How to Insult Millennials Who Are Barely Scraping by

Four years after receiving my bachelor’s degree in writing, I was finally hired for my first, full time, professional job—a job in my field no less. I had been working part time at the public relations firm that would eventually offer me a full time position for eight months, paying my dues, proving myself, and showing my loyalty. While working there part time, I was supplementing my income working as a barista.

During my last few weeks working at the coffee shop, I was training a new girl who had another job as an accountant. I asked her how often she worked there and she said 40 hours a week. I was baffled.

“I didn’t realize you worked there full time,” I said. “Why did you decide to work here?”

“They only pay me $12.70 an hour!” A strange statement considering at this coffee shop, she would only be making $7.75 an hour.

“That’s not bad though,” I said.

“It only works out to $23,000 a year!”

I was floored. I even felt a little defensive. I couldn’t help thinking about all the twenty-somethings I know that are scraping by with $16,000 a year or less. That since graduating college, I had gotten by on that much. That once I began my full time position, I wouldn’t be making much more than her $23,000 a year after taxes. Where did this girl get off? She’s 23. She has never once had to move back in with her parents since graduating high school, she secured a full time position, and is above the poverty line—from what I’ve witnessed, she’s far ahead of a great deal of millennials.

I’ve encountered a handful of millennials who have found relative success rather quickly. A few of my friends, for example, seem to have avoided the struggles so many millennials face or have faced. They all landed decent, well-paying jobs right out of college. None of them had to toil away at low-skilled, minimum-wage paying jobs that diminish your self-worth; they didn’t have to desperately beg for more hours at said jobs; and they didn’t have to scrap together multiple part time positions to afford rent, car insurance, gas, utilities, internet, student loans, groceries, etc. And they weren’t forced to temporarily move back in with their parents. They can’t fully appreciate the shittiness of living paycheck to paycheck. Of having to ignore much-need doctors’ appointments or car repairs, or crying to your parents because you have bed bugs and can’t afford an exterminator and your landlord and roommate are giving you hell like you spawned the damn things yourself.

I’m glad for all of them. It’s wonderful that they were able to experience such early success. What I have issue with is that they, like the girl at the coffee shop, seem to take their success for granted. They complain about being broke, which is insulting to everyone who has struggled to get by, to find a job, or has had to live with their parents. If so many of their peers are able to scrape by on $12-16,000 a year, shouldn’t $23-40,000 offer some cushion? If you only have to care for yourself and you don’t have serious medical issues, it should be more than enough to meet your needs.

I guess the ultimate point I want to make is never to take what you have for granted. Getting a full time job in my field took a lot of soul-searching; building up my self-esteem, self-respect, and self worth; and a lot of unpaid writing and editing work. This is the case for many millennials—they work shitty jobs, using their free time to do work in their field for free to build up their resumes, and live paycheck to paycheck for several years before finally landing a full time job. But maybe the struggle is a prerequisite for appreciating what you have.

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16 comments

  1. Between who? You and I? Or our respective generations? I’d say my generation has likely struggled more. As for the two of us…I really can’t say! You had to deal with medical bills I didn’t though, which may give you the “win.”

  2. I often take my job for granted. But I know several people my age (24) who would kill to have my circumstances: secured and gainful employment, benefits, own apartment (and I decorate well!), new car I bought right out of college that will be paid off in a few months, and I don’t have children to care for. This post is very thought provoking.

    • Thank you! Sounds like things are certainly going well for you and it’s awesome that they are. I’m glad this piece made you think about appreciating your success. Thanks for looking around my blog!

  3. I totes get the sentiment of this article, there are plenty of ungrateful people. But don’t we all want to vent sometimes? Don’t we all want more than we have sometimes? And taking on two jobs, more power to her! However, as far as full time jobs go, $23000 before taxes, expect around $18400 after taxes, if you’re lucky, pretty much has to be barebones for a full time job. But I believe we can assume she would have health coverage, even if she still paid a marginal fee for it, which is an obvious major bonus. Anyways, add a car payment, student loans, groceries, phone bill, utilities, and rent, and poof money is gone. not only is the money gone, but it’s likely To be in debt as well. I’d imagine it would be nearly impossible to live alone at that income. Even though she is young, I don’t find it unreasonable for her to want a more adult income and lifestyle. And who knows, maybe she doesn’t have anyone in her life to help support her financially. Maybe, she was forced into a passionless low-paying full time job because its what she has to do to get by. Many people do not have enough support from family and friends to rough it out searching for meaningful work in their desired field. I don’t mean to destroy your argument. You obviously have first hand experience with this girl. I just know pretty much everyone’s life is more complicated than you expect. Most people don’t like to talk about their real problems.

  4. Granted, things are always more complicated than they seem. And my point is not that this girl was living in the lap of luxury. More so, just that she was doing well for herself compared to many other millennials I know. As I said, I’ve had many friends scraping by on $16,000 or even less a year, who also feel the blow of income tax, have car payments, student loans, groceries, phone bill, utilities, and rent – I was once one of those people. And it was miserable. And I would have been ecstatic to have made $23,000 a year at that time in my life, or $18,000, as I’m sure many other millennials would be too. And yes, everyone needs to vent sometimes, including me. So I guess I just needed to express my frustration with the many people I’ve encountered who take what they have for granted, who don’t realize that compared to many in our generation, they’re off to a great start.

    • Ture dat sista! I get it.

      You know what really gets me flustered? When the generation older than us points out what lazy asshats we (collectively) are . When, quite frankly, it is their generation that is currently running the government, and making poor decisions that hurt our economy and welfare. We (collectively) would be happy to participate in the economy if there was any room.

      As Millennials, to get a menial full-time position we need a college degree, to kiss ass, and give our labor for free for at least a year to “gain work experience” and “build your resume”. And even then, many of us are unable to find the work we need.

      On a separate note, one very positive thing about our generation, and especially in the one younger than us that I see each day at school, is much higher levels of compassion. I think it is very possible that once our generation, and the one behind us, become the majority, it will be very hard for this country to go to war. To me, that is neat. 🙂

  5. I can’t believe anyone in such a prosperous country should have to worry that they can’t afford to go to the doctor, it really pisses me off. I’m Canadian, so I’m not trying to be gloat-y or annoyingly naive but it still shocks me. Students/young people have it hard enough already, it really bothers me that this is an additional thing you have to worry about on top of everything else.

    • You don’t sound gloat-y or annoyingly naive at all! It’s interesting to hear about our healthcare system from an outside perspective. A lot of Americans would love to see real reform, but unfortunately this is such a divisive issue our country.

  6. Great blog by the way, I stumbled by while looking up Drinking Buddies reviews and I just kept scrolling and scrolling! You write beautifully.

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