According to the Wall Street Journal, new data show millennials are in “worse financial shape than every preceding living generation.” The most common response to this new reality is that millennials have been spoiled, and that is unquestionably true. Not only did their parents raise them in a much softer manner than parents of previous generations did, but millennials also grew up amid a technological revolution where everything became available the moment they wanted it. The concept of delayed gratification, or of looking at life in the longterm, is foreign to them. They never had to live that way.
Millennials have also been taught that getting degree upon degree is more valuable than going to work. Yet all that time they spent at school has, in the end, cost them.
But there’s another reason millennials are in such bad shape: They put marriage off. More specifically, many millennials ignored it altogether and focused exclusively on themselves and their careers, thinking this would set them up for life. Instead, millennials are saddled with debt, despite having large (single-earner) salaries. As a result, millennials say, they can’t afford to get married.
“If I can’t afford a home, I definitely can’t afford kids,” said Joy Brown, 32, a Chicago renter who’s single and who earns $75,000 a year. She also owes $102,000 in student loans and $10,000 in credit-card debt. “Myself and a lot of my peers still feel like we’re playing catch-up in the game of life.”
At the end of the day, all of this happened as a result of misplaced priorities. Millennials are the first generation ever to view marriage and family as secondary to professional success. It’s no coincidence they’re not married with kids and free of debt: They purposefully created lives that undermined this goal.
Why wouldn’t they have done so? That’s what so many of their parents taught them to do. Countless millennials are products of divorce; they grew up believing that marriage is a bad investment. Love is precarious and can’t be counted on, supposedly. Better to put one’s eggs in the career basket — it’s safer.
In one way, perhaps that’s true. In another, not so much. It’s much harder to get ahead in life as a single person than it is as a married person. Two people working together can create far more stability for themselves, for their children, and for the country than can a nation full of singles.
By turning away from marriage, as understandable as it might have been at the time, millennials set themselves up to fail. Married people are significantly better off (financially, emotionally, even on the happiness scale) than any other group of Americans. The data are indisputable.
To be sure, a culture of divorce scares people away from marriage. But what we’ve learned the hard way is that without marriage, a nation crumbles. Just because your parents failed at love doesn’t mean you will. Rejecting marriage outright was the real mistake.
The answer is to bring it back.
Suzanne Venker (@SuzanneVenker) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She is an author, columnist, and relationship coach known as “The Feminist Fixer.” Her newest book, “Women Who Win at Love: How to Build a Relationship That Lasts,” will be published in October 2019. Suzanne’s website is www.suzannevenker.com.