A Call to Remake Capitalism

michael stephenson

The simple truth is that the economic outlook for millennials in both Canada and the U.S. remains bleak. If this generation is going to construct a future for themselves, while tackling overwhelming issues such as global warming and income inequality, they are going to have to do so through revolutionary means.  I’m not talking here about storming the House of Commons or kidnapping President Trump. I’m talking about confronting the very real fact that demographic influences and trends are already changing the way we live – everything from where we live (cities vs. suburbs) to how we live (owning vs. renting) to whom we live with (married, coupled, with extended families or alone).  There is a new world paradigm, and millennials need to take note of fundamental societal changes and adjust accordingly.

Carving Out a New Future

Perhaps more than any generation before, millennials really seem to know what they want, and most have very little difficulty in articulating their goals and aspirations.  The challenge right now is to create and implement a financial and social strategy to achieve these goals. Millennials are faced with the daunting challenge of carving out a future as responsible citizens in a world where capitalism no longer seems to meet the needs of most people and millennials in particular.

A recent hard-hitting article by Michael K. Spencer, published online through Utopia Press and entitled Why Capitalism isn’t Working for Millennials  suggests that “Capitalism isn’t working for most millennials who have experienced a decrease in economic mobility, the very opposite of the spirit of opportunity that generations past used to characterize with the American Dream and a lifestyle of opportunity where social mobility was possible.  This is then a generation that is markedly poorer than their parents or grandparents were relative to the middle class. Relative to the very sense of hope in a better future.” Spencer goes on to touch upon the ravages of student debt, wage growth stagnation and a disappearing middle class, and the profound impact these trends have on our family, social and emotional lives – even our mental health.

In the U.S, this is the year in which the millennial generation has surpassed the baby boomers as the largest living generation.  According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, millennial numbers will swell to more than 73 million in 2019. In Canada, Neilsen Report figures tell us that 10.1 million millennials already amount to 27.5% of the Canadian population.  There is untapped and almost immeasurable strength in these numbers and, if capitalism has evolved to the point where it is disregarding an entire generation, then it is probably time for that generation to remake capitalism.

A Revolution Has Begun

One place to start is with savings.  According to a recent Bankrate survey, 21% of Americans are not saving anything at all and only 26% are saving more than 10% of their income.  Researchers at the Stanford Center on Longevity project that in order to retire at 65 and maintain the same standard of living, you’ll need to save between 10 and 17% of your income starting at the age of 25.  Clearly, there is a disconnect between goals and reality. If millennials cannot achieve financial goals by following the same paths taken by those who came before them, then they are going to have to blaze some new trails.  

To some extent, the revolution has already begun.  As dreams of home ownership fade, there is good reason to focus on the built-in advantages to renting.  If starting a family and settling in the suburbs is financially unfeasible, it makes more sense to build a life in the city.  In his 2012 book, “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier & Happier,” author Edward Glaeser argues convincingly that city life fosters an atmosphere of cross-collaboration and creativity – a fertile ground for invention, productivity, entrepreneurship and investment.  And if you are a young millennial who wants to live in a dynamic city such as Vancouver, and hopefully remain here through your own golden years, you might not be able to afford an investment property on your own, but you can probably afford a micro-investment in real estate through a crowdfunded platform such as IMBY.    

Savings alone, in the dismal numbers we are now witnessing, will not get you where you want to be in the short-term or long-term. In order to avoid working three or four jobs, you will need to look for sources of passive income to build wealth and ensure a comfortable future.  Capitalism may have rejected you, but you don’t necessarily need to reject capitalism. You just need to join others in creating and investing in new mechanisms designed to make capitalism work for you.

 

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