A Millennial and her Financial Fear

Who else here is sick and tired of baby boomers?!

I hope you are raising your hand right now while reading this. I don’t care if you’re in an office meeting. Raise that goddamn hand. Your boss is likely a baby boomer too and they can go fuck themselves. 

Wow. Strong start. 

How’s things, guys? Oh, me? Yeah, I just declared chapter 7 bankruptcy at the ripe old age of 25. It’s true that I’m just a few short weeks from 26 but does that really make a difference in the horror? No. 

But it was the best decision I could make under my circumstances. My minimum payments were drowning me and the interest rates were so astronomical that no debt repayment plan within my means would make any difference at all. I had my ‘meeting of the creditors’ last week which means that in approximately 52 days all my credit card debt will be discharged. Good fucking riddance. Honestly, all those collectors and companies and lenders can go straight to goddamn hell. There is no humanity or ethics in 25% interest.

Now might be around the time when you ask, “What do baby boomers have to do with your personal financial tragedy?” And to that I say EVERYTHING! Ok, I’m exaggerating there but hear me out for a second. Millennials and the phenomena that surround them have been written about by countless others. You know what I’m referring to: snowflakes, avocado toast, house ownership, memes, etc. Most accusations coming from baby boomers. It’s boring and we’re tired. While it’s true there are several shitty things that set millennials apart from other generations, it’s not any of those things (no, ok, memes are totally one of them). 

The weekend before last, I was sitting in the car and talking with my co-sister-in-law (this is a real term I just looked it up — I’ve always wondered if there was a term for the sister of your sister-in-law). She turned to me and said, “Why is our entire generation so anxious? Every single one of my friends has some kind of anxiety disorder or is at least constantly hyperventilating about their student loans.” She went on to question whether this was simply an awareness that comes with the progress in mental health education or if it was actually a legitimate difference between our generation and that of our baby boomer parents.

Generally, western millennials are consumed by an intense financial fear that generations directly above us never had to contend with. I’m speaking in sweeping generalizations here. Obviously, Ariana is a millennial and she has enough money to solve all her problems. And I know many baby boomers and gen X suffer from severe financial anxiety. But many millennials are facing bleak circumstances with very little hope of any kind of stability, let alone the standards of comfort afforded their parents. 

Our wages have not risen with inflation. Rent prices just keep being raised by baby boomer property-owners which means that millennial wealth is being transferred generationally from young to old. The job market is still flooded with baby boomers, making it nearly impossible to move up into higher paying roles from within. A majority of us have already signed our financial prosperity away at eighteen to federal and private lenders just to get a college degree. Millennials are the first generation to be worse off than their parents in modern economic history. So, no, we aren’t crazy for feeling like we are in a state of constant financial dread. 

We all have tons of debt and no savings. We were set out to sea with no sail and a hole in the boat. Yet society blames us and we blame ourselves: we just aren’t rowing fast enough. When I mention the pit in my stomach I get every time rent is due, most of my friends know exactly what I’m talking about. We know the depth of fear that is constantly present when you live paycheck to paycheck. I talked to a friend living in LA this afternoon — last month she had to borrow money to make rent, as did I — and she said, “You know, people say money won’t make you happy, blah blah…whatever. And sure, yeah, money won’t bring me happiness but it sure as hell would make my anxiety go away.”

It’s been a rough year for me financially. I’ve learned how to make very creative meals using beans and rice or ramen. I’ve relied on friends and family in ways that have hurt my pride, dealt with overdrafts and collection calls, and tried to breathe through panic attacks over a week long $0.36 bank balance. 

Nothing much has really changed but this bankruptcy filing should slightly relax my permanently furrowed brow. Which is why I went into last week’s final meeting with a positive attitude and a smile on my face. It would finally be over and I could have a real opportunity to get on top of things. 

The trustee barked my name from his open-doored office. I “excuse me’d” my way through the waiting crowd, also bankrupt. As I walked in, I smiled and said, “Hi, how are you doing?” The middle-aged white man looked at me but did not respond. It looked like his tie was tight enough to choke him but it didn’t seem to bother him much. Hmm, kinky. 

Off-put by his refusal to answer but sure it was just a mistake, I continued in my standard of kindness, always searching for ways to add lightness to heavy situations, as I was put under oath and he pressed the red button on the tape recorder. 

He spoke in dull tones as if he was achingly annoyed by something. After the first few preliminary questions, he asked me how I got into credit card debt. I felt slightly taken aback by the question as I was under the impression this was solely about my current assets. But I gathered myself and briefly explained that I was abruptly cut off financially after graduation and struggled to make end’s meet with my meager income, that I ended up relying heavily on credit cards for basic expenses. I paused and remembered I got my very first credit card to purchase my plane ticket to Australia during college. I likely paid off that particular charge years ago but I mentioned it just in case. You know, perjury and all. 

He then looked at me from across his desk and said, his voice no longer dull, “Now why in the world would you go galavanting off to Australia when you can’t afford it?” I froze then, startled by his angry expression. All at once, it felt like I might burst into tears if I made one wrong move. 

I tightened my smile and breathily explained, “No, no, this was earlier when I was still in college and I was supported by my parents. It was just part of the plane ticket…” I trailed off towards the end. It felt like a full two minutes passed in which he would look down at his papers and look up to glare up at me with a hateful expression.

“You know what, you sure are smiling a lot, young lady,” he poked meanly. “I really don’t know why you’re smiling so much, young lady. This isn’t funny. This is a very serious matter.” Then my eyes finally fill with tears and I said through a cracking voice, “I know it’s serious. I was smiling to prevent this…” pointing to the tears rolling down my cheeks. Without acknowledging my statement, he continued asking me questions and I answered them trying to make my voice as loud and clear as possible for the mic without letting sobs come forth. 

“And how much money do you have right now in the whole wide world?”

In a choked voice, I slowly said, “Eighty-nine dollars and sixty-two cents.” For one-eleventh of a millisecond, something passed over his face that showed he knew he’d made a mistake. He had misjudged me. But no empathy followed as he concluded, “Well, you have no assets so your debts will likely be discharged in 60 days time. Goodbye.” 

I got up and sped-walked through the waiting bankrupt people still sobbing the whole way until I reached the restrooms. Standing in the stall, I thought of all the things I wish I had said to him: 

“I’ve put more thought and research into this decision than a majority of people out in that waiting room who are twice my age!”

“Y’all men want us to smile all the time until you suddenly fucking don’t anymore.”

“Don’t call me ‘young lady’! I’m a grown adult, you saggy ballsack of a man.” 

“It’s exactly white-ass old men like you who ruined this economy for me. So excuse me, sir, may I ask you why I still need to contend with 94,000 dollars of student loan debt even after this credit card debt is gone?!”

“Does it make you feel good as a 55-year-old man to bully a vulnerable 25-year-old girl in your office? Is your position not already enough of a power trip?”

And then I cried on the blue line home. 

It was a traumatic afternoon and I only felt better after scream-singing Sara Bareilles’ Machine Gun ten times in my kitchen. Oh so many things were wrong with that interaction, most of which are not even related to the topic at hand. But this attorney is part of the generation that dug the grave for our economy and they are still attempting to pile those last few shovels of dirt on top.

Our financial fear and instability are not moral failings; no matter how many articles written by members of an older generation preach about our laziness or our fucking avocado toast. It’s not about us not “hustling” hard enough or neglecting our duty to have a “get that bread” mentality. The system is broken and it’s gonna stay broken until we do something about it. 

So you know…revolt, bitches! That’s how I like to get my bread: by storming that goddamn Bastille and getting a few heads on pikes. 

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