Updated: Apr 22, 2020
Let take a minute to talk about Millennials (Pew Research Center defines a Millennial as anyone born between 1981 and 1996, or currently ages 23-38).
Lazy, self-centered, arrogant, materialistic, socialist... some of my favorite descriptors. Yes other generations, we are aware of our stereotypes. I can live with some of them, because if we are honest they come with youth. As humans get older their nature changes. They become more conservative, less-risk taking, and more family/community centric. But the one descriptor that does get to me is "lazy".
Americans have always been extremely hard-working. From agrarian times to the industrial age and to now to the age of internet. Through each of those revolutions the nature of work changed -- many people can now work from anywhere in the world thanks to technology. How we define it changed -- for many today an 80 hour "busy" work week may literally constitute sitting in front of a computer for those 80 hours. But, perhaps most importantly, how we balance it has changed -- and yes, you can thank Millennials for that.
As a financial planner I help people reach their retirement goals. One day they hope to drop all their responsibilities, maybe pick up a hobby and walk away from the stress of their labor. For previous generations this meant a rather dedicated 40-50 years, 40-60 hours a week, 10-20 days off per year, until finally... FREEDOM!
I really do admire this dedication, and I believe we are ALL meant to be workers. Genesis 2:15 reads, "The LORD God took man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over." What he didn't say was that we needed to toil away all our time, and NOWHERE in the Bible does it mention retirement. It is a construct we have developed to offset the grind of working for so many years with little time for leisure.
I believe one of the greatest contributions Millennials have made is demanding a work life balance that promotes living in the present. What if then there is no need to retire? Sure, not everyone will love their job, but so long as it facilitates the opportunity to pursue their happiness outside of work then maybe that is enough. Maybe we can foster happiness instead of hate, maybe we can raise our newborn babies and still contribute in our work, and maybe, dare I say it, we can actually be more productive working fewer hours and fewer days in the year.
Now I know that we are only afforded the luxury to live this way due to the sacrifices of many before us. I also realized this isn't feasible with some vocations, but it is a major step for modern America. Millennials are not lazy, they are not afraid to get dirty, and they certainly are not scared to serve their country.
What Millennials do want is to contribute just as much as other generations. They are willing to put in the same hours. But with today's technology, work doesn't have to be the way it always was. It can coincide with personal freedom. The fact that Millennials demand that freedom does not make them lazy. It's just plain smart.