I’m talking ’bout your generation

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How baby boomers failed us and then blamed us

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 28, 2015

It’s wrong of me to criticize a whole generation of people just because I’ve been noticing some abysmal trends from a few. But if a group of self-righteous baby boomers want to pick a fight, I’ll drop the gloves. Let’s open with this, any problems millennials, or Generation Y, (people born between the 1980s–2000s) have, it’s because of their parents, the baby boomers.

Baby boomers grew up with every advantage in the Western world. A blooming economy, an emerging middle class, jobs with stable income, and enough financial security to buy a house, raise a family, own a couple of vehicles, and set their sights on retirement. How did they get all these things? Were they the most talented generation? Were they the smartest? Or were they simply just the benefactors of their time?

Flip to their children, those like me, the millennials. We were brought up in a pampered sort of way. We were given luxury and opportunities. All of us were raised to believe that we could do anything we dreamed of. If we wanted to be actors, we could pursue that. If we wanted to be doctors, we could do that as well. Then we grew older and reality struck us. Now, we turn to our parents for help and what do they do? They call us lazy. They call us entitled. They call us narcissistic, apathetic, and disrespectful.

It’s harder than ever for a graduate to enter the workforce and even when they do get work, it’s harder than ever to make the type of money our parents made when they were in their 20s. They tell us to pursue school, and then leave us hanging with the debt. It’s our problem, right? Then there is this line that baby boomers often use: “When I was your age, I was already married and a homeowner.” Well, suck it! It’s almost impossible to put down a down payment for a house in Vancouver, let alone consider buying one. Why? Because the baby boomers have closed the door on us, locking us out of what they believed belongs to them. Baby boomers are the most selfish generation currently alive.

I don’t want baby boomers to empathize with us, because that won’t solve anything. What I do want the baby boomers to know is that they are wasting the final ounce of their lives being bitter to people who are striving for their dreams and pursuing what they love in life. Baby boomers are always going to shame millennials for not having this or that, but we have one thing they don’t have: the time to reach our goals. They should resent us. They should fear that we are going to take what is theirs, because we are.

Baby boomers have created a barrier of wealth, hoarding it for themselves. Then, while keeping us at arm’s length they say: “Oh, you should work harder. You shouldn’t have wasted all your time with games and dreams. Oh well, maybe it’s time to go back to college… again.” Our parents set us up for success, but when we failed on our first swing, they wrote us off as weak. Bouncing back gets harder every time without support. But they don’t know that.

It’s the baby boomer’s world, but we don’t have to obey them anymore. The lay of the land is different. We don’t need to listen to their smug comments. We don’t need to make baby boomers proud of us by matching their accomplishments.

Office hours: Tuesday to Thursday

Would you rather have three-day workweeks or early retirement?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Originally published in The Other Press. Aug 5, 2014

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Go figure: a Mexican billionaire is suggesting that we should all convert to a three-day workweek—11 hours a day—in exchange for a later retirement at 70 or 75 years old. Business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, Carlos Slim, one of the richest people in the world, has gone on record in saying that people would live much happier lives if they were given four days to recover and relax.

I believe it! I know I would be much happier, spending four days lounging around not worrying about work, though granted I have never been employed in a nine-to-five kind of job. The hours add up, and working takes up a significant part of life. It would be a shame to waste it all, regardless of when your hours are and what your schedule is like.

Overall, I totally agree with him. I know personally that I am more productive after a long weekend than I am when my schedule is fully loaded and I’m rushing from one responsibility and obligation to the next. I like the idea of having an 11-hour workday, because I have a the-sooner-I-get-it-done-the-sooner-I-can-rest attitude. I also rarely ever consider retirement: I like what I’m doing and I hope I progress and pursue my career for as long as possible.

In North America, it’s not easy to get time off. We live in a work-first-rest-later society; a place where making money is the number one priority. Just look around and see how many people are sleep deprived. There is no doubt that a three-day workweek could change that workaholic mentality. I think we would all benefit from a little more time for socializing, a little more time for exercising, and a little more time for simple contemplation.

A 2008 survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute showed that 46 per cent of those given an option to have a condensed workweek chose to use it at one point or another, and 59 per cent of those who weren’t given such options, wished they had it.

The general public is split on that matter, because so many people are working for retirement. That is the ultimate goal in life, and I think that is the wrong mentality. Waiting for retirement to me is a scary gamble, because who knows if one will ever reach that finish line. Regardless of retirement, I think one needs to focus more on finding a work/life balance, regardless of the workweek.

We live our first 25 years without the fear of labour—if we are lucky—as we have our parents taking care of us while we get an education. Then we live the next 40-45 years working. After that, if we are really lucky, we get to retire and live for maybe another 15 years. That is a common reality to many.

Yes, I like Slim’s idea of a three-day workweek, but I prefer the Stefan Sagmeister’s way of thinking. Sagmeister, a graphic designer, spoke about taking five years out of those 15 retirement years and interspersing them in the 40 years or so of work life. He too believed that people needed breaks from working, but they shouldn’t be force to work well into their seniority either. Rather, people should be able to enjoy the world while they still have some semblance of youth. By having a yearlong sabbatical every seven years to relax, travel, pursue personal projects, rediscover career callings, and reassess life’s values, we can become healthier citizens and happier workers.

The Report Card: Retiring an act

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By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 21, 2014

Celebrities often go through transformations. Usually these changes happen on-screen or stage when they’re portraying scripted characters, but sometimes these metamorphoses happen in real life; their daily actions become the performance, and you don’t need to buy a ticket to watch. Sometimes it’s comical, sometimes it’s tragic, and sometimes it’s absolutely cringe-worthy, but it’s always entertaining.

Pass: Joaquin Phoenix

Faking retirement is often a good PR strategy to gain more fanfare. It’s akin to faking a death and seeing how much people miss you… or the idea of you. After gaining recognition as one of Hollywood’s top leading men, Phoenix stumbled into rehab and a car crash in 2006. A couple of years after the accident, Phoenix announced his retirement from acting—he was intending to pursue a career as a rapper.

It turns out that the retirement was a hoax, all a performance for a Casey Affleck mockumentary film entitled I’m Still Here. Some people claimed they knew it all along, while others shook their heads in disapproval of such a blatant ploy to attract media attention to a less than mediocre movie.

Still, Phoenix rose from the clichéd ashes and won back his audience. Not always an easy feat in an industry where the public will be more than happy to label you as a lunatic. Phoenix went on to work with legitimate filmmakers and star in highly acclaimed movies including The Master and Her. If he ever truly went away, this would have been quite a comeback. He played the role and he took chances. Sure, some said he embarrassed himself, but he did it for the sake of art. And that is worth some respect.

Fail: Shia LaBeouf   

As a fan (the word “fan” being used loosely) of Even Stevens, it’s sad to see LaBeouf’s current downward spiral in public media. Recent accusations of plagiarism for his short film Howard Cantour.com along with mockery from his peers have made the 27-year-old announce his “retirement from all public life”—whatever that means.

LaBeouf was bred to be a star. He could have been a respectable comedian, an adored action hero, or even just a modest dramatic actor. Instead, he wasted his Disney springboard to fame by getting himself into numerous legal issues including assault, trespassing, and driving under the influence. Yes, plagiarism seems minor compared to those other acts, but as an actor, all of this is suicide.

His last-ditch attempt to gain back his audience before going into social media reclusion was by writing his apology to Daniel Clowes (whose work he had plagiarized) in skywriting. Why he decided to choose that extravagant form of communication to express what should have been an embarrassing but private scenario, I’m not sure. What I do know is that LaBeouf is a performer and that he must get some pleasure from attention.

I have not met him, but I believe that his arrogance has gotten him into trouble more than once and such behaviour is a sign of immaturity. The same way a stubborn teenager would slam their door to their parents’ scolding, LaBeouf is slamming the door on us through Twitter. Sooner or later he’ll emerge, he’ll be all cried out, and he’ll be seeking our approval again. We’ll accept him, because we love entertainment. And we love to tease celebrities, so we’ll joke about his shortcomings again. It’s upon his reaction then that we’ll decide whether Shia LaBeouf has grown up or not.

The test of time

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Longer life expectancy means less financial stability in the latter years

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

For those still in their roaring 20s, let’s think longterm for a moment—say, 40 years from now. The world has changed and so have you. You have a family, a mortgage, car payments, a stable job, ailing parents, credit card debt, medical bills, and multiple other financial responsibilities to worry about, yet retirement is around the corner. You ask yourself, “Am I ready for it? Have I saved enough? Or will the next 20 years be as gruelling as the first?”

Don’t act so surprised when I tell you that most millennials aren’t thinking about retirement—not because they don’t want to, but because they might not get one. We have been crippled by so many different factors, including increased taxes and cost of living, disappearing pensions, high educational debt, and a competitive job market. At this point, it’s hard to imagine life as a 40-year-old, let alone a 70-year-old.

It’s rare to see people hang up their work clothes at 55 nowadays. According to Statistics Canada, the average retirement age in 2011 was 63.2 for men and 61.4 for women. There are simply too many financial burdens, so every extra year of work adds a buffer to the savings account. If baby boomers are having such difficulty retiring, what about the millennials?

I’m not saying that we should call for a crisis or have the government hold our hands through this lifelong ordeal, but what would benefit us is a bit of systematic assistance. I suggest a mandatory test every decade to help with the retirement mathematics. The test would examine multiple factors, including financial stability, health, and family status. Although privacy is important, it’s critical that we learn to take care of ourselves, lest we become burdens on our family, friends, and society. This will break our fears and reluctance of taking out the “retirement calculators” and finding out how many dreadful zeros we’ll need in order to survive.

Retirement funds aren’t a problem we millennials can solve now. What we can do is stay the course, and even if there aren’t any implemented tests to assess our stability, we can still manage that ourselves. Don’t waste your youth worrying, but it never hurts to consider the necessities of your long life. A survey done by Pentegra Retirement Services found that 62 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds think $500,000 is enough for their retirement. The consensus is that number is too low. According to Statistics Canada, the current annual spending cost of a couple over 65 is $51,000, but for an enjoyable retirement they’ll need as much as $60,000 a year. The price will undoubtedly increase for us.

It might seem completely bleak at the moment, but allow us to go back to the short-term; we’re still young and we have full control of our lives. We’re packed with potential and opportunities are still knocking. If we don’t want to be eating peanut butter and jelly everyday in our old age, we can change that. Now is the time to get the upper hand. Rainy days and debts are inevitable, but hey, there’s a silver lining to those looming golden years.