Note to millennials: Your parents owe you nothing

Mar 28, 2024 | 0 comments

By Ray Horsley

A recent article in CuencaHighLife made the claim that Boomer parents are to blame for their millennial kids not being responsible. It mostly addressed financial responsibility but also blamed these parents in a vague way for not preparing their children “for life”. Among those referenced were several women 38 years old. One even began an online discussion group, apparently encouraging others her age to blame their parents, too, for any shortcomings they felt they had.

OK, let’s unpack this a bit.

For starters, if you really feel your parents failed to prepare you for life or financial matters, why don’t you call ’em up and get this missing advice now? If you’re only 38, your parents are probably still alive. If they’re not, then I’m truly sorry for your loss. If you’ve clicked them out of your life, a cruel behavior invented by millennials, then I’m equally sorry for your loss. Otherwise, give ’em a call! I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. I can see somebody in their twenties with a new desire to be independent and make decisions without any guidance. But anyone who’s looking at her 40th birthday has no place bellyaching her parents didn’t teach her what interest is. It’s been twenty years since you turned 18. Have you really spent two decades, especially in an age where long distance and even international phone calls are free, suffering because you’re too proud to call mom and dad? And this is their fault?

Aside from this obvious solution the inferred expectation here is approaching absurd; that parents work full time or more, pay taxes, provide for and raise children including getting them through college, save for retirement (so as not to burden those same children) teach all of life’s lessons plus how to handle all financial matters, all to the satisfactory judgement of each child and do it all before they turn 18.

As a quick aside, what’s interest? A bank lends you $1,000 at 5% interest. At the end of a year, you pay them back $1,050, less if you pay them back early, more if you’re late. It’s not that hard and it’s certainly no cause to go blaming the people who gave you life, evidently a pretty privileged one if you went to college. Other no-brainers in the finance department; if ya borrow money, well, ya gotta pay it back. Borrow money to go to college? Gotta pay it back. Buy stuff on credit? Gotta pay that back, too.

Another complaint is that millenials’ parents taught them outdated ways. Well yeah! They’re outdated now, but they weren’t then. Were your parents supposed to predict the future and teach those ways? The article also addressed millenial complaints about lending institutions on college campuses. And this is your parents’ fault? Get used to it. People have taken advantage of each other since the first cave dwellers. No generation in history has inherited a perfect world. Today modern predatory practices of major international conglomerates include Apple, Microsoft, Google, Youtube, Facebook, Tiktok and WhatsApp. And they’re not just on college campuses. They’re in our very homes. But it’s not anybody’s parents’ fault. You’re living paycheck to paycheck? So did I when I was 38. You don’t own a home? Neither did I when I was 38.

And our ever-changing times. How is this any different from any other ever-changing time? All times are forever changing. Quick look at how past generations of adults have faired. My grandparents suffered through the Great Depression. They lost what little they had and the generations that followed have not seen anything like it since. My parents fought in World War II, something else we’ve never seen since. Later on, they enjoyed a middle class lifestyle, for a while. Moms stayed home with children while dads enjoyed important jobs in huge auto plants and steel factories. But one day Japan began to make cars, Brazil made steel and moms wanted to work. Factories closed for good, the few jobs left were suddenly filled by women, and men who once worked for General Motors now served fries at MacDonalds. They felt “Stiffed” (an excellent read by Susan Faludi) but I don’t remember them blaming their parents.

The Boomers generation started out with a government threatening to draft all young men into a ten-year-long war in Vietnam. Later on, the whole idea of a full-time job disappeared as companies manipulated government regulations by only hiring part-time workers. Concepts like health insurance, pension plans and severance pay all became relics of the past. The word “benefits” disappeared long ago. Millennials don’t have to deal with a Great Depression, World War or even a draft. But somehow this “highly educated” group is blaming their parents because they’re not getting “expected benefits”? The answer to expectations unfulfilled as expected, is not to expect. The world owes you nothing. It’s absurd to outline some package of “benefits” along with a right to “expect” them and then blame your parents when things don’t turn out as you expected them to.

Quick look at how past generations of children were treated. My parents as children were to be “seen but not heard”. A generation later and we were allowed to speak as kids, but there were a few times when the words I chose got outta line. My dad chose none at all. Instead, he had a wooden paddle which quickly restored order and clearly communicated boundaries. It’s ironic how that same generation as adults quickly labeled my dad’s paddle as abusive. Somehow he and I were the best of friends from my teenage years till the day he died, my fiftieth birthday. And the millennials? They grew up in a very different world where punishment was replaced with understanding and special needs, where kids were to be listened to, treated with kid gloves. There were no losers. They were all winners and gloated over to the point of graduation ceremonies for kindergarteners. It’s interesting to look today at what all that produced.

Life is not something we glide on through, receiving on some sort of platter all the “benefits” we can “expect”. The very escence of one’s adult life is using available resources including your parents, calling your own shots and seeing how your own kids turn out. And it’s that last one, raising your own kids, that really puts us all to the test. Somehow millenials are finding excuses to opt out of this greatest of all responsibilities. They have fewer children than any previous generation, rendering any accusations of poor parenting thrown back at their own parents even more outlandish.

One of the comments in response to this article asks what’s the point of this complaining? What are we as their parents supposed to do now? Feel bad? Or does it go beyond that, maybe something more sinister? Is this another attempt to fabricate a debt, some kind of preferential treatment due that the rest of us have to pay this particular group? Is that where we’re going with this? Should the rest of us absorb college loans and credit card debt to compensate this group for what they themselves have deemed bad parenting? I don’t think so. But we can still offer some parenting: fabricating debt by guilt-tripping your own parents is not how to get ahead in life. We get ahead in life through hard work, good decisions and taking risks.

To put this into perspective, just read the articles which come out nearly every day about another group of people. They’re about the same age as this group and they probably have parents who love them just as much, but the similarities end there. One group was born into privilege, the other into poverty. For the first group hard work is measured in hours per week. For the other it means crossing the Darien Gap, on foot. The first group risks some savings by developing a new business idea and taking it to market. This other group, many from right here in Cuenca, risks their lives by picking the right coyote to take them across Mexican deserts, on foot.

Generally speaking, we should probably leave open to criticism anybody of any age, but if it’s your own parents who are now at the end of their lives, might wanna make sure your complaint makes sense, it’s valid, it’s bullet proof and that there’s something of value we can learn from it. Considering that you’re criticizing the hand that fed you, you might want to rethink the whole thing. Throwing your own parents under the bus is inappropriate. It says little about who your parents were, much about who you are.

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