Why 30-Somethings Shouldn't Be Quick To Dismiss The Millennial Label

by Chris Walker

Some people look at me funny when I tell them I’m a Millennial.

It has nothing to do with my attitude, how I act or what my favorite music is. I fit in with everything “Millennial.”

I don’t abhor religion, but I don’t go for an organized religious experience, either. I tend to identify with leftist views when it comes to social issues, like same-sex marriage, women’s equality or birth control. I’m considered a technological “wunderkind” in my workplace.

And, I have an unwavering set of optimistic tendencies that members of previous generations might call unrealistic thinking.

So, what causes people to glance at me twice when I tell them I’m a Millennial? More often than not, it’s my age that’s a factor. At 31 years old, I don’t seem like the kind of Millennial over which the media obsesses.

I've noticed 30-something Millennials often try to escape the generational label, claiming to be more inline with Gen-Xers, or, perhaps, concocting their own generational identity.

The Millennial generation is composed of those born between the early 1980s and the late-1990s. But, as a Millennial born in 1984, I tend to come across to my peers as someone who doesn’t fit in with these “20-something Millennial kids.”

Sometimes, I catch myself before expressing an attitude toward younger Millennials, by reminding myself that I, too, was once in their camp.

There is statistical proof that fits in line with my anecdotal evidence. According to polling, younger Millennials and older members of Generation-Y do, indeed, have many differences.

Older Millennials tend to have college degrees (52 percent), while younger ones do not (27 percent). Half of Millennials are unmarried, but younger members of Gen-Y are more likely not to be than older members (76 percent versus 42 percent, respectively).

And, there’s evidence that older Millennials plan ahead more so than their younger counterparts: Forty-six percent of the older sample invests in the stock market, while only a quarter of younger Millennials do so.

But, this polling isn’t indicative of any huge split between younger and older Millennials. Rather, it’s proof our generation is still growing up — both literally and figuratively.

Older Millennials are entering the stages of life many younger Millennials haven’t even thought about. Some of us are getting married, having kids or buying houses; others are still in college, and some are barely finishing up high school.

To put it another way, younger Millennials are at the start of their adult lives and have a long way to go before the “matured” members of our generation consider them to be adults. Older Millennials, myself included, have been adults for more than a decade.

And, of course, those who are older will invest their income more into retirement or the stock market. We have more income to invest than younger Millennials.

It’s likely other generations felt a “split” between their “generational siblings” in the past. We can look to our parents’ (and even grandparents’) generation as an example.

Baby Boomers born in the late 1940s probably felt a huge split between themselves and Boomers born in the early 1960s.

Yet, as time wore on, this split became less noticeable, and Baby Boomers across the spread of those years are more similar than not in their social attitudes.

The same will be said of Generation-Y further down the road. With half of us past the quarter-century mark and the other half not quite there, it’s easy to see the differences that exist amongst ourselves.

Yet, 20 or even 10 years from now, we’ll be able to say, “Yes, we ARE more similar than different.”

So, I don’t fret about being called a Millennial, nor do I worry about whether I'll fit in with my younger counterparts. We’re very similar in many ways.

Like a sibling in a standard household relationship, my younger “generational siblings” are simply at different points in their lives.

Eventually, our differences will be less noticeable and our generational similarities will become more concrete.