Millennials don’t watch television – they participate in the show using all five senses – together with an impressive array of digitally-linked appliances. Shaped by Mandela’s release, September 11 and the Iraqi War (which they watched live from the comfort of their sitting rooms) this generation is perfectly comfortable with the concept of globalisation. In fact, with cyber-friends the world over, this is the most multi-cultural generation that ever lived.
They’re also the busiest. And if you don’t believe them, just ask. Their entire lives are meticulously mapped and superbly synchronized via a network of high-cost gadgets and a glut of social media applications that make Outlook appear positively Victorian. It’s no wonder that the average Millennial suffers from a comparatively shorter attention span which overflows, somewhat detrimentally, into their work life. Along with their diminished attention spans and a high propensity for chronic boredom, research shows that members of Generation Y have shorter career perspectives, with a tendency to move between jobs at a somewhat rapid rate. Whilst their desire for diversity can be applauded, it appears that Millennials tend to think little of preserving any retirement savings.
While Generation Y might be technologically savvy, it appears that they’re less financially astute than their career-junkie parents. In fact, research shows that Generation Y is destined to become the first generation in history that is financially less secure than their parents. Somewhat over-indulged by their Baby Boomer parents, Generation Y was raised with the world quite literally at their ever-texting fingertips. With 24 by 7 access to on-line loans and unjustifiable amounts of credit, it’s little wonder that a quarter of Generation Y has more debt than savings. Permanent access to credit has given rise to a ‘buy-it-now-pay-for-it-later’ mentality and a sadly diminished appreciation for the benefits of delayed gratification. Seemingly, their need for instant pleasure can fluctuate between mild impatience to the indignant behaviour demonstrated by young Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when she sang, “I want the works, I want the whole works, presents and prizes and sweets and surprises of all shapes and sizes. And now, don’t care how, I want it now!”
Having previously explored the concept of delayed gratification, specifically within the younger generation (see “I want it NOW”), it’s considered trite psychology that the art of delaying gratification is a common denominator in the accumulation of genuine wealth. The spending habits of Generation Y reveal a different story, however, with this generation currently trending as the fastest growing segment of luxury goods and services. Coupled with huge student loans, credit card debt and an economic recession, it’s altogether surprising that Generation Y continues to make luxury purchases a priority. The fact that the Millennials consider smart phones and iPads to be essential items as opposed to luxury purchases only serves to exacerbate the generational divide. They’re the least likely of all generations to be covered by medical aid, they recoil from preserving retirement savings and it’s believed that they’ll outspend the Baby Boomers by 2017. As a generation, they display more narcissistic tendencies than any other previous generation, having invented the ‘gap year’, the must-have ‘me time’ and the all essential ‘life coach”.
Innovators of communication and masters of information, Generation Y has everything it needs to achieve real and lasting wealth. With an indescribable abundance of information, research, communication and access, it’s sadly ironic that their inability to delay gratification may well prove to be the Achilles Heel in their quest for the independence they hold so dear.
Have a super evening!