Thursday, June 4, 2015

You want to make an omelette, you've gotta break a few nest eggs.

If you know me, you know I LOVE repetition.

Just kidding. I hate it. Jargon, catchphrases, buzzwords, throw 'em all in the trash!

I'm also not much for predictions, but I'm gonna go ahead and make one: "Nest egg" is going to be the most overused buzzword of the millennial generation. And, at age 30, I'm already sick of hearing it.

I'm basing the prediction on several things. First, my generation came of age during the Great Recession, so we're keenly aware of how fragile our economic system is, and how a few quarters of especially poor job numbers can mess things up for YEARS.

Second, we've been conditioned not to trust in the financial fail-safes that previous generations have been able to rely on, at least in part. Social Security and Medicare are more and more burdened, and there are serious questions about whether they will even be solvent by the time millennials reach retirement age (or, indeed, whether retirement will even exist in the way we currently think of it). Pensions are on their way out. So it's increasingly on us to provide for our own twilight years.

Finally, our increasingly interconnected and complex financial system has made it more important for the average person to have a higher degree of financial literacy, and it's something we're not particularly great at .* To fill that gap, online financial services like Mint (which I use), LearnVest (which I do not), and a host of others have cropped up to try and make us entitled kids finally learn something, dammit.

And therein lies the crux of why I consider myself a terrible millennial, or at least a highly atypical one.** We're supposed to love everything web 2.0, and there's nothing web 2.0 loves more than buzzwords. The mere existence of hashtags (which I do actually kinda enjoy, because I get to use them ironically) is proof enough. I get e-mails daily e-mails from the one time I tried signing up for LearnVest, and in a 450-word message they might say "nest egg" about 6 times. And they're not the only offender.

I get it, OK? It's all about branding, and the more you can associate a common phrase with your product in my mind, the better you're going to do. But by the third time I see that detestable phrase, I'm ready to close the e-mail and forget all about your stupid brand.

So can we just find a new word for it, or better yet a series of them to rotate through? Or, and I know I'm reaching here, just call them... retirement accounts? Savings?

It just seems like using a descriptive term would support financial literacy more than a cutesy bird metaphor.

Then again, I suppose the bird is the word.***


...and we embrace in the baggage claim

*I'm not a self-hating millennial, and I generally think journalists need to get off our backs already. Far from joining in the millennial-bashing, I'd argue that American culture at large does not lend itself to saving or financial literacy, and it's not a problem peculiar to my generation. But poor financial literacy is potentially much more damaging now than at any time in the past, since your credit score determines, like, your entire destiny.

**For example, I started working full time more or less immediately after graduating college, at jobs that did not change the world or encourage me to be creative. Upon moving to a new city, I took "the safe job" and am still there six years later. I started a modest retirement account at like, 23. I've never tried to monetize a hobby, nor have I felt particularly passionate about any one side project other than cycling (which is...on hold). While I do get a certain fulfillment from my work, I don't feel a strong personal connection to it, as though it were my life's mission or something. I would never classify myself as a "content creator"-- to the contrary, I'm starting to suspect I might actually be terrible at social media and the internet in general.

***I did not start this post with the intention of bookending it with Family Guy videos. It just kinda happened.

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