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There’s a reason millennials consider an iPhone a basic right

Forget Perfect

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Lisa Earle McLeod

What dictates your spending?

Your current economic circumstances? Or the lifestyle in which you were raised?

I grew up as the eldest of four kids in a house that only had one bathroom. I was raised on SPAM. We never had money for vacations. My mother’s mandate on brand name jeans was, “I’m not paying extra money for you to wear someone’s logo on your rear.”

As a girl who wore Toughskins until she could make her own babysitting money, I wasn’t accustomed to luxury.

But oh, how times have changed.

Today’s teens and tweens have flat screens in their rooms, iPhones in their pockets and they’ve worn designer duds since they exited the womb.

I didn’t have a problem living on mac ‘n cheese during college or when I first got out of school because: A) It was what I was used to, and B) I felt like there was a better life in front of me. Yearning for more was motivating. After sharing a bathroom with two toddlers for most of my life, my dumpy first apartment felt like a step up in the world.

But what about today’s kids?

Why would you leave your parent’s house when your next place will be smaller, with fewer amenities?

I spent my childhood craving privacy and Jordache jeans. But if your parents set you up with your own rec room, what motivation do you ever have to leave?

Kit Yarrow and Jayne O’Donnell, authors of Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty-Somethings are Revolutionizing Retail, say, “What you learn as a kid kind of becomes your values as an adult, so this generation really knows luxury and quality, and that’s what they want.”

A recent buying survey reveals that despite sometimes astronomical student debt and often grim employment prospects, the more than 80 million millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are spending 1 trillion dollars annually.

A millennial may be sleeping in their parent’s basement, but they still consider an iPhone and daily soy lattes necessities of life.

I confess, when it comes to my own kids, I’ve struggled with this issue. I want to give them more than I had, but I don’t want to give them so much that they become entitled little brats who never leave.

This is definitely a first world problem. Because they were raised in a time of economic stability, millennials don’t have habits of economizing when it comes to their tech toys, dining out and the latest must-have fedora.

Yarrow, a PhD consumer researcher, author and professor at Golden Gate University, has identified a major shift in purchasing priorities from prior generations. A childhood of household prosperity has created a habit of adult indulgence. Millennials are shopping 25-40 percent more than the average consumer.

In a recent MasterCard survey, 53 percent of millennials ranked technology as their top passion. If iPhones had been invented when I was a teen, I feel fully confident that my mother would never ever have considered buying me one.

I love that my college student daughter can text me a photo of the sun setting over the bridge in Boston as she walks home from class. But I do wonder how her generation is going to marry their iPhone tastes with a GoPhone budget.

Every generation has their challenges. Perhaps this generation will be the one forced to figure out how to live on less.

‑ Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant and author of several books.

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