RECENTLY, I was handed a StarBiz article that reminded me of a stark fact – many of us millennials face many challenges financially, challenges that are for the most part not of our choosing or making.
The article written by Eugene Mahalingam quotes Whitman Independent Advisors Sdn Bhd managing director Yap Ming Hui, who points out that those born between the early 1980s and 2000s face “a slew of challenges from socioeconomic factors that could potentially derail even the best-laid plans.”
“They have to contend with low income levels coupled with slow income growth for the past 10 years, escalating property prices and increasing inflation levels and living costs. In fact, statistics show an unprecedented level of debt among the millennial generation,” said Yap at the launch of the IWealth mobile application.
This statement hit me hard for two reasons, the first being that Yap’s words sparked a sense of gratitude in me, a millennial, because I was reminded of how good I have it. Due to the support of my family, I am able to have a job that gives meaning to my life as opposed to a job that I have to struggle with just to pay my bills.
Second, I was reminded of how millennials have been speaking up about this struggle for years. In fact, the article brought to mind a viral video of a then fresh graduate named Zahra who took the podium at a Malay Economic Action Council event in June 2015 to speak to an audience that included the Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
“When I was a student, I always dreamt about my life after graduating. Because of the big salary that I thought I would receive, I could plan my life accordingly,” said Zahra.
“But almost two years after graduating, I am disappointed and angry with my fate. The reality of working life is torturous. Yes, I drive to the office, but the car is not mine. I borrowed it from my father and pay him RM500 each month for it.”
The then 23-year-old added that she has to pay RM500 a month to live in a rented place with seven others, and that she could not afford to buy a home in Melawati or Ampang until she took home at least RM9,000 a month.
Considering that she said all this just over three years ago, it would be fair to believe that the figures she mentioned would have gone up, with inflation being what it is. And this got me thinking – what is a millennial to do when facing such challenges?
I might not feel it as acutely as I am blessed with a family that continue to help and support me, especially with my causes and even my hobbies. However, I do recognise that there are many like Zahra who face harder challenges than I ever will.
And in thinking about all this, a light bulb came on in my head.
It occurred to me that maybe we millennials may need to relook how we aim to survive in this crazy world. Maybe, just maybe, we need to try to work towards a new goal, one of interdependence instead of complete independence.
And what do I mean by this? Simply put, we should consider that we are put on this earth, each with his own unique set of strengths, privileges and weaknesses, so that we learn to come together in a web of mutual cooperation and support.
I feel that we can and should reach out within our own social networks to form supportive family-like cells of trusted friends so that we can share our strengths and privileges in a mutually beneficial way. Everyone gets help in overcoming the challenges he faces, be they financial, physical or psychological.
Indeed, this here is perhaps my generation’s biggest test – for us millennials to work to shed an ego-driven, me-first mentality and come together in these cells as an interdependent family that celebrate the good times and help each other through the challenges, united by a bond as strong as that shared by a pack of wolves.
Ultimately, we could do with a dose of humility that allows us to open up to share when we need help and to reach out to offer our strengths and blessings to others, much like in the old fable of the soul that saw Heaven and Hell.
In the parable, a dying man wanted to get a sneak peek of Heaven and Hell before he crossed to the other side. His wish was granted.
He was first shown Hell, where he saw people weeping despite having tables laden with food before them. They tried to feed themselves but could not because they were only provided chopsticks three metres long.
He was then shown Heaven, where to his surprise he saw the same tables and the same extra-long chopsticks. But instead of seeing angry and weeping souls, he saw people full of laughter and joy. He wondered what was so different.
And then he saw it. The people in Heaven fed each other. The chopsticks were a test and they had passed.
We need more of the attitude shown by the souls in Heaven if we are to survive the challenges of our generation. Every time I think of this, I ask one question: Are we going to pass our test or are we going to fail gloriously?
Senior writer Tan Yi Liang’s In Your Face aims to prove that people have more positive power in their hands than they realise, and to challenge them.