I was born in 1975. I graduated from high school in 1993. I sometimes wonder about people born after me, like, those born in the 1990s. If you were born in 1990, for example, you will turn 33-years-old this year (2023). If you were born in 1999, you will turn 24-years-old this year. (Do I actually have any online social acquaintances who were born in the 1990s? I doubt it.)

You can describe 90s kids as “the generation of nostalgia” because so much technological advancement happened in such a rapid time frame when they were growing up. They can clearly remember having technologies that are now obsolete, like going from a huge, heavy corded telephone to a small supercomputer in their pocket just within their formative years. That’s a major thing, and I think could affect one’s way of seeing the world. It sparks a nostalgia for their seemingly “simpler” childhoods because so much rapid development makes it seem like it was a lot longer ago than it actually was. In contrast, my sister and I (born in 1971 and 1975) have a much stronger “simpler” foundation.

The childhood of the 1990s-born wasn’t technology based. They grew up knowing of chalk, skateboards, jump rope, street hockey, playgrounds, butterfly collecting, etc., but it was gone so quickly. Technology took over their lives and now there are hardly any kids playing outside in the summer. They can clearly remember their childhood as it was and now they can see the clear line between it and now. They were the generation right smack in the middle of it all. (Some 20 years younger than me, I will note.) Their parents were no-tech (my sister and I, born 1971 & 1975, were no-tech), but their children/ younger siblings will be all-tech.

The generation born in the 1990s was the last generation that grew up with all those bright promises of, “work hard, go to college, and you’ll have a successful life,” only to find those hopes abruptly dashed when the housing bubble burst (2006). (I was working at an investment bank in the U.S. at that time, with an MBA, a master’s, and a few industry licenses, and remember the shocking headlines quite well. I was safe, buffered. They weren’t. They were in the wind.) Millennials have grown up expecting that disappointment because, for them, the problem has been there since elementary or middle school.

The U.S. housing bubble peaked in 2006, and hit new lows in 2011. The U.S. subprime mortgage crisis occurred between 2007-2010. More specifically, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit in 2007-2008. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15, 2008, was the climax of the subprime mortgage crisis.

If you were born in 1990, the housing bubble peaked when you were 16-years-old, the subprime mortgage crisis hit when you were 17- to 20-years-old, and the GFC hit you when you were 17- to 18-years-old.

If you were born in 1999, the housing bubble peaked when you were 7-years-old, the subprime mortgage crisis hit when you were 8- to 11-years-old, and the GFC hit you when you were 8- to 9-years-old.

Maybe their parents lost a job at Lehman Brothers. Maybe their parents lost their house. Maybe they couldn’t go to university because their parents were foreclosed on. Maybe their target employer wasn’t hiring. I was able to buy my first house in 2010. It had been foreclosed on; and I received a comfortable stimulus check for buying a house, too.

Then COVID hit from 2020-2022. If you were born in 1990, COVID hit  when you were 30- to 32-years-old. If you were born in 1999, COVID hit when you were 21- to 23-years-old. Basically, your undergrad or grad school had to be finished by video, in seclusion. I was working at a central bank during COVID, again, safely insulated from the bitter economic winds blowing all around me.

People born in the 1990s aren’t just nostalgic. They’re bitter. They ache for those days when they could still think that the world was boundless and full of the opportunities they were promised since the first day of kindergarten.

My wife and I look around us, and are quite thankful for being where we are. Our children were born in 2018 and 2022. We hope to insulate them from any of the trauma seen by those born in the 1990s.

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