Saturday, September 20, 2014

Generation Y and the "experience economy"



(FOMO, in case you don't know is "fear of missing out".)

Well, I'm sure the data will show that Millennials spend proportionately more on "experiences" than older folks do--everything from concert tickets, to iPhones, to travel. 

(We could legitimately debate about whether or not iPhones belong in this category. I saw this segment on the television version of FoxBusiness, and iPhones were cited as an example of "experiential spending"--hence my inclusion of them here.)

What I would dispute is whether or not Generation Y is unique in this regard. When I was 21, I wasn't thinking about buying my first house or padding my 401K. I was thinking about seeing the world, chasing women, and learning new things. In other words, I was a typical 21-year-old male.

Now, at more than twice that age, my priorities are quite different. 

When you're young, you're a sponge, and you want to experience as much as possible. This is perfectly natural. When you're older, you crave the comfort and security that possessions, stability, and bank accounts bring. This is perfectly natural, too.

This is a story as old as humanity--or at least as old as the early 20th century. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were both members of the generation of American expatriates who spent time in Paris during the Roaring Twenties. In the 1960s, vagabonding around the U.S. (and maybe the world) was practically a requirement if you were a young person. 

The youth of all these previous generations changed their priorities as they acquired years, gray hairs, and experiences. I see no reason to believe that the members of Generation Y won't change, too. 

And while Generation Y might be "reeling from the Great Recession of 2008", this isn't the first batch of young people to come of age in a period of economic uncertainty. Ask anyone who was 24 in 1983, when unemployment was above 10%--or anyone who was 24 in 1933, when America was hit by the Great Depression.