“Born to Make Coffee”: or the Economic and Social Alienation of Millennials

I feel the way Greta Gerwigs face looks all the time.
  • I feel the way Greta Gerwig’s face looks all the time.

You know how when you take out money from an ATM, you usually have the option of getting a receipt or not? I never choose to take the receipt. This is not because I want to save paper in an effort to be environmentally conscious or something. I mean, really. Environmentally conscious? How can I take care of something as big as the whole environment when I can’t even face up to what number might spit out at me on a slick piece of paper from a machine that I ask to speak to me in French so that I won’t really know what secrets it holds? All I want is my $40, plus fees. I don’t want anything else, including the knowledge of how much money I have (or don’t have) at my disposal. That knowledge is too much responsibility for me. But so what I’m wondering is, am I alone in this? Are there actually adults out there who like to know how much money is in their checking account? Or, wait. To take it a step further, are there actually adults out there who have savings accounts? That contain more than the minimum amount? Do these financial unicorns really exist?

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Well, yes. These adults do in fact live among the rest of us mere mortals. And good for them! They should definitely feel proud. The thing is though, that those people with a comfortable economic cushion—you know, the kind of cushion that means if you were out of work for a year or so you could live solely off your savings—are a rarity. A new survey by Bankrate.com reports that “fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses…50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.” Even more troubling is the fact that the survey showed that despite “an increase in job security, a higher net worth and an overall better financial situation” in the past three years, Americans rarely have more than a hundred dollars stashed away for emergencies. Which, I don’t know exactly how it is in the rest of the country, but here in New York, the only emergency that a hundred dollars will get you through is one in which you absolutely must go out and have dinner at Aska or something. And I like a beautifully curated tasting menu as much as the next person, but I’d hardly call that an emergency.

It’s strange, probably, that I can be so flippant about my own economic irresponsibility, while also being fully aware of how devastating it would be for me if I went to the ATM one day, tapped the button that says français and then proceeded to find out, in words that I only vaguely understand, that there was no money to be had, that I was running on empty. But I’m also fully aware that my type of irresponsibility is a privilege, one that is a combination of luck and hard work, one that I both earned and fell into. This privilege doesn’t involve massive amounts of money (thus my ongoing ATM-phobia) but it does involve a certain amount of freedom and independence, both of which are things that modern adults are supposed to crave, right? Right?

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