As Millennials, it's terribly depressing to know we're going into our second economic recession in our short working lives.
Yet I know, as an "older Millennial" myself (I'm almost 35), we are going to be fine. We have to be. We know no other way than economic and financial insecurity.
Dire economies are nothing new to anyone straddling the 30 years old mark. We were encouraged by our parents and teachers – mostly Baby Boomers – to go straight to university from school, so we racked up five-figure student loans in the mid-2000s. We earned degrees in commerce or communication or science, only to graduate in the years surrounding the Great Financial Crisis of 2007.
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After a taste of adult freedom, we were forced to move back in with our parents because there were no jobs. Between 2008-10, we took up entry-level data input positions (nothing to scoff about; we're all Microsoft Excel geniuses now). We dealt with redundancies and restructures once, twice, three times before feeling like we had a stable-ish salary.
According to research by University of Chicago, when a person starts their working life during a recession, it will take 10-15 years longer to achieve parity in earning potential and career advancement than if they started their career during healthy economic times.
Do the math. When is 10-15 years after we Millennials started our careers? It's 2020. This is the year we should finally be given the same professional opportunities as those who came before us.
But then the Covid-19 pandemic happened. Now we're staring down the barrel of not just another recession (marked by two consecutive quarters of economic decline) but a proper depression, which is defined as a prolonged period of economic regression in income and employment – potentially lasting years.
This means – just when things were supposed to go right for us – we realise we never even had a chance.
I am worried for my future, and for the future of my whole generation. Yet I am confident our resilience will see us through the tough times ahead for many reasons. See, when the odds are stacked against you for your entire adult life, you learn not to expect too much.
Millennials have been very cautious about debt because it feels irresponsible to finance a used BMW or buy a $900,000 property – even if the bank has okayed it.
We have learned to always think about our "next job" (one reason we're accused by our elders of being flaky) because we have been taught that another corporate restructure is just around the corner, and we are never safe from unemployment.
Crucially, we've learned how to talk about our feelings and our mental health. When Jacinda Ardern told us "don't be a stoic Kiwi" last week (in relation to keeping quiet about post-lockdown personal health), I don't think she was talking to us. Millennials are not stoic: we know it's OK not to be OK. We talk about our anxiety and our depression instead of bottling it up. We reach out when we need to. We ask for help.
All of this is going to be important in, quite literally, keeping us Millennials alive. A UCLA research review found that those who enter the job market during a recession have higher likelihood of alcoholism, drug abuse and smoking due to more stressful initial career struggles than other generations.
Our heightened anxiety from early economic hardships builds up and takes its toll over subsequent decades, so we are more at risk of death when we get to middle age because of these ailments as well. We're more likely to be divorced and have fewer children by middle age, too.
Put simply: Millennials are accustomed to physical and mental stress, but we at least have the tools and foresight to try and do something about it. This is why I know we Millennials are going to be fine.
Being a younger person today will continue to require persistence. Nothing has been handed to us for the past decade, and the next decade will be even worse. But we will survive. We will work through bad luck. We will talk about our problems. We will help each other and remain compassionate.
We will push for better opportunities – though gig work, the sharing economy, and other special challenges – so by the time we reach our professional and personal life peaks and hold the positions of power in society, we will be an unstoppable force of nature. One that can withstand whatever the rest of the 21st century has to throw at us.