That and a Venti Will Not Buy Your Status in the World
Commentary: Because my car is precious, it only takes the best gas. If it had its druthers, it would like to make the fill-up organic with a side of acai, but it knows that it lives in my stable, and I'm itching to convert from a sporty single-person sedan to a trusty Mom wagon, so it keeps the peace. However, after I finish pumping, I'll mutter to my kids about the 60 bucks I just dropped for a full tank and recently felt my ye olde oats when I told them, "When I started driving at 15, gas was hovering around a dollar a gallon."
It didn't impress them in any way, but it did make me think of my dad's phrase when he'd hear something from me that he thought was pointless. "That and a buck 50 will get you a cup of coffee," he would say. The original was that and a nickel. He accounted for inflation.
But the inflation of the price of a coffee seems to have gone faster in my lifetime, especially since we are now all in line for that $8 venti mocha with five pumps of the monk-grown vanilla bean syrup.
A fun article from Bloomberg was the comparison of baby boomers at 40 to millennials at 40 — the olds of our generation that Twitter rumination coined as the "geriatric millennials." Now, I still have a couple of years before I'll have to mash all my social media into a blend before I consume it, but it is interesting to hear that we are only 80% as wealthy as our parents were at our age.
That feels rich, on a few levels. But especially after this line: "Millennials are paying 50% more for homes now than Boomers were in 1989." Well, maybe, if we find homes and someone from another area — or a corporation — doesn't offer $20k in cash over the asking on the first day the property hits the market.
It's true though, when I look back, I am at the age now that my parents were when they decided to buy their very first new car. They even made it a vacation on just my dad's salary, flying to Sweden and watching their car actually roll off the production line. Did I hope that I might get to do that someday? Maybe.
However, it's the unforeseen that keeps dampening the millennials' dreams. Beyond the recession, the pandemic and the rapid return to '90s fashion, I don't think anyone anticipated a chip shortage for cars. For me, a new car might not be in stock for reasons outside my control. I might have to scout a five-year-old minivan with 120k miles that smells of cheese instead of the status-signaling smell of off-gassing chemicals.
The conversations I see lean more toward the idea of what makes wealth — beyond the financial. Sure, I could save and invest the $8 I spend on that venti pumpkin spice, but what if I'm sipping it slowly with friends at a park? What if I'm downing it while catching up on trash novels in the school pickup line? Is that $8 going to build wealth that's foundational to a better future? Maybe not; but showing up to enjoy a moment in time or investing in my mental health may offer different dividends.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.