As a woman who loves long walks in the forest, quality conversations with friends, and listening to my favorite Indie artists for free on Spotify, I can say that money isn’t everything. But as a young professional and a college graduate, I can also tell you that it’s quite important.
But wait, aren't I a 22-year-old who has yet to master herself financially? Why would I, a Gen-Zer, be so pro-capitalism (sorry, free market) and pro-entrepreneurism?
For me, the answer is pretty simple. Money equals freedom. A free-market mentality rests on the understanding of money, not as a right to be entitled to, but a privilege to be earned. Money is a real reward for hard work, and while some are born into more luxurious situations than others, the principle of the free market is that people can and should sacrifice instant gratification for lasting wealth. It’s about relying on your work ethic and ambition rather than the government for financial support and using your talents to benefit society (and get paid accordingly).
Here are just a few of the reasons why I’m pro-free market as a Gen-Zer, and why I think we should challenge the victim mentality that often coincides with my generation.
Financial Accountability = Maturity
I often find myself resonating with a quote from Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. It goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Now, disclaimer: this is just my opinion, not inarguable truth, but I think this quote sums up what it means to be an adult. Freedom plus accountability equals maturity. Take away freedom and you have an excess of submission. Take away responsibility and you have an excess of self-indulgence.
Freedom plus accountability equals maturity.
If we have a society filled with hardworking, generous adults, then the free market works in their favor because it motivates them to make their own way. That isn’t to say that any help they receive (whether it be from parents, friends, or family) should be dismissed, but for the most part, if they truly want something, they should work hard for it. And if they use any newfound wealth to splurge on something they shouldn’t have, then they have to deal with the consequences and learn from their mistakes.
Money is a great mediator. If you overspend, then you suffer the consequences and have to work to regain your wealth. If you deny things that may make you instantly happy (like a tenth scented candle or a twelfth indoor plant), then your sacrifices could pay off greatly in the future.
Free-Market Thinking Is a Remedy for Victim Mentality
As kids, most of us have gotten caught after doing something we shouldn’t have, and have often blamed another reason for our behavior (It was too hot, so I snuck another popsicle!). Humorously, I’ve noticed a few individuals carry this attitude well into their adulthood, blaming society, their circumstances, or the government for problems that could often be solved themselves.
I’m not at all advocating that we ignore the abuses and cons of the free market, especially of unbridled capitalism, but I do believe that Gen Z hastily compartmentalizes their financial woes as the fault of our current economy. They worry because it’s hard to find jobs right after college, and they stress over rent inflation and their student loan payments, thinking that loan forgiveness or universal healthcare will be the answers to their prayers.
Making bimonthly loan payments and staying at home for a bit does not make me a victim.
I get how frustrating post-college can be. I graduated with a Communications degree, and while I don’t regret going to school and studying what I did at all, it took me quite a while to find work. I ended up with something much more practical than I had anticipated (I thought I’d be doing social media, but I’m doing reception at an Urgent Care). But it’s been so psychologically good for me to fight for a place in the working world, to stick with it, and to take home cash that I’m contributing towards my principal interest on my student loans.
Do I wish things were a bit less expensive? Sometimes, yes. But wishing things would change without making accommodations to my current situation isn’t going to move me forward at all. Making bimonthly loan payments and staying at home for a bit does not make me a victim. My financial situations teach me that I should be wise with my money, and while I can make big financial decisions, I must be ready to take on the responsibility that coincides with that decision.
The Downsides of Socialism
We’re a generation accustomed to immediate gratification. So when we deal with the repercussions of going on a road trip on credit or despair that we can’t afford the latest model of Nikes, it’s tempting to have a couple of thoughts. Firstly, “I want everything that I want right now,” or, “Either everyone should have this thing or no one should.”
The first line of thought can spur a slew of bad decisions (such as getting a sugar daddy), and the second can kickstart the same victimhood (however well-intentioned) that the free market refutes. I wish I could discourage more people from obtaining large amounts of money without earning it, but all I can say is, please don’t. As for the “total economic equality” line of thought, I’ll answer with this quote from The Incredibles, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”
When everyone receives the same allotments it leaves little room for individuality and no room for generosity.
When everyone receives the same allotments, whether in education, subsidies, or food, it leaves little room for individuality and no room for generosity. The argument "tax the rich, give to the poor" is full of holes: when the wealthy are taxed, they will be unmotivated to give freely of their wealth, and the less fortunate may feel entitled to something that they didn't earn. Of course, we should always be willing to give what we can. But what if our money is taken from us before we have a chance to say where it goes? To be clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t multi-millionaires who waste their wealth on meaningless and sometimes unethical things. But what I am saying is that the wealthy can bring up their fellow man and use some of their affluence for the betterment of the world around them.
The free market keeps us accountable, responsible, and inspired. The drive to make money may be misguided at times, but it’s what makes the world turn. Trading and bartering have been a hallmark of civilization since man first learned to hunt and gather, and money is the medium with which we keep that trading and bartering alive.
Instead of telling young people that their financial problems are all out of their control, we should be showing them ways to make their situations better. We should all strive to contribute to the world around us, create financial prosperity for ourselves and our families, and give what we can when we can.