Weekend Reading: brought to you by the letter ‘M’

Weekend Reading is a weekly collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. Millennials Didn’t Kill the Economy. The Economy Killed Millennials. (The Atlantic)

For years, various outlets, including The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, continued reporting that young people were buying fewer cars and houses than those in previous generations at a similar point in their life. In 2016, about 34 percent of Americans under 35 owned a house; when Boomers and Gen Xers were under 35, about half of them did.

But the fact that young people are buying fewer houses and cars doesn’t prove that they want fewer houses and cars. It might mean they simply can’t afford them. That latter conclusion is now supported by research from the Federal Reserve.

Fed economists found that the depressed rate of homeownership among Millennials was entirely about income and affordability. Young Boomers and young Gen Xers made significantly more money at a similar point in their life cycle, they said, and controlling for income and employment wiped out all generational differences.

2. Minimalism is Not a Virtue (ChampagneAndCapitalGains.com)

As a dedicated non-minimalist, I wanted to highlight for you some of the advantages of choosing to ignore some common, “necessary” “get your life together” advice, and some of the disadvantages of following that advice. More importantly, I want to remind you all that it is not particularly virtuous to be a minimalist, and there is absolutely no shame in living your life another way. Becoming a minimalist is not a necessary step on the path of self-improvement or even financial freedom. In fact, I believe the tendency to be a minimalist is somewhat of a personality trait, not a philosophy that everyone can or should embrace.

So if you’re struggling because you feel like you can’t reach debt freedom, financial freedom, or simply live a good life without turning your living space into a secular monastery or going all Rick Steves’ backpack for your next vacation, …ask yourself these questions about minimalism:

  1. Why do I feel like I need to implement minimalism? Is it pressure or shame? Is it an ideal that you’re striving to reach because others hype it up, or is it something you really think would benefit you?
  2. Will this work well for me in my life?
  3. What parts of minimalism can I implement while staying true to my inner overpacker (or whatever your equivalent is)?

3. My Mongolian Spot (The American Scholar)

I once asked my mother why we were born blue, and she said matter-of-factly, “Because we have Mongolian blood.” Then she walked away casual-like, as if such a spurious-sounding answer did not inspire its own army of follow-up inquiries. My parents were born in South Korea, but I was born in Los Angeles, raised in a nowheresville suburb on frozen TV dinners and laugh-track sitcoms. Jennifers were American. I was American. My blue butt and Mongolian goods seemed practically mythological.

But I wasn’t alone. My older sister Laurie was also born blue, and her marking lasted well through kindergarten. We know this because Laurie’s teacher asked my mother to come to class one day for an emergency conference. The teacher had taken Laurie to the bathroom, seen her blue butt, and mistaken the spot for an enormous bruise. When my mother told me this story, more than a decade had passed, but the encounter still annoyed her—not for the absurdity of the accusation so much as for the teacher’s ignorance. “We are Korean,” my mother explained, as if forced to qualify that the grass was green, or that birds could fly. “We are all born this way.”

4. Movie Night in Tehran (The Walrus)

In the eighties, there were no official video stores in Iran. Very few foreign films were shown on state TV, and even those were censored. My parents, along with everyone else who wished to see movies from around the world, relied on merchants who specialized in distributing illegal films. These dealers, or, as we called them, filmees, travelled across Tehran carrying poor-quality VHS and Betamax tapes in conspicuous rectangular bags. For the price of a sandwich, “subscribers” could choose a few cassettes from the dozen or so on offer. If my mom wanted something specific, like Gone with the Wind, all she could do was ask nicely and hope for the next week. If the movie actually arrived—a rare event—she’d invite her friends over and make a feast of it.