When i say Millennial Fatigue, i don’t mean the incessent whining from Boomers about how we can’t seem to manage our lives and our finances like they think we should, i’m talking about Millennials being absolutely fucking exhausted from just trying to exist in a society that seems to be permanently against us. I’m in the top end of the Millennial age bracket depending on when year you consider the age bracket starts at. I was born on 29th February 1980, so some would argue that i’m a Xennial instead, but most seem to agree that i’m a Millennial. As one of the Millennial ‘Elders’, i’ve been living this shit for too long and I’m exhausted.
The perfect example would be when I was at work the other day, and one of the many, soon to be retired Boomers asked me where I was going on holiday this year. When I replied “My front room,” she looked so damn shocked that I honestly thought she was about to swallow her own tongue. And it’s a common theme these days. If its not people asking me where i’m going on holiday, it’s “Haven’t bought a house yet then?” or “You should think about having kids before your clock starts ticking,” and my favourite “Surely you must have some savings?”
No Carol, i don’t.
Now, I’ve been writing this piece on and off for some months now, too afraid to publish it because I carry so much shame about it. There is so much stigma attached to Millennials and their finances that I’ve been sitting on this piece until I felt ready to show everyone. But seeing as 2019 seems to be the end of the world, i figured i should just fucking do it and deal with the fallout afterwards. Hopefully we’ll all be dead tomorrow anyway so i can dodge having to explain to my family why I’m such a walking human disaster. I would apologise for anyone this piece might hurt, but honestly? I’ve got nothing to apologise for. Other than perhaps to myself for carrying this shame and disappointment for so long, and for letting it effect me so much on a mental level.
I have a good job and get paid fairly well. Or at least, before the Recession a decade ago, it was a good salary. It’s 10 years later, and my salary is pretty much the same as it was before the financial crash. In fact, it’s gone up by approximately £1,000. That’s it. In an entire decade, i’m on essentially the same amount of money I was when I was made redundant in December 2008. And I’m not alone in that. I have lots of friends who are stuck in the same situation, and it’s getting harder and harder each year to keep our heads above water.
“Well why don’t you just get a better paying job then?”
You again Carol? Well, perhaps back in your day you could just walk from one job and straight into another with no problems, but things are a little different now. Since the financial crash, companies have imposed much stricter hiring policies and requirements. Now you’re expected to have a degree and at least 3 years experience but work for literal peanuts. It’s absolutely insane the sort of things that recruiters want these days. I’ve been working since I was 18 and fresh out of 6th form college. My experience is extensive, but all recruiters see is that A-Levels are as far as i went and immediately dismiss me. Never mind the fact that i have more experience across a lot of industries and roles than anyone fresh off the university bus. Experience counts for fuck all these days unless you have a degree in something.
“Have you thought of retraining or going back to school?”
And how the fuck am i supposed to do that? How am I supposed to pay the rent and the bills, put food in my fridge and petrol in my car whilst being a student? And no bank is ever going to lend me any amount of money in order for me to do that because of the amount of debt I’m already in.
And here is the crux of my shame: debt.
I shall endeavour to keep this brief.
I was left with A LOT of debt in 2005 after a very abusive marriage, and ended up having to go onto a debt management program. I was then made redundant on the eve of the financial crash and was out of work and on Job Seekers Allowance for about 4 months (maybe 5?). For the next 6 years, all i could find was temp work so whilst yes, i had work, there was no telling how long each assignment would last for. And anything under 12 weeks, they could just tell me not to come back the next day if they wanted to. So, I was struggling to keep my head above water, even when I was back in work. I then lost my longest assignment and was out of work for another couple of months and had to rely on Job Seekers again, as well as my partner at the time. This cycle went on for about 5 years until one of my temp roles became permanent after nearly 2 years. 2 years after that, i got made redundant again towards the end of 2013. Luckily, i got some redundancy money and was able to buy a car again after not having one for a couple of years. I had to sell the last car i had to keep a roof over my head. I found another long term temp contract after a month or so, which meant i had to reply on some of my redundancy to cover my rent and bills. Amazingly, my mother sold our family home during this period and offered to pay the last of the debt i still had from when i was married. I was finally debt free after what had felt like forever. Just as well really, because i had a car accident and broke my wrist which needed surgery. That meant having to have nearly 3 months off work, which when you’re a temp, means you get fuck all. I’d managed to save some money due to not having debt to pay off, and basically lived off the credit cards i’d taken out to help rebuild my credit rating. MISTAKE.
Anyway, long story (sorry) short, I’m now 6 months away from being 40 years old and currently 1 year into an IVA. It fucking sucks. For a brief moment, I was blissfully debt free and finally able to do things like go out for dinner with my friends and not have to worry that i wouldn’t have money left at the end of the month. It’s fucking awful. Every morning when I wake up, I’m thinking about money. It’s the last thing on my mind before I go to bed at night. I think about it constantly. And on top of my IVA, I owe my mother approx £5,000 because I needed a car to get me from A-B, and also pay for the deposit on my current flat, and i had about £20 in the bank. So i’m paying that back alongside the IVA.
My life now is essentially watching every penny, cutting every corner i can, and being as thrifty as possible. It hasn’t helped that 18 months ago, I had to leave my house share and find a place on my own. Total monthly bills, which includes rent, has gone from approx £750 a month to approx £1,400, so basically double. And all this on what is essentially the same salary i was on in 2008. After all my bills are taken care of, i have roughly £300 a month left for food, petrol and everything else. Well actually, about £40–50 of that goes on my cat as she’s elderly and needs special food and medication. So let’s call it £250. What i do is work out how many weeks there are in the coming month and budget £50 a week for everything. Now, i’m thrifty as fuck and can make £10 last 2 weeks if i have to, but i’ve been doing this shit for nearly 2 years now and i’m fucking exhausted. I rarely have anything left by the last 10 days of the month because something would have come up during the month that i had to use up half my budget for. My car MOT is due beginning of October and i’m fucking terrified that it’s going to fail. One of the worst things about it is that if one of my friends asks me out to the cinema or dinner, I have to figure out if I can afford the petrol to get there and back, and how much of my weekly budget is it going to cost so where do I need to cut back. My brain is constantly equating a cinema ticket to a week’s worth of food, car park costs to half my petrol for the week. Thursday at work is roast dinner day, which I love. My lunch plus a can of pop is exactly £5.40. But in my mind, that’s at least 3 meals at home. And if you add that up for a month, that’s almost my entire food budget for a week. I’d love to say yes every time a friend asks me to go out, but I can’t. And there’s only so many times that people will believe the shitty excuses i come up with because i’m too fucking ashmed to say “I can’t afford it.”
I am literally one pay cheque away from going under. I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to borrow from friends and family, some of whom I still haven’t managed to pay back. I’ve had to sell a massive chunk of my belongings just to make to the end of the month each month. Yesterday, I went to my local community fridge to get some free food because all I had in my fridge was a bag of mouldy spinach and some milk. I don’t really qualify for a foodbank, and I wouldn’t want to deprive a family of food that they need to feed their kids. I sat in my car outside the community fridge for about 10 minutes because I was on the brink of tears. It had finally got to the point where I needed to go somewhere that offers free food because I didn’t have any. Back when I was first made redundant in 2008, things got so bad that i could only afford to eat once a day. I could make 1 can of baked beans stretch to 4 meals if i had to. I would sleep as much as possible because sleeping meant not moving and thus not using energy that i needed food to fuel. Fast forward a decade, and I’m almost at the same stage again, only this time I work full time so can’t sleep during the day. I’ve learnt to fill up on water to try and stave off the clawing hunger pains because I don’t have a snack, or the money to buy one. I’m always secretly happy when it’s someone’s birthday at work because they bring in cakes and treats so I can fill up on crap. It may be loaded with sugar and calories, but it’s still food.
It shouldn’t be like this.
I work hard and most would see my salary as a good one, but I’m barely managing. Boomers would argue that it’s my life choices that have got me here. But what about stagnating wages and the rising cost of living? How can my life choices dictate the fact that everything is costing more but salaries are literally the same as they were a decade ago? How do my life choices have anything to do with that?
Could I go and find a better paid job? Yes, probably, but I’ll still be in the same situation because if my salary goes up, my IVA payment goes up alongside, leaving me no better off than I am now. I could be earning £50k a year, but still be having to live off £250 a month. A higher salary isn’t going to make a difference until the IVA is finished, and that another 4 years off yet.
Could i make other changes? Yes, i guess i could. I could go back to house sharing to try and reduce my outgoings, but i’m nearly 40 years old and i honestly don’t think i could share space with strangers again. My anxiety goes through the roof just thinking about it. And where I live, my share of the rent wouldn’t be much less that my rent is now for a 1 bedroom flat. Could i upsticks and move to somewhere in the country that’s cheaper? Yes I could, but my salary will be lower. It’s the curse of being born and living in Greater London.
I worked out the other day that to be completely debt free and back at square one, i would need the absolute bare minimum of £25,000 in order to reset my finances. That would pay off everything i owe. £30,000 would give me a little cushion squirreled away, enable me to get the car fully serviced, treat myself to a Dominoes and know that i had just enough in the bank to cover anything unexpected. It would also mean that I could finally start to save some of my salary each month. Not having savings is one of the most unsettling feelings I’ve ever experienced. Knowing that I’ll have to go begging to friends and family if anything crops up that required money i just don’t have. It’s unsettling and it makes me feel dirty and ashamed that I can’t manage without other people’s help. I should have got this shit under control by now at my age. I should be able to go through the whole month without having to even think about whether or not I have enough money in the bank to last until payday. Society dictates that I should be married with 2.4 children and a homeowner by now, right? (fyi, done the whole marriage thing and NO THANK YOU, and kids? Eww, also a big, fat NO).
The worst thing about all this is that my situation is in no way unique. I am not special, and I’m certainly not the only one. There are thousands of Millennials like me out there, millions even, all trapped in the same cycle, all battling the same shit every damn day, and all one pay cheque away from being homeless. And yet, our society run by Boomers continues to scoff at us, blame our situation on our love of avocados and Starbucks whilst refusing to acknowledge that their actions are ones that put us here. My Millennial generation is just trying to survive in a world the Boomers have created. The reason I can’t afford to be a homeowner isn’t because i enjoy avocado toast on a Sunday (when I can afford it), it’s because the Boomer generation has been quite happy to get fat and rich on the back of exploiting the poor whilst making the lives of the 1% easier.
For example: The 1% own 50.1% of the world’s wealth, and the top 10 of the 1% own 76% of that wealth. The 26 richest people in the world own as much as the poorest 50%, which is approx 3.8 billion people. When you consider that the total world population is roughly 7 billion, those figures are utterly mind boggling. Just 1% of Jeff Bezos’s (Amazon’s CEO) fortune is more or less equivalent to the entire health budget of all the 105 million people in Ethiopia. Bezos alone could almost end world poverty and still be a billionaire. The top 1% are basically never going to be poor. Ever. Unless something utterly catastrophic happens to their business or their money. After the recent Notré Dame fire, the 1% have proved that they can throw money at things if they want to. They just don’t want to.
Another example is tax breaks for the rich. In 2019, the British taxpayer faces footing a £24 billion bill for tax relief to oil and gas firms. 24 billion pounds. Imagine what that money could do for the NHS and social housing. My grandparents built a society that believed in equality for all, a fairer society where people had access to free healthcare, free university education, a welfare state that strived to uplift people out of poverty with a system that worked. Boomers were born into this society and had the literal world at their feet. My generation, and those who come after me are staring into the face of a society that my grandparents fought to eradicate. They grew up during the Great Depression in between the two world wars, they remember what it was like and they promised each other that it would never be like that again.
Stop blaming poor people for being poor. We’re not here out of choice Carol, we’re here because your generation forgot what it was like to part of a community that worked for all, not just the privileged few and fucked us all over.
How can we change things?
Well, the most important things you can do is vote. Whenever there’s an election, be it local or nationwide, fucking vote. Do your research into the candidate, make sure that you’re registered to vote, and get out there on polling day and exercise your human right at the ballot box. Make sure that our parliament is filled with people who will hold whichever party is in power to account for everything they do. Better yet, help to vote in a party that actually gives a shit about the general population. Voting is possibly the most vital thing we can all do in order to affect change.
Support local business when you can. I try to shop locally when I can afford to, rather than line the pockets of Tesco and Amazon. Plus, Amazon is literally the most evil corporation on the planet, so boycott the shit out of it. I haven’t used it for about 3 months now and i’m not gonna lie, I feel somewhat righteous about that. Local business tends to be that bit more expensive, but investing in your community whenever you’re able is something that helps to build a society for the little guy, not the giant ogres of capitalism.
Volunteer if you’re able to. After my visit to the Community Fridge, I’ve emailed them to say that I’d be interested in helping them to be open on a Saturday where I live if that’s something they’d want to do. I may be poor, but if i can in any way help others in the same situation, i will. And if that means getting out of bed early on a Saturday to make sure that there is somewhere for people to come and get free food that would otherwise go to waste, I’ll do it. People like me who work full-time can’t get to these places during normal opening hours, so why not try to change that? It also builds community bonds as well as getting you out of the house for some basic human contact. It works wonders for that feeling of isolation and dread.
Try to budget as best you can with what you have, and use cold hard cash instead of your card. It’s certainly made me more accountable for my spending if i have to hand over actual, physical cash.
Be vocal. Start fighting back against the wheels of greed and corruption. One person shouting can make little difference, but a whole group of people shouting is going to get heard. It’s easy to give into that “But i’m just one person, what difference can I make?” voice, but imagine if all the people thinking the same kept going? That my friends, is a movement, a resistance.
Above all, hang in there. I know only too well just how tough it is to keep putting one foot in front of the other when everything feels so utterly helpless. It would be so easy to just sit down and give up, i know, i’ve been there. I feel like that now. I feel as though I’m balancing on a wire so fine and so fragile that at any moment it’s going to snap and send me plummeting downwards. That’s why I keep fighting and keep going. Besides, I want to still be here when the revolution comes. And it will come, in our lifetime. The world is teetering on a knife edge right now and we’re going to be the ones to push it in the right direction. And you’re going to want to be here to see it happen because it’s going to glorious.
If you’ve read to the end of this absolute beast of a word vomit, thank you. I’ve tried to be as coherent as I can, but it’s been really emotional for me to put this down on paper and put it out there. This wasn’t written to upset or hurt anyone. I have become so downtrodden and shamed of my situation that it’s really started to damage my mental health, which as someone who has had depression since they were 16, is not a good place to be. I needed to exorcise my financial demons and release them back into the wild.
I’m going to end by recommending 3 books that have completely changed my life this year. Each one has given me a new perspective on my life, and on society as a whole, and set me on a new path. I recommend tracking them down if you haven’t already read them. Read them, learn from them, start re-evaluating how you see society.
This amazing man passed away earlier this year, but his son John is continuing his work.
Read it, learn it, call it out.
Never have i felt more seen by a book in my entire life.
Lastly, I’m going to do a bit of shameless self promotion because why the fuck not, eh? I have a Spoonie blog where i write about what it’s like to live with chronic illness (something i didn;t go into here). It’s called Angry Old Spoonie and I write about my conditions, as well as sharing recipes and other related bits and bobs. I also have a Patreon where you can sign up to support both blogs on a monthly basis if you wanted to and are able. Or you can use Ko-Fi to just buy me a coffee if you managed to get to the end of the piece and liked what you read.
All links to me elsewhere in the interwebs can be found here.