University confessions pages are often used as a platform by students to freely and anonymously express their thoughts.
One of such post on the Sunway confessions page has recently been getting attention. The confessor starts out by asking: were they born in the wrong generation? They then go on to list out things that bother them about their same-age fellows.
- University kids today have a lot of knowledge about trending brands like iPhones, Kenzo and Birkenstocks, but know nothing about what’s happening in their own country.
- Even though they’re living above their means, they still look down on people who don’t own these same brands.
- Despite owning these pricey items, they aren’t actually rich themselves. Their parents work hard to pay for all of their things.
- They care about these things more than their education and knowledge, even though these material things only bring instant gratification and mean nothing in the long run.
- The author then touches on upbringing. Even though the author is from a “rich” family, they know to place more value on education and knowledge, rather than on material things.
- They confessed because they feel like they are the odd one out who thinks this.
And the opinion clearly resonates with a lot of Malaysians. As of the time of writing, the post has over 1110 shares on Facebook, and that counter keeps growing. Many Sunway-ians also commented to agree with the post.
But here’s the thing. The problems pointed out may not apply to everyone. But they’re also not unique to the millennial generation.
Upper Middle Class Problems
It’s human nature to want what others have. We’re social creatures after all and wanting to conform is just the fabric that our society is built on. This is why back when we were in primary school, we would compete over who has the coolest Shaker mechanical pencil, while adults care more about the aforementioned Kenzos. It’s why heelys can be trendy and irresistible for one generation, and completely stupid to another. It’s the social element of it all.
So when a brand puts in a lot of time and money to cultivate a “want” for something in our capitalist-minded society, it’s natural for it to become a cultural norm. And even it’s things that are just slightly above their means, with some dedication, we can save enough cash to buy it.
And being so close to the “rich and famous” line, the upper middle class strive to live a better life. This isn’t exclusive to our generation. You’ve seen the soap operas and the news of people who fall into debt trying to be fake-rich. You’ve seen our parents’ generation committing suicide or disappearing to run away from debts amassed from living above their means.
Our iPhones and Kenzos were our parents’ Nokias and Louis Vuittons. The upper-middle class has always striven to achieve what the rich have, and this is all a problem on its own. But it’s definitely not a millennial or Generation Z thing.
And heck. Before the internet, you heard about the TV generation who didn’t tune in to the news and instead watched prime-time dramas. And before that, there were people who only read the newspaper for lifestyle and comics instead of the actual news. It’s a sad condition about our fellow man, but like I said, it’s nothing new.
In fact, there have been 1001 movies about the falsehood of material things. I’m sure you’ve all seen Fight Club, just to name one.
But here’s another observation that I have about those thoughts. If they’re in Sunway University, then chances are that the people targeted by this post are pretty well-to-do and have never had to work for a living. So, these students maybe just don’t appreciate the value of money yet.
I say this partly because I’ve been that student once. Before I started doing part-time to cover living-the-good-life costs in university, I was completely entitled.
My parents grew up in the kampung before they married and settled down in Klang Valley, and maybe because of that, they became the type of adults who made sure that their kids would want for nothing, to the best of their abilities.
They did try to raise me to be mindful of money, but since I never understood wanting for anything (and probably lacked empathy as a kid) I ended up being a spendthrift myself, begrudging my situation slightly for not being able to afford those high-value branded things that I saw everywhere and that all my peers seemed to own.
In fact, part of the reason I took up a part-time job was so that I can buy the cool things that the other kids had.
But once I started seriously working, I understood. Earning money is not as easy as my parents made it out to be, and it’s for more than just spending on the latest phone. It was not that I didn’t value education or knowledge.
In fact, I think that liking one does not stop you from also liking another. Someone can succumb to peer pressure and own an iPhone while also being concerned about the longhouse housing controversy in TTDI. Similarly, I can both be unconcerned about fitting-in with the brand-craze around me, while also not caring about the news. It’s not an either-or kind of thing, and we need to stop spreading this wrong mentality.
Instead, we should observe this lack of appreciation for money as what it is: a lack of appreciation of where money comes from.
In some cases, they grow out of it. They learn to appreciate money once they actually start working, and start living more frugally. In other cases, these youth aren’t so lucky. They amass debts that ruin their credit forever and spend 44% of their money on eating out in cafes instead of in their savings.
That, I think is the real problem here.
Because Malaysia for all of our highs and Asian mom stereotypes, doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on budget education. We can’t all afford financial advisers either.
So if anything is to come out of that post produced by a rightly frustrated student in Sunway, it’s this: Malaysia needs to incorporate more compulsory financial health classes to our youth, starting from primary school level.
It’s not a problem that is going to go away on its own and it’s not something older folk should scoff at. Many of us probably don’t remember our own ignorance, or we were brought up in a different time under different circumstances.
To one and all, while it’s nice to own nice things—and I’d like to emphasise that there’s nothing wrong with that—make sure you’re not sacrificing your financial future to get them.