The problem is that you don’t have enough money. If you do have enough money, and your problem is ennui, lack of self-actualization, you’re a trust-fund kid looking for meaning, then this site isn’t the right site for you. The rat-faced man isn’t about ascending the Maslow hierarchy.
Strangely, in modern life, you can have healthy family relationships, intellectual fulfillment, artistic sensibility, keen insight into your achievements and failings, and still be stone broke. In peasant life 200 years ago, things worked a little differently. But today, we live in misery and intense competition not despite but in consequence of material abundance.
The generationally unemployed carry mobile messaging and pornography access devices with enough computational power to put a man on the moon, like an Idiocracy version of Star Trek. Urban poors living in food deserts eat like Henry VIII and become even more obese. For those with a low Malthusian threshold, who breed and chill as soon as they have a roof and three meals a day, this is abundance beyond their wildest dreams. For those still attempting to live with some dignity, however, these conditions present insurmountable problems.
For, just as food and toys have become cheap, education and middle-class acceptable housing have become intolerably expensive. Our educated middle class has refused to accept either of two major lifestyle hits: cutting consumption (and giving up the wife’s income) to afford children, or adopting an actuarial, pragmatic approach to life planning. (Clueless people, such as baby boomers, call this “giving up on your dreams.”) Basically, we don’t want to give up brunch, so we gave up families and the old middle-class aspirations.
Part of the problem is that our educated classes are spread too thin. In a sane world, poors would need to do things for you because your value add isn’t in boiling potatoes or folding laundry. Now, you do things for them (it’s called patriotism, asshole,) while they mostly idle around or work in menial capacities for megacorps. It’s comical to see lawyers and engineers working 60-hr weeks who can’t take time to go to the doctor or get a haircut and who run around at 8 pm mowing their lawns and vacuuming their houses. Bonus points if it’s a dual-income household and one is doing all the housework while the other rounds up the kids for bedtime. You feeling rich yet, jerks?
So, like I said before, you don’t have enough money. You can’t seriously mean to tell me that you can afford to get married at 24, buy a house in a safe neighborhood, start a family, work 9-5, fund your retirement, and so forth. Judging by the numbers, very few millennials are doing all of those things and many are doing none of them. In fact, the old middle-class life plan is deader than disco. Entire cities have been rendered unaffordable by the middle class; we’re talking cities where the average house costs around 16.5x the average after-tax family income.
Let’s be clear: if you’re even close to average today, you’re poor. In much of North America, you can’t afford to live anywhere close to your job and you can’t afford to marry. Dress it up all you want, that’s what poor is. Before Levittown, most Americans lived on farms or in tenements, and we’re going back to that today, with young professionals living in efficiencies, 1-BRs, group situations, or homemade “pods” on someone’s bedroom floor. (Note that podbrah still pays about half of the inflation-adjusted cost of a 2-BR Manhattan apartment ca. 1940, except he gets a space about the size of a coffin instead of, yanno, an apartment.)
Even if you get a “1%” job as a surgeon, techie or Wall Street jock, you’ll be in your mid-to-late thirties before you can kick the old middle-class plan off, assuming you execute perfectly for around 20 years straight (ages ~15, when you start seriously prepping for college apps, and ~35, when you’re “made.”) Let’s consider an example. You want to be a surgeon? The typical med student starts at 25 (24 for MD, 26 for DO.) 4 years of med school: 29. 3-6 years for residency: 32-35. Tack on a year for fellowship: 33-36, most likely 35 or 36 for a surgeon.
So there you are, closer to 40 than 30, you’ve got total lifetime earnings of maybe $150,000, and you’re probably about $180,000 in the hole. If you’re a woman, you’re facing an elevated risk of birth defects and, if you start cranking out babies, stunted professional prospects at the very moment that your debt-service issues are becoming acute. You gonna have kids and a mortgage under those circumstances? No wonder people are now pretending that they enjoy downsizing their life plans. What other choice do they have? “Oh yes, I always dreamed of a 1-BR apartment. Childfree by choice! Paying a $2,500/month loan nut to rat-faced men until I’m 47 is definitely better than owning property!” Brunches replace families and roots, and when you die, you’re eaten by your cats. Meanwhile your dad retired at 55 to a lifestyle of Jimmy Buffet, boner pills, Harleys, and his third wife (who will inherit whatever’s left after the beach house gets paid off.)
The first step is admitting you have a problem. You need money. Once you recognize this First Ratty Truth, we can make progress.