The 21st century isn’t turning out so well for millenials. They are making less than their parents did at their age. Home ownership, one of the key markers of financial success, is down for their age group. And, apparently, in general they are unhappier and more narcissistic. It’s declined to the point you can now see how poorly you compare to other countries (although I can’t vouch for the data).
Why is this? Most blame the recession. But plenty of millenials have done well, despite a recession.
My current job gives me some insight. I work with junior Sailors on a daily basis, most in their early twenties. As their commander, I get to interview them and get a peek into their lives. I also keep copious notes, and as an engineer, I look for trends.
I see one big, ugly trend: most Millenials come from broken homes.
Almost 85% of my Sailors come from divorced parents. These are people from across America, from every state in the union. I was astounded by this. In many cases, at least one parent (mom or dad) is completely out of the picture.
These broken homes don’t produce broken people. My Sailors are hard working Americans, and they arrive with a very deep love of their country and wanting to do right. In many cases though, their broken home hinders them.
I take for granted that my parents cared about my education and well being. While they didn’t pay for college (thank you Uncle Sam!), they did set me up pretty well, and helped me cover emergencies until I got on my feet. My parents taught me about debt and savings. I didn’t have a credit card until I was in college, and even then, I paid it off every month (and still do!).
Many of my Sailors don’t have this. Too often they go to boot camp with very little in their pocket. Many arrive with little to no furniture. Plenty come in with credit card debt. Luckily, we have free classes on financial management, and most turn themselves around. For the average person though, these free classes don’t exist.
Broken homes break down other assumptions. Driver’s license? How to dress for an interview? How to speak without using obscenities? How to shake hands properly? Speaking in public? These basic skills can’t be assumed anymore. Anyone who has worked with millenials would agree.
Although I enjoy watching my Sailors grow and develop these skills, I worry that in other parts of society, these skills are not being developed. Yes, we should continue to work on our economy, but perhaps we’ve forgotten what a big influence good family life is on success.
Obviously I’m in the Navy. In case it’s not obvious, this post only represents my views. It doesn’t represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. But you’re smart, so you already knew that…
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