Platts: Thrifty young folks
I don’t typically let articles or studies about millennials heavily influence what I write about in this column. Mostly because the word millennial is greatly overused in the media, I myself am guilty of excessively using this label. But, from time to time, I take notice of an article with the “M word” in the headline. Either because the content of the article looks acceptably original or because I respect the publication it’s been printed in.
That’s why I paid attention to the article titled “Those Savvy Millennials” in this month’s issue of The Atlantic. I’m not particularly religious, but this publication often serves as my bible. I love just about everything that comes out of it, even if I disagree with certain articles or ideas.
Anyway, one of the teasers on the cover of the May issue (also labeled “The Money Issue”) spoke of the smart spending tendencies of my generation. I was shocked for two reasons. First off, because I never thought the words financial, savvy and millennials could go together on a teaser for a story, unless it was printed in The Onion. And because next to this teaser was a huge photo of a college grad clinging to his diploma in a Starbucks uniform. This was related to an entirely different story in the issue, but still, it seemed to fit oddly well with the piece on millennials’ positive financial handlings.
Point being… this article grabbed my attention. Many of the facts in it I had heard before, like how this generation is dealing with historically high levels of student debt. And that we are marrying and having kids much later than our preceding generation did. But this article held even more facts that I did not know about millennials and our spending habits. Like, for women, it’s actually more lucrative in this day and age to hold off from having kids, so much so that statistics show that a woman who waits until her mid-30s to create offspring can earn $18,152 more each year than a woman who has her kids before age 30.
And for all of those real estate agents out there, you will be pleased to know that Generation Yers are more likely to put money in banks and real estate than Generation Xers. Though our bank accounts may not be as plump as theirs were.
Two other things about millennials’ spending habits that I was surprised to find out: we are saving for retirement earlier, and we hold less credit debt than the generation before us did at our age.
All of this information is fine and dandy … and gives us a certain amount of bragging rights, but what does it all mean for us young Aspenites? Things here don’t always seem to fit national averages and research statistics. Finding a high-paying, career-minded job in this town is not easy. And if we find one, it usually doesn’t pay the same amount that a similar job would in a city. So we aren’t putting a lot away in our bank accounts. And, as far as buying a house goes, the cost of a studio apartment rivals a decent sized mansion in the Midwest or the South. Meaning those of us that do buy houses will be paying them off for the better half of our lives. Plus, our town has very few drink specials. That had nothing to do with the Atlantic article … I just felt like it was appropriate to bring up at this juncture.
After looking at the Atlantic article and thinking about how Aspen is often the exception to these types of stories, one question came up: Why do we all choose to live here? This made me think of something that my boyfriend often talks about called “opportunity costs.” Meaning that some times an experience, or an opportunity, outweighs the monetary cost of something. An example of this is paying for a meal for a friend who can’t afford it, simply because you enjoy their company. Or choosing to take a cab home instead of appointing a designated driver so all can indulge in a few drinks. Or putting up with a town that has few cheap drink options, because the air just tastes better up here.
Living in Aspen and experiencing the town to the fullest is an opportunity cost. If the same studies printed in the Atlantic did a study of young Aspenites, I’m sure they would find that we are not as savvy as millennials in other parts of the U.S. But, oddly enough, I’m OK with that. It’s worth it for this view.
As a millennial, Barbara Platts likes considering opportunity costs often. However this often leaves her wallet in disrepair. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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