Post Generation X’ers Have Turned to Digital Assets, and Here's Why
Part 1 of ?:
We are Here *points to the internet on the world map*
Disney’s “Tron” reboot film opened by welcoming the viewer with the haunting musings of a curious technologist who dreamt of what it’d be like to digitize himself and enter the digital realm. The virtual pioneer, played by Jeff Bridges, starts:
A digital frontier
I tried to picture clusters of information
As they moved through the computer
What do they look like?
With the circuits like freeways
I kept dreaming of a world
I thought I'd never see
And then, one day
I got in”
Sitting in the theatre, I bounced in my seat to the thumping of Daft Punk’s epic soundtrack accompanying the fictional representation of assimilating with one’s mother board. Back then, at the fledgling age of 21, I didn’t consider Disney’s fiction was closer to a reality I’d need to accept if I expected to thrive.
Perhaps nobody is being zapped into a computer to fight off pesky viruses. But today, 81% of the developed world accesses the grid (the internet). Though this number reflects users of all ages, the truth is only millennials and following generations grew up with access to the ever present technology that heralded with it globalization. And it’s this technology that’s brought with it a Cambrian-esque explosion of innovations to how humanity has performed two of its most basic functions, communicating and investing, now being leveraged by recent generations who are expected to do more with less.
Let’s call the subjects of this article, recent generations born post Generation X and onward, RG’s. As the article’s headline suggests, RG’s have migrated the majority of their time and money into the grid where all digital assets live. Is this migration forced? In part, yes. The allure of progress aside, RG’s are escaping the bitter pill that is attempting to own physical assets. With inflation acting as the primary mechanism the U.S. government has relied on to prevent a depression, younger generations get to witness the phenomenon where physical assets such as real estate balloon in price to astronomical heights. Adding insult to injury, inflation is also suppressing the dollar’s buying power. In such a reality, what option do RG’s have but turn to the virtual in every sense barring the biological (unless you’re on Tinder)?
From a Millennial, to You
It’s April Fools Day as I start writing this so I’ll try not to subconsciously lay the irony on too thick in a post meant to speak substantively on the matter of RG’s tendencies to invest in the intangible whether it’s the wildly volatile Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (crypto) to the charming but otherwise vain Fortnite skins.
As a millennial, I feel compelled to write this post not so much as a defense or justification of my peers but more as an exploration serving to enlighten my and others' understanding of the current economic zeitgeist.
You may have noticed this article is being split into an undetermined amount of installments as it quickly dawned on me while researching the topic that it would take more than a week to write something worthy of my reader’s time on such a complex topic. As such, we’ll start this omni-parter by first setting up what reality is like for RG’s before taking the deep dive into what makes the digital more economically enticing than the physical.
The New Normal
First, the bad news, RG’s have much less money. Between the 2008 spawned recession and high inflation (recent money printing dubbed “quantitative easing” by the federal reserve), there’s less to work with. But before you close this tab, I’m proud to say this isn’t a “woe is me” article. In fact, I think our young generation’s challenges serve as an amazing opportunity to prove the tenacity and grit of humanity as a whole. Sure, it’d be nice if everything were sunshine and rainbows, but typically it’s when challenged that we produce our best work. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s keep moving.
It should be no surprise since we’ve married personal phones and the internet that RG’s have rapidly gravitated towards cyberspace. Complimenting this reality, we’ve seen a shift in spending patterns preferring experiences to having more stuff. Further telling is the fact all social media platforms RG’s spend their time on is “free” (and we’ll just assume we all understand the Faustian bargain we’ve engaged in by using such platforms). At least the thin silver lining is that we're allowed to leverage these platforms as megaphones through which to offer products/services and empower our brands whether they’re personal or incorporated. This concept is relevant to the conversation because the “experience” worth investing in is the one that can be shared. It’s a given that most developed nation's RG’s are considered the most highly educated people on this planet who understand what it means to invest in one’s self. This concept applies to the digital realm which acts as an extension of the resume or CV.
To wrap up today’s introduction, I leave you with another thing RG’s are commonly known for, renting and living with their folks. A recent study shows RG’s have spent an average of $93,000 dollars on rent by the time they reached 30. That’s at least 4 reasonable down payments on a home! Are RG’s just dumb for renting instead of investing in real estate (we’re supposed to be the better educated generations)? Well, for starters, RG’s who studied out of town can chalk up at least 4 years of paying rent to the fact they were studying to achieve their highly educated status. And naturally, the years leading to 30 should not be considered stable where priority no. 1 is collectively paying down the cost of our education sitting at a worrying 1.5 trillion dollars (those who put a “priceless” tag on education weren’t kidding). Then there’s the oft joked about “mom’s basement dwellers” who make up nearly a quarter of millennials (because not all RG’s are out of the frying pan yet). The equally sad reality is those living with their parents are more quickly going to afford a down payment on their house instead of those pretending to be financially well off as they squander half their paychecks on rent.
And that my friends is where we’re at in today’s economic landscape. It’s just a slice’s worth of perspective but I think it neatly sets up next week’s chapter on what makes the digital worth investing in for RG’s.
- Andy Gonzalez